What are keys to raising respectful, wise and disciplined children in today’s distracting modern culture? It’s not a big secret. ♦
I heard a story recently of a local high-tech executive who, as a busy father, was frustrated with the snarky, haughty, disrespectful sense of entitlement possessed by his own teenage son. He told his listening audience (an Uber driver), who shared this conversation with me in the context of a conversation on parenting issues (on my own Uber drive), that he wishes someone in his son’s school would “beat some sense into him.” He literally desired that his arrogant son would be beat up so as to learn a lesson.
And you thought you had problems.
There is so much wrong here that it warrants a comment on parenting and fathering, on any level, let alone when dealing with difficult or disobedient children.
First of all, my heart aches for the father. A busy man (aren’t we all?) who is struggling because he’s essentially lost control of his own son. What’s worse though, is his desire to outsource any correction or discipline to others, even his son’s school yard peers to physically beat down, beat up, or beat some sense into his troublesome son.
Fathering is a tough job. We don’t get very many good lessons on the topic. Our main model is our own father and often that is not ideal.
Secondly, our course, my heart goes out to the young son, a modern prodigal child who’s brought his parents to their wit’s end. He may be troublesome, but at this point is no doubt a product of a spoiled and perhaps neglected upbringing.
What’s the Bible say about all of this? What guidance is there for the busy father and the disengaged, selfish and/or disobedient child? The good news is that it’s never too late for fathers and sons to recalibrate and redirect.
The Apostle Paul presents very practical guidance for each member of the Christian household in his letter to the early Christians in the city of Ephesus. A city of ancient Greek origins, at the time of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians it was a thriving Roman commercial city serving as “Gateway to Asia” with a vibrant harbor and the center of mother goddess worship of western Asia. At the time of the New Testament, Ephesus was considered the 4th greatest city in the world (behind Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch in Syria).
Sounds like San Francisco.
In his letter to new Christians living in this secular city, he specifically calls out fathers to raise their children with a combination of discipline and instruction, and a particular caution to drive them not to anger or wrath:
- Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
Let’s review these 3 key instructions for fathers.
1. Not to Anger
While we are to discipline and instruct our children, we are not to provoke them to anger, frustration or discouragement. Other translations say not to “exasperate your children.” In our own frustration and anger we may lash out in damaging ways not always physical. This can lead to lasting wounds, hurts and pains. Control the anger as they are but children who stumble like children. Lift them up with love and encourage them with joy and patience.
- Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. – Colossians 3:21
Webster defines discipline in terms of punishment but also as correction, obedience to order, self-control and rules governing conduct or activity. As fathers, we are to discipline and guide our children as the Lord disciplines us as sons. Certainly in love, not in anger. Today, of course, the spanking topic is highly debatable. We spanked our kids; they survived. Given another chance, I’d probably be more thoughtfully deliberate in administering discipline, combined more with a teaching consideration.
- Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. – Proverbs 23:13
- Discipline your child, and he will give you rest; he will bring you happiness. – Proverbs 29:17
- The Lord disciplines those he loves as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights – Proverbs 3:11
- For what son is there that a father does not discipline? – Hebrews 12:7
Here’s the big one. As fathers, we are called to raise our children with reverence and knowledge of the Lord God and His Word. This is the source of true Wisdom. If you don’t buy into this, you and your children (and family) will pay the consequences. They may be rich and successful, but lost and searching for truth and peace all of their lives. Teaching a godly life requires knowledge and consistency in practice. To do this well requires that the goods are within us. Raise up ourselves in the ways of the Lord so we can pass this on to our children and family.
- Now these are the commandments, statutes, and ordinances that the Lord your God instructed me to teach you so that you may carry them out…and that you may so revere the Lord your God that you, your children, and your grandchildren will keep all his statutes and commandments that I am giving you for all your lives, to prolong your days. – Deuteronomy 6:1-2
- These words I am commanding you today must be kept in mind and you must teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up. – Deuteronomy 6:7
- All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. – 1 Timothy 3:16
As I’ve stated before, as the father goes, so goes the family. Fathers, to know God ourselves is the best gift we can give to our children. Modeling, teaching and leading our children in this, done in love as wise guidance without damaging provocation, is our duty and call as fathers. Outsourcing our fatherly duties in any form is fraught with problems. Reigning in our meandering children is more challenging the older they get. But God changes hearts, minds and spirits. Never stop praying for your children and the melting and recasting of their heart, mind and will. The reward is joy and happiness untold.
Are you a wise father?
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory” – 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12