Exasperation Breeds Discouragement
Ephesians 6:4 gives this advice regarding parenting…
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
Note that just because this scripture singles out fathers doesn’t mean mothers are exempt. It just means that since fathers should be the spiritual heads of the house, this command is first directed toward them for setting the example.
Exasperate means “to irritate or provoke to a high degree; annoy extremely.”
Colossians 3:21 provides further detail on the concept by adding the component of why not exasperating your children is important.
“Fathers, do not embitter (exasperate) your children, or they will become discouraged.”
Children can become frustrated and discouraged because of their parents, and most parents know that frustrated kids are individuals who too easily head down the wrong path in life. As parents, we should deliberately choose not to frustrate our kids since there’s already enough in this world to exasperate them.
Evaluating Our Parenting
Before you think I’m advocating giving kids what they want when they want it, let’s look at how we can be parents who aid, assist, cooperate with, encourage, facilitate, help, and support our kids. Let’s consider how we can avoid discouraging our children by evaluating our parenting in light of the following elements.
- Consistency. Children need security, and they need to know what to expect. They need to know they will be disciplined when they do wrong and that the discipline will be fair. They need to know they will be praised when they do right and that the praise will be appropriate. The more children know what to expect from their parents, the more secure and stable they will be overall.
- Availability. Being available for your kids doesn’t simply mean being a taxi service, cooking meals, and meeting clothing needs. Availability involves truly listening (that means stopping what you are doing and making eye contact), and it means letting them express feelings and thoughts in a safe environment.
- Priorities. Children need to know they are important to their parents. They need to know their parents value them and consider them unique and special individuals. Sure, a parent can say this, but kids really need to see it through actions. This means scheduling time to simply hang out, play, talk, etc. with your kids. It means intentionally asking about their days, their friends, and their struggles. While your kids may not be the highest priority in your life (your relationship with your spouse and with Christ should be higher priorities), they need to be a top priority for sure.
- Integrity. There is always someone watching. This is especially true when you have children. children watch their parents to learn how to live life. Parents’ actions teach kids about integrity. The question all parents need to ask themselves is if they are the same at home as they are in public. If a parent is putting on a different face in public than at home, they send a confusing message about integrity. From the smallest to the biggest moments in life, you can teach your children about integrity in ways that will stick with them all their lives.
- Respect and Obedience. Having a zero-tolerance approach to disrespect and disobedience goes a long way in teaching children how to be successful adults. How many adults do you know who do not have a healthy respect for their bosses, coworkers, or pastors? If someone struggles in this area, they likely struggle more in every area of life than is necessary. Teaching your kids respect and obedience sets them up for victory in life in a way that is dying out in today’s culture.
When parents focus on being consistent and available, when they make their kids a priority, and when they strive to teach them integrity, respect, and the value of obedience to authority, they are giving them great advantages in life because frustration and discouragement will be less of an issue for them.
Not exasperating your children simply involves teaching them the character qualities that will allow them to focus on who God created them to be. They’ll learn contentment in this process as well, and they’ll one day thank you for instilling these values in them.