As stated in the previous blog, two of the few directives given to parents in the New Testament are about not provoking our children (Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21). I think this is important! To provoke means to exasperate or to rouse someone to anger. Regularly provoking our kids will likely kindle anger and resentment as habitual responses within them.

We provoke our kids when we:

  • discipline in harsh, punitive ways
  • discipline while angry
  • regularly find fault
  • scold and lecture
  • chastise them in front of others
  • mock or ridicule them
  • hold to standards that we don’t apply to ourselves
  • fail to admit our mistakes or apologize
  • fail to make time to listen and talk with them
  • deny them freedom to grow and learn for themselves
  • fail to keep promises

Here’s a few suggestions that are more in line with bringing kids up “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
ONE: Deal with the anger in your own heart. Wait until your temper has cooled, before addressing misbehavior in your kids. Examine your own heart in prayer first so that you can address your child wisely and without an agitated tone of voice.

  • Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1: 19-20
  • A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Proverbs 15:18

TWO: Intentionally replace harsh communication with gentleness. Some individuals can sound and even look angry when they are not. My husband is one of them although he is working hard to match his countenance to what he is really feeling. Consider the tone of your voice, your facial expressions and the body language you use, whether it is tinged with harshness or gentleness.

  • A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
  • He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. Isaiah 40:11

THREE: Do more listening and less lecturing. Make sure to build in times to listen to your children, times when your agenda is restricted to hearing, without judgment, what is on their hearts. Listen and then listen some more. Ask questions with the intention of understanding your child’s feelings and needs. By listening, you give them a means by which to sort through their emotions. At the same time you may gain a genuine opportunity to offer guidance, because their hearts will be more open to you when you have made it your aim to understand them.  To understand someone does not mean you necessarily agree with them.

  • Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19

FOUR: Replace criticism with correction. Often kids already know what they have done wrong. What they really need is for someone to tell them how to do things right. Criticism is about disapproval. Correction is about growing and improving; about replacing bad behavior with good behavior. Also, refrain from criticizing your kids publicly. Instead pull them aside and talk to them privately.

  • Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…. I Thessalonians 5:11

FIVE: Let patience have it’s perfect way in you! (James 1:4) Patience is about steadfastness in the midst trying circumstances and raising kids can certainly be very trying at times!  Our role is not to accomplish the outcomes however, but to be faithful in the process. Growth happens one step at a time. And sometimes it happens by tiny baby steps that are hard to even notice.   Bear your kids up in love as they are maturing! Nothing will nourish them more than a loving, connected relationship with you, that leads them to a loving, connected relationship with God.

  • We can be confident that He who began a good work in each one of us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
  • With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4

SIX: Quit grumbling about your kids. They are a blessing from the Lord. Even when they try your patience and frustrate you beyond what you think you can handle, remember that God has blessed you for a very, very short season with your precious, unique children. So speak life-giving words. Don’t let them hear you grumble about them. Rather as you correct and advise them, also express your hope in who they are becoming. Painting vision and purpose for them is deeply motivational.

  •  Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like  arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalms 127: 3-5

For more on this topic, read Free to Parent which is now available at Amazon in kindle version as well.