I have been working on a little devotional for fathers and thought I might share some of it with you from time to time. I know I need it!
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger…” Ephesians 6:4
Are you parenting in a way that makes it easier for your children to become angry?
When someone becomes angry in a family, we usually focus on the person who is getting angry and what they are doing wrong. And you know, in a sense we should! The child who is getting angry has a responsibility not to get angry. That is a wrong response. They are sinning. But they are not the only ones with a responsibility. You can do things that make it easier for your child to become sinfully angry.
The book of Proverbs illustrates several different ways fathers can provoke their children to wrath.
You can make your children angry by being a sinfully angry person yourself. Angry parents have angry babies. In Proverbs 15:18 Solomon says, “A hot tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” You will meet people sometimes who yell and scream at their wives and at their children can’t figure out why their children yell and scream at them. They don’t have self-control because you don’t have any self-control either! When a child grows up in a family with an angry father, he learns to become angry himself. He is literally being trained in becoming angry. Paul’s command not to provoke your children to anger, means you need to set the pace in your family, and show your children the right way to deal with anger. As selfish people there are all kinds of things every day that we can get mad about, and you need to show your family what it looks like to be self-controlled when you are not getting what you want. When your children really struggle with self-control, it is a good chance for you to ask yourself, is it because you really struggle with self-control as well?
You can make your children angry by speaking in harsh or pain producing ways. If I wanted to get your attention, I could pat you on the shoulder or I could slap you in the face. Either way I am going to get your attention, but there are going to be some pretty different reactions. The same is true with the way you speak.
Solomon puts it very simply, “A harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
Sometimes fathers speak harshly by belittling their children. The way they talk makes their child feel like a fool. “You idiot.” “Do you have a brain?” Other times they speak harshly by speaking without thinking. They get angry and use their words like someone uses a knife in a fight, just to jab at somebody. Anger wakes up our selfish desires and puts the security guard for our mouth to sleep and so it is easy for attacking words just to rush out, and when that’s something that is happening on a regular basis, it produces children who do the same thing. If your children are really harsh in their language and seem angry, you need to stop as a parent and evaluate the way you speak as well.
You can make your children angry by refusing to overlook mistakes or sins. Imagine if someone followed you around and pointed out every time you made a mistake to you and and everyone else, and then even worse, kept bringing it up over and over again. That would drive most of us crazy. And yet that’s the way some parents are with their children.
Proverbs 10:12 says “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers over offences.”
Now there is a contrast there between hatred and love. When you really love somebody, you are willing to overlook times when they hurt you. You don’t have to bring up every sin or mistake. But when you don’t love someone, you know what you do? You are constantly pointing out the errors that they are making. If your children are angry, you might just ask yourself, if you show them any grace? Are you one of these people who has to point out every mistake, every time your children do something that you don’t like?
Take Time to Reflect:
1. Are your children angry on a regular basis? Have you considered the role you might have played in that?
2. Which of the three different ways we talked about in this chapter do you think you struggle with most in your family?
There will be something today that will tempt you to become sinfully angry. Use that moment as an opportunity to evaluate what’s going on in your heart. What does your reaction say about you? What are you teaching your children through your response about how to deal with situations that tempt them to become angry?