Part 1 of this two part post on parenting thought about parental authority and requiring obedience from our children. Part 2 thinks about parental responsibility and provising nourishment for our children. And so point 2 from Ephesians 6 is
Parents should nourish their children (4)
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
To whom is this command addressed?
This commandment is addressed specifically to fathers. But the context shows that children owe obedience to both parents. So I’d want to say generally this applies to both parents. Mums aren’t off the hook. But it’s especially the Dads that are in view.
What’s required of parents?
Two things are required of parents; one negative and one positive.
Negatively we mustn’t wind the kids up. It’s translated as ‘don’t provoke them to anger’. But that’s what Paul meant. Don’t irritate them in the way that we use our authority so that they despair and lose the plot. Positively we must bring them up or literally ‘to nourish to maturity’. Let’s take those in turn.
a. Negatively we mustn’t provoke anger
Sometimes our children get angry and it’s their fault. But Paul is talking about situations where we make them angry in the way that we use the authority invested in us by God. Their anger will be manifested either as outright rebellion or an internal smouldering.
We can provoke them to anger through thoughtlessly aggravating them, deliberately goading them or callously neglecting them.
We do it when we show favouritism to one child over another.
We do it when we’re inconsistent and parent for our benefit and convenience rather than for their good.
We do it when we fail to compensate for their age or understanding and ask them to do something unrealistic or unreasonable.
We do it when we make unreasonable demands on them that make no allowance on their ability or understanding
We do it when we irritate them by failing to accommodate their inexperience or immaturity
We do it when we’re harsh or cruel
We do it when we humiliate them, mock them or squash them
b. Positively we must provide nourishment
Our responsibility is to nourish our kids and provide them with just what they need to grow into maturity. What they need in order to reach maturity is expressed here in two words; discipline and instruction.
Discipline refers to admonition, correction and chastisement. It’s a word that speaks of rebuke or warning. But, it also communicates the sense of mild, loving parental discipline.
Instruction refers to training and education in the broadest sense. In order for our kids to reach maturity they need both instruction in the right way to go and correction when they reject that.
The two words ‘discipline’ and ‘instruction’ are virtually synonymous and summarise the idea of training. To train a child means not only providing the basic content of what should be done but also instilling that content through practice and discipline. And so, it’s a total training package with positive commendation and reward, as well as punishing misdeeds. It has the idea of rebuking wrong behaviour and reinforcing right behaviour. And so we need to be as positive about the things the kids do well as we are vigilant about their the things they do badly. It may be that soem of us need to learn to be more encouraging.
Notice whose responsibility it is. The Fathers have got to take a lead on this. We may delegate responsibility for some things to our wives, to the leaders in kids’ Sunday School and to their teachers at school or nursery. But we mustn’t abrogate our responsibility. We’re the senior pastor in our family congregation and it’s our responsibility to ensure that our children are being nourished. What this means is that we need to make the decisions
- We need to ensure that we’re there in church and not away lots of weekends so that neither the kids nor we receive the encouragement from gathering together with God’s people and sitting under His word.
- We need to be the ones who take a lead in reading the Bible and praying with the kids. If we leave for work before the kids get up and we’re back after their bedtime then the weekends are hugely significant. I know that we’ll want to rest, but our kids need us. And they have the right to expect it.
What our kids most need from us is our involvement in nourishing them towards maturity. Start now and establish a good foundation from which you can build. Don’t think that you can leave it till later. The great myth is that there’s a less busy time coming.
Ted Tripp says, ‘parenting is a process not an event’. We’re discipling our children and training them. Training takes time. Just as you can’t expect our toddlers to run a marathon by telling them to run and then showing them how to do it neither should we expect our children to get obedience and pull it off without incident thereafter. We need a long term perspective. It’s a process not an event. And so establish some grooves to your parenting so that the kids know which tracks to run down.