Fathers, Do Not Provoke Your Children

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Provoke… The word itself sounds exhausting. Ephesians 6:4 — “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”


I Provoke My Children

When I read this verse, I thought maybe Paul meant to tell children not to provoke their parents, but then the Holy Spirit got a hold of me. No, I’m the provoker. It brings me no joy in saying that I’ve already provoked my kids more times than I could count, and they’re not even in double digits yet.

I guess the time that sticks out the most is when, in my anger and frustration, I tried to nag and lecture my then 7-year-old daughter into obeying me. This time was one of my classic parenting fails. I attempted to coerce my daughter into behaving the way I want through the use of “God guilt.” I lectured her that she should be trying to make Jesus happy with how she lived, and I decided to guilt her into obeying by using the “S-Word” – selfish.


How Children Respond to Provoking

Let’s say my way of parenting did not bring about the intended results. Not only did my daughter not behave the way I wanted her to, but she stuffed a piece of humble pie down my throat in the process.

Her response to me was: “Enough with all the ‘God Stuff.’ It’s too much God stuff, and it’s not helping!” At that moment, staring at my baby girl, I saw that she was filled with bitterness and rage, and I knew then why God commands us not to provoke our children.

The parenting fails that I demonstrated not only pushed my daughter further from me, but it was pushing her away from God as well. At face value, everything that I told her was accurate, but she was in no place to hear it at that moment. In all honesty, I was in no position to explain it to her.


Do Not Provoke Your Children

How could I have handled this situation differently? It all starts and ends with the heart. My heart was not in the right place to discipline my daughter that day, and as parents, we must make sure that our hearts are in the right place. After all, parenting is a 24/7 job.

How can God help me here? If I let Him, He’ll show me my inward selfishness, change my heart, and give me the strength to be the dad he intends me to be. In my lecturing of my daughter, instead of keeping my eyes on Christ, I was more concerned with my desires for peace. No, I didn’t have my devotions that morning. No, I didn’t take any time to self-reflect or, more importantly, let the Holy Spirit show me where selfishness was seeping into my soul. Instead, I tried to parent (and discipline) in my pride and selfishness, using only a little power that I possessed on my own.


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