"Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:22 (NKJV)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Week 16: Do Not Exasperate Your Children, Part 1

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)

"Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master." Ephesians 6:4 (The Message)

I hope and pray that someday my grown-up kids will say that I was a good dad. I think I'm a pretty good dad. Christina and I have been successful as parents in many ways. I'll give one example of something we've done right. Every night for years, we've put the boys to bed with a Bible story, a prayer of blessing, hugs and kisses, and "Jesus Loves Me."

Even good dads have failures. My greatest failure as a father has been too little kindness in my correction and discipline. I'm not so naive to think that every morning is going to be like a Disney movie with kisses, smiles and little birdies flitting around and chirping a merry song. Having kids forces you to come to grips with the fact that humans are sinful by nature. Kids need rules, boundaries and limitations. They need parents who enforce those rules, boundaries and limitations. God has ordained that children should obey their parents and that children should be disciplined for disobedience. Eph. 6:1-3; Prov. 13:24 (spare the rod and spoil the child). There are going to be mornings when the boys are being rotten and legitimately need to be sent to time out or spanked.

The truth is parenting is tough, difficult work. I've read the books on parenting (some good and some not so good). I've heard the sermons. I've talked to parents that are a few years or many years ahead of Christina and me. The bottom line is that there is no easy to follow formula for good parenting. Anyone who promises to give you the seven or ten or twelve simple steps to effective parenting is full of Oscar Mayer. Parenting is more art than science. Some of the best advice I've ever heard (and forgive me I don't remember the source) is to remember that discipline is a long term investment. It's not about getting immediate results. If your expectation is that you will discipline today and see a different kid tomorrow, you're setting yourself up for frustration.

The greatest challenge for me as a dad has been disciplining with kindness and gentleness. I love The Message translation of Ephesians 6:4---"take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master." Too often I'm leading my boys, not gently by the hand, but by the scruff of the neck. As I lock my jaw and gnash down on my teeth, I'm dragging them kicking and screaming in the way I think they ought to go. I want them to obey me, and NOW! And, if necessary to make them do what I want, I will come down hard on them using threats and intimidation to get compliance. While harsh words of criticism come readily from my mouth, I don't praise and encourage the boys nearly enough. What difference will all those Bible stories, prayers and blessings make in my boys if they don't see my faith making a difference in me?

God, I pray that You would turn my heart. That You would take harshness out my heart and my thinking and replace it with gentleness. That Your patience and kindness would be evident to my children even as I discipline them. What can I do to observe this command, except wait for You to change my heart? Give me wisdom and lead me, Lord, in the way I should go as a father.

As I wrestle with this in prayer, I thank those of you who are praying for me and with me. More thoughts on this at the end of the week. Until then, grace and peace to you.

"From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." James 3:10




  1. Eli and I watched the movie together, and I found interesting how attuned little ones are to the emotions around them. He was dancing to the music at first, but quickly took on a somber face as he watched the family. It is so important to know that, even now, our young kids are impacted by the tone of our households. May the tone of your household, be more filled with the tone of Jesus' love.

  2. Man .... big conviction for me this morning. I've had a hard couple of days of trying to deal with different issues with Mia, and God was brining up some things in me. Then I read this this morning. Man. Being a parent is TOUGH! The phrase God gave me this morning is, "It requires much self-discipline to be able to effectively discipline." I have to discipline my own self, my own nature, to be able to lead my children in the correct way. But, let me tell you, all I really want to do is release my anger and judgement! They're wrong! I'm right! I will make them obey! But that is not anywhere close to the heart of our Father. I love the translation you quoted of Ephesians 6 - "take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master". Fantastic.

  3. Thanks for sharing that Casey. I doubt there's a parent out there with a child over three years old that can't identify with what you're saying. It's shocking when our loveable little ones become willful and defiant. Staying self-disciplined in those moments is a huge chalenge. You're right, being a parent is tough. And, Nikki, you said it perfectly. That's exactly what I want: for the tone of our household to be more filled with the tone of Jesus's love. Thanks, guys.