Everyone knows that the Bible says that children should obey their parents.
But three verses after asking children to obey their parents, the Bible also says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children” (Ephesians 6:4). Other versions say, do not provoke your children to anger.
That is tough.
If you look around you, you’ll find that Authority and Anger go together. They’re like twins. People in authority get angry a lot and people who are under their authority get angry at those in authority, too. (What you sow, you reap. You sow anger, you reap anger. You sow patience, you reap patience.)
But God says, “When you lead your children, as much as possible, avoid making them angry.” NOTE: There’ll be times when you can’t avoid it. There’ll be times when your children will be angry at you because you disciplined them or you prevented them from getting into bad stuff. That’s perfectly fine.
But here’s God’s message: Use all your resources to lead your kids in such a way that they aren’t provoked to anger.
Let me shock you… Parenting is NOT about controlling your children. Parenting is about controlling yourself. As Jeff Vanvonderen says, controlling YOURSELF is the foundation of grace-filled parenting. When your parenting isn’t working, it’s because you’re trying to control your kids but you’re not able to control yourself.
Let me explain…
How Do You Provoke Your Kids To Anger
You provoke your kids to anger when you can’t control yourself. Let me count some of the most common ways:
• Shouting (when you raise your voice): Raising your voice means you’re impatient. If your child isn’t listening to your “normal” voice, find a more creative way to get his attention rather than raising your voice.
• Shaming (verbal putdowns): Avoid “cutting remarks” that provoke your kids to get angry at you. As much as possible, correct them with love and gentleness.
• Talking without listening: One teenage boy told me, “Brother Bo, can you talk to my mother? Because you’re the only one she listens to. But she never listens to me. All she does is nag me…” It’s important that you listen before you speak—or you provoke useless anger. By listening to your child, you’re giving him or her a powerful message: That his or her opinions are valuable and worthy of respect.
• Hypocrisy: Another teenage girl told me, “My father says I should respect him. That I should not raise my voice. But whenever he speaks to me, he doesn’t respect me. He always shouts at me.” When you don’t do what you ask your kids to do—you’re provoking them to useless anger.
• Excessive Punishment: Example: You don’t “ground” your daughter for a month because she forgot to wash the dishes when it was her assignment to do so. Sometimes, our punishment doesn’t match the gravity of the misbehavior—that too can provoke our children to anger.
I wonder, why does the Bible focus on avoiding anger?
Why You Should Avoid Making Them Angry
Because leading your children will be 10 times more difficult if they’re provoked to anger.
Why? Because anger is such a powerful emotion, it overwhelms the other emotions of love, trust, gratitude, respect, honor, gentleness… Because of anger, your kids won’t feel these tender emotions anymore towards you—tender emotions that are crucial in building in a close relationship with your child.
So in this very important sense, parents and children mutually submit to each other.
Domination versus Leadership
Don’t get me wrong. Parents need to take charge. Your kids need to know who’s in charge at home. But you don’t need to shout or shame or scream at your kids. Ask yourself this crucial question: Do you really want to transform the heart of your child?
Because shouting, screaming at, and shaming them will never transform their hearts.
It’s the same with all our relationships.
Don’t dominate your spouse. Lead her.
Don’t dominate your kids. Lead them.
Don’t dominate your employees. Lead them.
Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27)
Dominating is about building control.
Leading is about building trust.
Dominating is showing your power.
Leading is sharing your power.
You can have grace-filled relationships only if you’re a grace-filled person.
Are you one?
I’ve noticed there are very special people in life who are so filled with grace, I can’t leave their presence without them making me feel very special too. When I walk away from them, I walk away bigger, better, brighter… feeling more blessed, more beautiful, more brilliant…
And I know why. I’ve discovered the secret of grace-filled persons: They see something fascinating in me that I still don’t see in myself.
A grace-filled person is still fascinated by the other person. He is fascinated by the mystery of that human being he calls spouse, son, daughter, friend…
The moment you stop being fascinated, awed, and mesmerized—the moment you think you’ve figured out people, that means only one thing: You’ve judged them, weighed them, measured them, packaged them, and labeled them—and found them wanting. You’re no longer giving them grace.
Think of your child, your spouse, your parent, your friend… If you’re no longer fascinated by the other person—and all you see are his or her mistakes—spend some time in prayer. Ask God to remove the scales from your eyes so you can appreciate anew the mystery that is your child, your spouse, your friend…
Because that person is more than his or her mistakes. He or she is a beautiful divine masterpiece, a person formed, fashioned, blessed, and birthed in the heart of God.
Open your eyes. Watch. Observe. Listen. Be in awe. Be totally fascinated by this God-Look-Alike in front of you.
Today, I urge you to go to Someone who has remained fascinated with you. When He looks at you, He doesn’t look at your sins or mistakes. He only looks at the good you’re able to make.
This Someone is still fascinated by you.
His name is Jesus Christ. Let Him fill your heart with scandalous, unreasonable, illogical grace.
Enjoy the rest of the summer with your family!
May your dreams come true,