“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
The Bible gives instruction for every area of life, including God’s plan for parenting. While Christian parents face more opposition than ever before, the plan remains the same. That’s because the enemy nor his tactics have changed. So, the apostle Paul’s instruction to the Christian parents in Ephesus is just as helpful and insightful today as it was then.
First, Paul shows us a problem to avoid, “do not provoke.” In other words, don’t irritate them to the point of resentment and bitterness. This has as much to do with attitude as it does actions. Paul isn’t talking about isolated incidences; he’s describing ongoing behavior. So look for any negative patterns in your parenting. Are you restrictive, overbearing, overly critical, or excessive in your discipline? Do you fail to show affection or give affirmation regularly?
Paul then gives us a plan to pursue, and it starts with discipline. We tend to think of discipline as punishment, but it also means learning self-control and restraint. One of the best ways to develop discipline is through setting boundaries for their protection. This is how God deals with us as His children (Hebrews 12:4-9). Discipline is a sign of love and builds respect. There’s great benefit to reasonable boundaries and to loving correction when those boundaries are violated.
Parents are also to, “bring them up in the…instruction of the Lord.” That means home is ground zero for discipleship—not church. We are to nourish our kids, not just physically and emotionally, but also spiritually. Most parents explain Christianity in terms of its prohibitions rather than its pursuits. But the highest pursuit in life is God, Himself. So teach your kids who God is. Is He holy and does He punish sin? Yes! But He is also, “a Rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Are you following God’s plan for parenting? How are you actively overseeing your children’s spiritual development? Do they see a consistent model of godly attitudes and behavior in your life? When you lead your kids to have an eternal mindset and a heart for God, they’ll be better equipped to handle today’s challenges and heartaches.