Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so they won’t become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21 HCSB)
Are you a parent? I am a proud parent of three kids ranging in age from almost 13 to 21. As much my wife and I have tried to teach our kids over the years we have likely learned just as much. It is funny how as parents the things that concerned us with our oldest became less serious and contentious with our younger children. By the time our youngest was born we were not phased by many of the issues that younger parents felt were disastrous. Dirt? No big deal. If one of the younger kids wanted to make a fashion statement by wearing their Disney pajamas with a shirt and tie or under a skirt, so be it. We simply learned over the years, as will you if you are new to this, that you must pick your battles as a parent. We began to ask ourselves the question when faced with challenging parenting situations, “Will this behavior make a difference in 5, 10, or 20 years?” So far none of our kids have suffered irreparable harm on account of their early fashion choices or because they ate ice cream for breakfast.
Other times, we made the decision as parents to allow our kids to do things we knew were wrong because of the consequences they would entail. Of course we never allowed them to seriously injure themselves but at times, as we all recognize, our mistakes can teach us very important lessons we do not soon forget.
The last thing we want to do as parents is turn our kids away from us. Even when it comes to spiritual matters we have to cautious in how much we push our kids. This is not to say we don’t set standards for them to live and abide by but we must also be judicious in the manner in which we do it. It used to frustrate me, and it still can, when I felt as if my kids were not showing the interest in church or spiritual matters as much as I thought they should. But then I realized that what I expect of myself is a bit different than what I should be expecting of my kids. After all, they don’t have a seminary education. And, of course, they are still kids.
The last thing we want to do is push our kids away. I have seen this too many times. Paul has it right in Colossians 3:21. When he says not to “exasperate” our children, he literally means we should not provoke them to anger or stir anger up inside of them. Our kids are no different than the family dog. It might be a sweet, kind, and gentle animal but if you poke it enough times you will provoke it to snap. The word discourage in the original language means to become spiritless or disheartened. So in other words parents, we are not stir up anger in our kids lest they become disheartened. It is far easier to gradually and gracefully grow our kids spiritually then it is to bring them back from the dead.
The most important things we can do for our kids are to be an example for them to follow and to pray for them daily. Children are a gift from God, as parents, we are their stewards. Parent wisely.