Fathers, do not provoke your children lest they become discouraged (Col 3:20).
The Enduring Word warns, “Children who grow up with parents who provoke them will become discouraged. They will not feel the love and the support from their parents like they should, and they will come to believe that the whole world is against them because they feel their parents are against them. This reminds us how important it is to season our parenting with lots of grace. Perhaps we should be as gracious, gentle, forgiving, and longsuffering with our children as God is with us.”
And our gracious God is our help in parenting like He is so many facets of life!
Clearly, God cares about the details of our parenting and loves our children even more than we do. He wants us to raise them in the best possible way to choose His better ways, every day.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we find a similar verse, Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
While both passages say “Fathers”, most commentators believe this instruction is to both parents as Greek society was patriarchal and families were instructed through the husband.
So what does this instruction to parents mean?
Tim Challies explains these passages with good insight. He says, “A discouraged child is one who has lost heart. He is so beaten down that he has lost hope, he has lost motivation, he doesn’t care anymore. One Bible translates it, “lest he get discouraged and quit trying.” The idea here is that you can so beat down your children that they stop trying to please you. Maybe your demands are arbitrary or unfair, maybe you never praise your children and take joy in them, maybe you live hypocritically before them with higher expectations for them than for yourself. Whatever the case, they eventually stop caring and stop trying. Douglas Moo says, “Paul does not want to see the children of Christian families disciplined to such an extent that they ‘lose heart’ and simply give up trying to please their parents.”
Putting it all together, God exhorts parents in this way: Parents, do not provoke your children to anger lest they become discouraged. On the heels of that exhortation he offers a solution: “But bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Do not beat down, but raise up. Do not provoke with impatience and injustice, but instead shepherd with nurture and tenderness, and do this through discipline and instruction.” https://www.challies.com/articles/fathers-and-mothers-do-not-provoke-/your-children/
That’s good counsel. And because, raising children is so very hard, we want to diligently seek wise counsel that includes the spiritual component as well. One book, I found particularly helpful, is called “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp. It helps parents get beyond rules to train the heart of their children to make wise decisions on their own.
And when it comes to parenting, we can also be encouraged in this, God will equip us for what He has called us to do (Heb 13:21) and that includes parenting.
As we daily seek Him, He will fill us up to overflow into the lives of our children.