You’re not always going to be understood as you follow God’s plan for your family and walk in obedience to the way you believe He has called you to parent. There were actually several times while our children were little that we had family members tell us that we were too strict with them. They even predicted that because we had such narrow (in their opinions) guidelines for our children, that they were sure to rebel when they were teenagers.
My response to them was that as long as our children never doubted that we love them that they would not rebel. By God’s grace, our children are now 21, 19, 17, and 14 and they have not rebelled. They love the Lord and are serving Him in their own ways. I take so much joy in how they are and have grown up.
But, I will be honest with you. Sometimes I think that the way they live their lives now is in spite of me rather than because of me.
I have made my share of errors. And, believe me when I say that parenting is one of the most humbling experiences on earth.
There are no recipes in raising kids. We don’t have a GPS that gives us turn by turn instructions for every situation or even how to get around obstacles. Every child and parent are individuals which makes for a unique circumstance in every situation.
Even the Bible, which I believe to be the inerrant and perfect word of our Lord, is not turn by turn instructions. But, the Bible does provide principles or priorities. The way to read instructions in the Bible on parenting and marriage and the church and other areas is to think of them as markers. I believe you can place the phrase, “above all else make sure to do this or don’t do this” in front of most Biblical instructions. In other words, God is telling us to make this a priority and honor this marker. Don’t let this go. No matter how busy you might be, don’t let this one element get away from you.
In Ephesians, we have such a marker. Paul does not go into a lot of detail in his instructions for the family in chapter 5 and 6. Really, he gives one thing to make sure to pay attention to in our relationships. For children, it is provoking them to anger and bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
The way to read this is…
Above all else, make sure that you do not provoke your children to anger.
Now, think about all the ways that you can provoke your children to wrath.
I have thought often of writing a book on this one subject.
How can you as a parent provoke your children to wrath??
Honestly, I think it would take a book just to adequately explain all of the aspects of this instruction. But, for this email, let’s remember that provoking children to anger does not have to make sense to us as adults. What I mean is that God is telling parents to not push children, who are not fully mature and their brains are not fully developed into anger.
Meaning,—children could become angry in ways that we do not fully understand, but when we see anger start welling up in their hearts that we better jump on it and defuse it. Don’t let anger linger, and do what you can to squelch it.
This means that the word “sorry” better be always ready on your lips as a parent.
So, think about all the ways that you could provoke your children to wrath,…
Here is a quick, short, but incomplete list:
- favoritism among the siblings
- conditional love
- withholding love as a weapon
- refusing to actually shepherd them to make good decisions
- lack of encouragement
- tearing them down and embarrassing them
Last week, I wrote an email on standards. If you did not get a chance to read it, here is a link.
In that email, I connected standards and unconditional love just as I did above in talking to my family. As a father, I had two very serious priorities.
1) Build the fence way back from the cliff in keeping our children out of trouble.
2) Never ever let the kids doubt that you love them more than your own life.
I firmly believe that if we had high and strict standards without making sure they understood how much we loved them that our kids (some or all of them) would have rebelled. Or, if they understood how much we loved them but we had no standards that our kids would have not respected us and would have swayed into trouble.
So Parents, I encourage you to have high standards that serve as boundaries that keep your children from falling into difficulty, and never, ever, allow your children to doubt your unconditional and complete sacrificial love for them. Do not use your love as a weapon or exhibit any semblance of ever withholding your love for your children. Be generous with them in love, and make your standards purposeful in what matters.
I am going to end this email with a conversation I just recently had with my oldest. We were talking about children for some reason. I am not even sure what led to the conversation. But, in that conversation I mentioned how strict I was when they were younger. When I said that, his response was, “Dad, you weren’t strict.”
Now, keep in mind the conversations I had with my family about my parenting and how strict they thought I was. But, my son never noticed.
Why do you think that was?