21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
The advice given here for “fathers” is also for “mothers”, as the Greek word patēr is also translated as “parents” elsewhere in our English Bible (Hebrews 11:23). What is said here should be received by all who are parents.
All parents are commanded not to provoke their children lest they be discouraged. They should immediately refrain from any attitude, word or action that would cause irritation and emotional outburst. They must also be careful not to cause discouragement in the children. Parents must spend time daily with their children, instructing, teaching, correcting, encouraging and even entertaining them. They must make every effort to point children to Christ and His will.
The following unwise actions, which can cause severe provocation in children, should be carefully avoided by parents:
- Too much prohibition or overprotection. This will show up their little trust in their children and deprive the latter of liberty. It can lead to frustration and rebellion. So, give them the necessary freedom and encourage them to be responsible.
- Favouritism and unreasonable comparisons with other children. This can lead to unhappiness and disappointment. Do not condemn the child for not being like other children. Parents must accept every child as he is, and instruct him accordingly.
- Belittling children for their weaknesses. This will dishearten them.
- Being too difficult to please and over-exacting. This will also lead to provocation and disappointment in children. Parents must be mindful to avoid being critical all the time. Instead, make every effort to create a positive, even an uplifting and encouraging, environment.
- Being too quick to judge. This can result in false accusation and produce much displeasure in children. So, do not be hasty in rebuking children.
- Being violent with words and actions. This will cause children to feel oppressed and distressed. Sure, when the children err, they must be rebuked and corrected. The rod of correction may at times be necessary, yet it must be used with discretion and love (cf. Proverbs 13:24; 23:13, 14; 17:10). The rod must not be used to ventilate anger or to exact revenge.