Fathers…Anger…Regrets? Ephesians 6.4
From the time I was a little girl, I knew that one of the Ten Commandments was “Honor thy father and mother,”1 and that Paul added, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath.” But truthfully, I have never thought too much about Paul’s addition … until now. When I put the closing strokes on “Of children and parents,” I thought, but wait, there’s more--you didn’t address verse four.
So I googled the question: ‘how do fathers provoke their children to wrath?’ and found something too good not to share. It is a fragment from a letter written by a father: “My family’s all grown and the kids are all gone. But if I had to do it all over again, this is what I would do. I would love my wife more in front of my children. I would laugh with my children more—at our mistakes and our joys. I would listen more, even to the littlest child. I would be more honest about my own weaknesses, never pretending perfection. I would pray differently for my family; instead of focusing on them, I’d focus on me. I would do more things together with my children. I would encourage them more and bestow more praise. I would pay more attention to little things, like deeds and words of thoughtfulness. And then, finally, if I had to do it all over again, I would share God more intimately with my family; every ordinary thing that happened in every ordinary day I would use to direct them to God.”2
Some of you may have winced, others mentally patted yourself on the back, but no matter which, there are things to be gained by looking at the verse and also this father’s thoughts on ‘if I had to do it all over again’.
The verse: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6.4
So… how can dads NOT produce anger in their children?
1) Bring them up to know God. Pray for them and pray with them. Take them to church. Let them catch you reading your Bible. Teach them what God has to say about right living—with regard to integrity, work ethic, how to treat others, and how you treat their mother, (whether or not you are still married to her), and how you honor your parents, and language. Talk to them about your own journey with God.
2) Treat your children fairly – as compared to one another, and within each one’s own capabilities. Do not place unreal expectations on them. When you have to correct them, make sure they know the reason. Discipline fairly and consistently, so your children are not left guessing.
3) Encourage, rather than discourage. No one’s words mean more to them than yours—especially in the middle years and teen-age years. Build them up, speak words of life to them. Constant words of criticism by parents replay over and over in a young person’s mind … it seems they can never really be erased.
4) Express your love – Make sure your children know that your love is a constant, even when they mess up.
5) Protect their home – Home should be a place of safety. Parents should deal with anyone or anything that threatens that safety of home for each child. Home should be a safe place, a welcome place for one’s children, even when they have grown.
This can be a difficult scenario where one parent is compromised in some way—like being an alcoholic—or in so many cases, as in a single-parent household. Recently, a young man gave his testimony at Sunday Night Live; he shared about how his father’s binge drinking impacts the entire household … it was heart-breaking, honestly. Tears came in his eyes as he talked about how much he loves his dad, who is a respected paramedic, and also a tormented individual. ‘The testimony part? How God has made his presence known to him personally—comforting him and taking care of him and his little brother.
Tis an awesome privilege and terrible responsibility to be a parent; I know that I have made so many mistakes over the years with my four children. But as long as I have breath, with God’s help, I can learn to love and give my children love and encouragement, no matter their ages. For as my mama said, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” Oh, and Peter said it too—“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”3
Fathers, love your children well.
1 – Exodus 20.12
2 – from John MacArthur’s commentary on Ephesians
3 – 1 Peter 4.8