“Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” Ephesians 6:4
Before the Apostle Paul talks to parents about their children he does a wise thing. He talks to parents about themselves. While he is addressing both parents in his letter, he focuses on fathers in verse four. Why is that? There is both a spiritual and a cultural reason. His words were revolutionary when they were written 2000 years ago. In both Greek and Roman cultures, the father was considered the most superior position in the lives of both the wife and children. He had absolute power over his children - even after they were grown - and over his grandchildren. Fathers were allowed to beat their children, imprison them, and even sell their children into slavery for a period of time.
Imagine what fathers, not to mention wives and children, thought when they heard these words, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” That word “exasperate” is a strong word. It means, “provoke to anger.” The truth found in this verse is that we cannot properly discipline our children until we discipline ourselves. Our first job is not to control our children; our first job is to control us.
We shouldn’t aggravate our children. When we aggravate them, they are more likely to say something disrespectful to us. Then we punish them because they were disrespectful to us, which we caused in the first place. That is exasperating your children! We shouldn’t humiliate our children. Never publically embarrass your children on purpose. Don’t initiate unnecessary arguments with your children. As they grow up, there will be plenty of “passionate discussions” without you starting it. Finally, don’t intimidate your children. Don’t try to push them to be something they don’t want to be or can’t be. Don’t try to live your life through them. Nothing is more exasperating. Allow them to choose their own path and make their own mistakes…but don’t guard them from the consequences of those mistakes.
If you feel today like you have blown it with your child, it is never too late to go back and apologize and ask for forgiveness. Admitting your failures and mistakes can be one of the most cleansing experiences of your life. Your children need tender affection from their parents. Don’t let pride or past mistakes steal that affection from your relationship.
Dear Lord, thank you for being such a tender, gentle, and loving Father. Please help me to show those same characteristics to my children as I parent them and ultimately point them to you. In Jesus' name, amen.