Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
In the parent-child relationship, the parent has been given the authority. That is God’s order for a healthy family and society. Like in all other relationships, such authority must be exercised with responsibility and care; it must not be abused, nor should the trust be betrayed.
Continuing the concept of putting off the old self and putting on the new, Paul instructs fathers not to “exasperate” their children, but to train and instruct them about the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). This command is meant not only for fathers but also mothers, just as children are to obey both their fathers and mothers.
What do fathers need to put off? Fathers are to avoid exasperating their children. Some translations use the phrase “provoke to anger” (or wrath). When fathers are abusive, it will result in deep resentment and anger in their children. This can in turn lead to violent and dysfunctional behaviour. The parent must not bully the child simply because he has the power and authority over the child. It is a reminder for parents today not to vent their anger and daily frustrations on their children.
Uncontrolled anger, especially when combined with efforts to discipline the child, can do more harm than good. Bible teacher Martyn Lloyd Jones rightly points out that a parent, before disciplining his child, must have first controlled himself. He asks, “What right have you to say to your child that he needs discipline when you obviously need it yourself?”
What do fathers need to put on? Fathers should train and instruct their children. The Greek word for “train” is also translated as “discipline”. Both training and instruction are functions of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), and parents are to fulfil their responsibilities to guide their children in the ways of God. Both discipline and teaching are needed in order for this to be effective, and the methods need to be modified for different age groups.
Responsible parenting means bringing up and nourishing children so that they grow “in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men” (Luke 2:52; 1 Samuel 2:26; Luke 1:80). At a time when couples choose not to have children for various reasons and when parental love seems to be increasingly missing or marred, Paul’s instructions remind us of God’s blueprint for healthy family life, as well as the importance of nurturing the young for the future.
Reflect on your own experience as a child. What good and bad experiences did you have? How have these affected you and your own parenting style?
How can discipline and teaching be combined for children of different ages? How can the church encourage stressed-out parents to devote time and attention to good, responsible parenting?