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everyday life inside the fishbowl

Thursday Thoughts: Provoking Your Children

By Mindaugas Danys from Vilnius, Lithuania, Lithuania (scream and shout) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mindaugas Danys from Vilnius, Lithuania, Lithuania (scream and shout)

I’ve been writing a Bible study on the book of Colossians, and it has been such a benefit to my soul! Christ is the theme of the book. A major sub-theme is the believer’s position in Christ and his responsibility to live in accordance with his position.

The author, Paul, spent the first part of chapter 3 discussing what relationships should look like within the body of Christ. The last part of the chapter focuses on family relationships. While the wives-submitting-to-their-husbands part struck home for me as I anticipated, the parenting aspect struck a new chord.

Paul says in verse 21,

            Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

While Paul directly addresses fathers, I believe that it is valid for mothers to take note of this command as well. I also looked up the parallel passage in Paul’s letters to the Ephesians:

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

Paul’s point is that there is something wrong when a parent provokes his or her child to discouragement or anger. Clearly, there are times when a parent provokes his child to unwarranted anger. When I tell my child that we will not buy any of the candy in the checkout lane of the grocery store, and that child throws a fit of anger, I am not guilty of sinfully provoking that anger. (However it might be wise to avoid shopping with an overly hungry child and/or to have a conversation before hitting the checkout lane!)

So, I began thinking about which of my words or actions can provoke my children to anger or discouragement. I came up with a list (and I’m sure there are more!).

  • Inconsistency
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Unclear or unspoken expectations
  • Teasing
  • My own anger or impatience

Next, I looked at what Paul contrasts with provoking your children to anger in Ephesians: “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The implications of this contrast were really sobering to me.

When we provoke our children to anger or discouragement, we do not have the goal of disciplining or instructing our children in the Lord as our primary goal. If we provoke our children, then we are evidencing that our primary goal is likely selfish–anger, pride, inconvenience, impatience, etc. If our primary goal is to discipline and instruct our children in the Lord, then the manner of our discipline and instruction will be such that it will not anger or discourage our children. (Again, our children may become angry or discouraged simply because they do not like to be disciplined, but we are not at fault if we have not provoked that anger by our own sin.)

When we sinfully provoke our children to anger, we’ve also lost (or at least hindered) an opportunity to help our children focus on the Lord’s instruction. They instead become focused on our words, actions, or attitude that provoked them to discouragement or anger.

As I write this, I think of how I fail in this area multiple times a day. The discouragement would be overwhelming if I didn’t remember the context that these verses are in. Colossians 3:3 says,

Your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Despite my many failures, my life–with all its sin–is hidden in Christ’s perfect life.

Not only can I find encouragement in my position in Christ, I can also find encouragement in what God is actively doing in my life:

And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (3:10).

May God help each of us parents to remember who we are in Christ, what Christ is doing in us, and the goal of our discipline and instruction of our children–to also know and be like Christ.

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{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

 

 

 

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