Saturday, February 08, 2014

How to exasperate the kids

The apostle Paul tells fathers not to “exasperate their children” (Ephesians 6:14, NIV).

The Greek word parorgi,zete means “provoke to anger” (ESV) or “provoke to wrath” (KJV). The Amplified Bible suggests: “do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment]”.

The similar passage in Colossians 3:21 says: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (NIV). The word for embitter here is evreqi,zete and it means arouse, provoke or exasperate. Again the Amplified Bible suggests: “Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]

It’s worth noting the alternative to exasperating one’s children is instead to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord in Ephesians 6:4.

It’s good for us to seek to know and understand ourselves and our children. How, when and why are we tempted to exasperate our children?

Some ways of exasperating one’s children (in no great order) might be:

Allowing them to get too tired or hungry, and other means of leading them into temptation
Failure to know and understand your children
Not treating them as individuals
Not taking account of their thoughts and feelings
Failing to be age-appropriate e.g. expecting too much from younger children or failing to give older children suitable growing freedom
Wrapping them up in cotton wool, being over controlling, neurotic “helicopter parenting”
A critical or angry tone / spirit, nit-picking
Resentfulness and frustration
Having excessively high or low expectations
Lack of routine or excessive regimentation
Perfectionism, being impossible to please, nothing ever really good enough, lack of praise, appreciation and encouragement, failure to value effort
Impatience with immaturity, e.g. disciplining a little child for knocking over a cup (when maybe a beaker would have been better), saying “Why don’t you act your age?” when they probably are!
Confusing a mistake or accident with wilful disobedience
Lack of time or attention, distraction, excessive unavailability or business
Failing to understand, listen, sympathise; harshness
Neglect (physical, emotional, spiritual etc.)
Lack of boundaries and direction
Persistently failing to explain the reasons for an instruction, bald commands
Too many rules or arbitrary rules
Tyranny, despotism, constant orders
Unreasonableness, inconsistency, unpredictability, explosions of anger
Failure to keep promises
Unfairness (real or perceived)
Having different standards for them while we excuse ourselves, lack of godly example, too much / inappropriate “do as I say not as I do”, failure to practice what we preach / do as we would be done by
Arrogance, behaving as if we are always right, failing to ask the children’s forgiveness for our sins against them
Trying to work on more stuff than the child can cope with at once, failure to choose battles
Life too often organised solely for the ease and convenience of the parents
Children as a lifestyle accessory
Public humiliation, embarrassing the child unnecessarily
Ridicule, sarcasm, rudeness
Favouritism, “why can’t you be more like your sister?”
Stigmatising the child or attacking them personally, “you always…”, “you’re always so…”, “you’re such a …”
Disciplining in a rage or out of embarrassment for the sake of the parent rather than the child
Making up for our own deficiencies, vicarious ambitions, an inappropriate wonderful plan for the child’s life, whether they want to be a concert pianist or not
Over-scheduled lives, hot housing
Long, drawn-out punishments. If the young person is grounded for 6 months it’s no wonder everyone’s climbing up the wall!
Fathers might abdicate responsibility and leave the kids to the wife
Treating the kids like mini-heathens / little pagans in need of a conversion experience

Children need to know that their parents are seeking to act for their good out of love for them under the authority of God.

Can you add to the list above?

It’s a long list! What are the main or most serious issues?

Douglas Wilson says this about exasperating fathers:

When Paul warns Christian fathers to not be exasperating to their children, he does this because this is the one of the faults that Christian fathers are prone to. So listen to him. Before you just brush this admonition off, and say that of course you don’t do this, consider that it is possible that this defensive and self-serving attitude is one of the most exasperating things about you. And remember that your children frequently will not be able to explain this to you. First, because they are little and defenseless, and then later because they moved to the East Coast and never call.”

Westminster Larger Catechism Questions129 and 130 may also prove instructive: “What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?”
A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love,[680] pray for,[681] and bless their inferiors;[682] to instruct,[683] counsel, and admonish them;[684] countenancing,[685] commending,[686] and rewarding such as do well;[687] and discountenancing,[688] reproving, and chastising such as do ill;[689] protecting,[690] and providing for them all things necessary for soul[691] and body:[692] and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God,[693] honour to themselves,[694] and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them.[695]
“Q. 130. What are the sins of superiors?”
A. The sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them,[696] and inordinate seeking of themselves,[697] their own glory,[698] ease, profit, or pleasure;[699] commanding things unlawful,[700] or not in the power of inferiors to perform;[701] counseling,[702] encouraging,[703] or favouring them in that which is evil;[704] dissuading, discouraging, or discountenancing them in that which is good;[705] correcting them unduly;[706] careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger;[707] provoking them to wrath;[708] or any way dishonouring themselves, or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behaviour.[709]

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