Chapter 6 opens with the instruction for children to obey their parents; this is an awesome commandment because it comes with a promise attached. For parents, it is clear when there is a violation of verse 1. However, verse 4 is a direct instruction to parents, Fathers (and mothers),do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4. At times Parents are unaware when they violate the do not exasperate (to cause irritation or annoyance to, to excite the anger) your children instruction from the Lord.
While sitting with my teenaged daughter one evening, she shared with me stories her friends had about their parents. These stories did not put their parenting in the best light. Taking a deep breath, I asked the following question, "Do you ever talk about me?" Her response, "Only when you deserve it." Ouch! That was a harsh answer. Putting my pride aside I asked for an example of a time I deserved it. Unfortunately, it didn't take her long to come up with one. She said, sometimes I come home in a bad mood, from traffic, work or something else. I will act grumpy with her even though it has nothing to do with her. She is right; my behavior is not fair to her. I don't like it when another adult acts that way toward me, it is not ok for me to mistreat her. As a mother, sometimes I miss parenting fail moments. I'm thankful my daughter is at an age where she can articulate her feelings. It saddens me to think of the moments my actions caused discouragement or anger when she was too young to verbalize it.
There are biblical examples of parents misbehaving in ways that lead to disastrous family dynamics, Rebekah and Isaac pitting their twin sons against each other or Jacob's favoritism of Joseph over all of his other children. Yes, God did work all things together for His good. These parenting examples are not ones we'd like to follow.
As modern-day well-meaning parents, we can provoke our children to anger and discouragement in ways that are not as obvious to us. The following behavior can negatively affect our relationship with our children. Having a double standard can be infuriating to children. If a snack before dinner is not allowed for them, then it is not approved for us. If we expect our kids to listen to what we say, we should hear them out, avoiding the temptation to interrupt. When disciple is needed the consequence should be in proportion to the action. For example, if a child doesn't make their bed one morning because they were playing a video game. Restricting gameplay for a month is not proportional. Comparison to others and constant criticism can make a child believe they are not good enough. Finally, withholding loving actions when they misbehave, can send the message love is conditional.
Being a parent is a blessing that comes with great responsibility. As seriously as we take the verse that commands children to obey parents, we should be careful not to anger our children. If you find that you have blown it, ask your child for forgiveness. Their relationship with us can help or hinder the relationship with their heavenly Father. Parents, who they can see, demonstrating humility, unconditional love, consistency, mercy, and patience will help them enter a trusting relationship with a God they can not see.