“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” — Ephesians 6:4
Parenting is harder now than ever before. I've found that many of us have learned some good things from how we were raised. We've also made some promises that we would do things different when we raise our own kids. Then we became parents and found ourselves doing some of the things we promised we would never do. Have you had those moments? Be honest.
Having raised five boys and counseled many parents at all points of parenthood, I believe there are some good practices that all parents need to consider as they seek to raise their children well.
With that being said, I want to confess I am not an expert at parenting but I have learned from my many mistakes. Of course, I must mention that parenting with a spouse like Carol has made our parenting team much stronger. She is definitely the super star in the process of parenting. She may have some other tips, but these are mine.
As you look at the verse above the question arises; how do fathers exasperate their children? Other translations use “provoke” rather than exasperate. How do we provoke or exasperate our children? There are two parenting extremes that I believe exasperate children.
First, we add little to no structure or discipline in their lives. We allow them to be who they are and fail to set reasonable boundaries; often times there are NO boundaries.
Sometimes parents want to avoid conflict at all cost. This means always giving in to the desires of their children. They can’t say “no” to their kids for multiple reasons. If you are going to be a reasonably good parent you will be using the word “no” on a regular basis. You will be dealing with conflict on a regular basis. You will be the bad guy on a regular basis. Your kids won’t like you on a regular basis. Are you getting the picture?
The second way we exasperate our children is when we have too many rules. We have too many boundaries. This often leads to kids walking on egg shells because they are always doing something wrong. How clean does their room really need to be? What grades are acceptable for that particular child?
The area of discipline comes into play here. Some fathers are brutal in their discipline, citing the Bible for support. There are two ways your children can respond to your leadership. They can do it because they are forced to or they can do it because they want to. How you relate to them is generally how they will respond to your leadership.
As a parent think of yourself as a coach trying to get the best out of your kids. This means you won’t be their buddy, but you also won’t be the enforcer.
Your job is to teach each of your children in a way that inspires and encourages them to be better people. This means you must approach each child a little different. Some need a kick in the butt, some need an arm around their shoulder. [Think metaphorically]
Here’s a few tips…
Set a few reasonable boundaries for everyone.
Relate to each child as an individual; they are all different.
Deal with conflict as soon as possible, don’t wait.
Give more freedom when your child makes good choices, take freedom away when they make poor choices.
Communicate clearly your expectations, you can’t over communicate.
Demonstrate their need for God’s intervention in their lives by your own life.
Acknowledge when you blow it and admit your mistakes.
Hang tough parents, fathers, mothers, single parents, foster parents, grandparents, we are all counting on you.