Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
This word translated fathers could well be translated parents, because it includes both the father and the mother. It is also true that the emphasis is laid largely upon the father, for he is responsible for what the children become. That is sobering, is it not, fathers? Mothers may enforce policy, but it is the father's task to set it and to see that his children are raised properly. There is nothing that is more dishonoring to the spirit of Christianity than the attitude adopted by many fathers: It is my job to make the living; her job is to raise the children. Not in the Word of God! In the Bible, the ultimate responsibility for what a home becomes is the father's. So the word is addressed to fathers.
This is the way a father subjects himself to his children—by deliberately avoiding the things that make a child rebel. "Do not exasperate your children". The word used here means anger that results in a rebellion. Fathers, do not provoke your children to the place where they completely lose control and break out against authority.
There are two things that cause rebellion in children: indulgence and harshness. These two things are the negative of the two things he instructs the father to do: Bring them up in the training and the instruction [or the exhortation] of the Lord. The opposites of these are indulgence and harshness.
Lack of discipline will make a child insecure, miserable, and self-centered. That is what we call a spoiled child—one who grows up to expect to have her way in everything and who rides roughshod over the feelings of everyone else. This is created by a spirit of indulgence on the part of parents who allow their children to make decisions that no child is capable of making. Parents must learn that they need to make decisions for their children for quite a while in their life and only gradually help them to learn to make those decisions as they are able to do so. In the early years of childhood parents must make almost all the decisions. One of the terribly tragic things about life today is the degree to which many parents let children make decisions they are incapable of making.
The other extreme that provokes a child to revolt is harshness—rigorous, demanding discipline that is never accompanied with love or understanding. Rigid, military discipline that says, Do this, or this, or else, will inevitably drive a child to revolt as he comes to adolescence.
Opposed to this the apostle puts two things—training and instruction (or exhortation) in the Lord. The word for instruction is really putting in mind in the Lord. Training and putting in mind in the Lord. As the child grows older, physical discipline is to be replaced by exhortation, by understanding—helping a child to see what lies behind the restrictions and always showing concern and love. It does not mean a total relaxing of limits, but it means a different way of enforcing them.
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