“Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”
“Fathers, do not provoke your children”
“Fathers” in this context means parents. The word “provoke” means to exasperate, to become disheartened, and hence lack motivation. Parents are not to exasperate their children. “Provoke” carries the ideas of bitter and irritate. Ephesians used a different Greek word meaning exasperate (Eph. 6:4).
Parents can provoke their children with perpetual censure or peevish anger. They may nag their children about inconsequential things. They rub them the wrong way.
Parents possess authority in their roles. God does not want them to exercise uncontrolled authority. Poor judgment in the exercise of authority hinders the development of their children. Severe discipline makes children bitter and exasperates their personhood.
This caution does not mean the parent will never do anything that might irritate their children. Discipline will aggravate children. However, the issue at hand is over-discipline or unfair discipline. The word “irritate” is in the continuous tense in Greek. “Do not keep on irritating your children.” If parents nag their children, it will dampen their spirits.
If parents irritate their children, they will demotivate them; if they commend them, they will encourage and strengthen them.
Here are some principles that may help parents avoid exasperating their children:
1. Under-discipline causes exasperation.
Rules should be clearly stated and should not come out of disaster. Unannounced rules made known after the child breaks them cause exasperation. Too many regulations cause exasperation; a rule should be followed through to the stated punishment.
Under-discipline is caused by divided authority. Under-discipline creates frustration resulting in yelling and other false systems of correction.
2. Over-discipline causes frustration as well.
Some Christians overreact to the permissiveness of society and flaunt authority over their children.
3. Unfair punishment causes exasperation.
When a parent fails to distinguish what a child must learn on his own and what must be enforced, as a rule, the parent will punish the child capriciously.
4. Withdrawal of affection causes exasperation in the child.
There must be a balance between discipline and love. All discipline should be done in love and not out of personal injury to the parent. Discipline is not the same as punishment. Discipline seeks the welfare of the child in the correction. Sentimentality, not love, withholds discipline. If we do not believe in discipline, we do not believe in standards and judgment. Discipline strengthens the moral bonds between parent and child. Sentimentality thinks fear and love cannot coexist together (Deut. 6:4,5,13).
5. Parents must not simply threaten as a way of discipline.
Discipline should be an event. Isolation of discipline to an event ends scolding, nagging, and impulsive swatting. Discipline brings a spirit of authority to the home. It maintains an atmosphere of stability in the home. Discipline should be reserved for disobedience, not discord. Rebellion to authority is the issue.
6. After discipline, express forgiveness to the child.
Obedience has to do with outlook. Children should rebel against an action but never against our attitude. Parents are to encourage their children. Ephesians warns against discouraging our children. Discouragement means to lose heart. Giving the child a sense of belonging, worth, and confidence is essential. They need to understand their needs and fears. Children need supervision and help.