4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Verse four is a command to parents and especially to the father. The opposite to causing exasperation in the child, the parent is to do constructive things for the child. There is no such thing as the liberation of the child as our culture advocates.
And you, fathers,
Paul addressed fathers because they are responsible for governing the family. For parents to leave children to their own devices is biblically irresponsible.
do not provoke [exasperate] your children to wrath,
“Provoke” means to arouse to wrath, to exasperate. Parents can exasperate their children by unjust punishment, partiality, or unfair exercise of authority. Fathers can exasperate their children by making unreasonable and legalistic demands on them. This will “discourage” children (Co 3:21).
but bring them up in the training [discipline, nurture]
“Training” involves both systematic direction and instruction, but it also includes chastening. This is a more comprehensive word than “admonition.” “Training” involves the discipline of instruction with reward and punishment. Children need norms and standards to operate in life adequately; this gives them stability for dealing with issues in life.
and admonition [exhortation, to put in the mind]
“Admonition” is training by words. The idea is to put something in the mind. This may involve reproof or encouragement according to what is required for proper training. Admonition has to do with verbal correction.
of the Lord.
Training and admonition are not good by themselves; they should be done within the context of all that the Lord is, has done, and has provided for us. This is the only truly profitable parenting goal.
To overly shelter a child from life produces exasperation toward the parent.
God sets the limits of parental authority. Parents do not have an unlimited authority that causes exasperation in their children whereby they become enraged and embittered toward their parents. Unjust attitudes toward the child by which a parent operates in a heavy-handed manner is not biblical. Neither is the opposite extreme of not properly disciplining the child.
Some parents put petty rules on their children, and their children know they are petty. This creates deep-seated resentment toward parents. Overprotection of children can cause as much harm as neglecting them. Smothering children restricts their growth as people. They need to begin to learn how to live as independent human beings. Obviously, this is a process whereby the parents give more and more freedom to the child as he grows older. Judgment in this matter pertains to the progressive development of the child.
Parents can discourage a child by setting unrealistic standards for the child. Overly demanding parents can create an attitude of perfectionism in the child. A perfectionistic child never reaches a point of satisfaction because there is always some goal beyond his reach.