Today’s Scripture: Colossians 3:21
Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]
In addressing child/parent relationship, Paul speaks to fathers and commands them to not provoke their children lest they become discouraged or disheartened or “lose heart,” The word “provoke” can also be translated “embitter”.This is not simply referring to a child getting angry, for this is inevitable. It has to do with a deep–rooted, settled anger that stays in these children and affects their persons for the rest of their lives.
It also should be noted that the word “father” here just refer to “parents.” The same word is translated “parents” in Hebrews 11:23 when it says Moses’s “parents” hid him for three months because they saw he was not an ordinary child.
This sin is committed not only by fathers, though they might be most inclined towards it, but also by mothers. It is possible for a parent to so embitter a child that they become heartless and discouraged.
You want to ask yourself. How do parents embitter their children?
This can happen in many ways.
1. PARENTS EMBITTER THEIR CHILDREN BY NOT DISCIPLINING THEM.
This is one of the quickest ways to develop bitter children. A spoiled child is a child that is thankless and bitter. Because they get their way all the time, they are bitter whenever any authority does not give them their way or when life becomes difficult. Solomon said, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him” (Prov. 22:15).
Parents embitter them by never driving the foolishness, the sin, out of their hearts through good discipline. Parents who do not discipline their children and instead gives them everything they want often become surprised when their children eventually rebel against them later in life. These spoiled kids want nothing to do with their parents. Sadly, this happens too much, even in the church.
2. PARENTS EMBITTER THEIR CHILDREN BY ABUSING THEM Or GIVING IMPROPER DISCIPLINE.
When children are abused, either verbally or physically, it sows seeds of anger or hatred in their hearts. The anger sown into the hearts of these children is hard to get out. Many times these children abuse others because of the anger in them.
However, we see this not only as a result of abuse, but with improper discipline as well. When a parent does not wisely use his anger, it trains his child to unwisely use his anger as well. The parent becomes angry and curses at them, criticizes them, or even harshly disciplines them. Even if this punishment is just, the improper use of anger trains the child. The child learns, “When I am angry it is OK to curse; it is OK to hit somebody; it’s OK to go crazy.” He never learns how to properly control his anger, and therefore struggles with anger throughout his life.
The parent who disciplines his child in an angry spirit teaches him how to deal with anger. The child grows up fighting everybody, or holding grudges against anybody who failed him, because that is how he was trained.
Listen parents, telling your children to go to their rooms while you are angry can be a wise tactic. It gives you a chance to evaluate their sin, their motives, and your own heart. It allows you to teach them how to respond to their anger, and it also allows you to discipline them appropriately.
3. PARENTS EMBITTER THEIR CHILDREN BY NEGLECTING THEM.
Many children grow up bitter because their parents aren’t around. Consequently, they lack love and affection and therefore grow bitter because of that. Some parents neglect their children for work. They work long hours to achieve a certain amount of success, and this keeps them away from home. Ultimately, this hurts children both emotionally and spiritually.
Sadly, in our society many parents neglect their children by sending them away to extensive education programs. Many times these programs are meant to compensate for their lack of being around. It is not God’s will for teachers, coaches, or babysitters to raise children. That is why he gave them to their parents. Certainly, these people should play a role, but it is important for parents to be the primary influence on their children’s lives. Parents must be careful not to neglect their children.
We saw an example of neglect in the story of Absalom and David. David neglected his children, and this created such anger in Absalom that he eventually usurped David’s authority in the kingdom and essentially tried to kill him. One of David’s sons had previously raped Absalom’s sister and David did nothing. Absalom killed this brother and David did nothing. Absalom ran away from the kingdom and David did nothing. When Absalom came back to the kingdom after murdering his brother, David wouldn’t even visit him. This created anger in Absalom’s heart, which he tried to satisfy by seeking to kill his absentee father. David didn’t discipline him and didn’t encourage him. David did nothing but neglect his son and it had drastic consequences.
Many children have tremendous anger at a father or mother who neglected them. Parents, do not embitter your children. Prioritize them over your work, your church, your entertainment, and your social life. Let only God and your spouse come before them.
4. PARENTS EMBITTER THEIR CHILDREN BY NEVER ENCOURAGING THEM AND SHOWING THEM AFFECTION.
Healthy parents not only discipline their children but also reward them. Parents reward their children when they do well and discipline them when they do wrong. Children start to learn fairness by this balanced approach.
5. PARENTS EMBITTER THEIR CHILDREN BY SHOWING FAVORITISM TOWARD OTHER SIBLINGS.
We got a good picture of this in the story of Jacob and Joseph. Jacob gave Joseph the robe of many colors, showing his favor of this son above the other eleven. This embittered the older siblings against the father and against Joseph. Later, they kidnapped and sold Joseph into slavery out of their anger.
How often do siblings become embittered against one another because of unwise parenting practices? These children grow up disliking one another. “Mother always thought you were the prettiest.” “Dad always liked you because you were the smartest and most athletic.” This happens all the time. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.
Instead of developing bitterness in them, parents must aim to train their children in the “training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.” We must treat these children as God would treat them. In a sense, they are not ours. They are God’s and we are just stewards of them. We must make sure that we are faithful stewards so we can encourage them in fulfilling God’s plans for their lives.
You can never go wrong when you decide to do family life God’s way. Love God with all your heart. Teach your children to love God, talk to them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street. Teach them about the goodness of the LORD when they wake up and when they go into bed at night.When they ask you to tell them stories of your past…tell them how God kept His promises to you in the days when your back was against a wall.Let them know you deeply respect God and how God has kept you alive for a long time eating off the goodness of the land. Pass it on to the next generations.
What other ways have you seen or experienced parents embittering their children? How can the church play a role in remedying this trend of unwise parenting?