How Parents Exasperate Their Children
By Pastor Maury and Nan Gill
Nan and I know that as adults we can become intensely irritated, maddened,
enraged, provoked and infuriated. We can find ourselves being “exasperated”. As
parents we are capable of provoking those feelings toward our children. Those
exasperations toward our children can cause long term severe negative relational
and behavior consequences. However, we have some good news for you! God in His
wisdom warns parents to guard themselves from exasperating their children.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and
mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you
and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3
Before you take this Bible verse and bang it over your child’s head and demand that they
obey you, let’s not forget to read the fourth verse in this passage!
“Fathers, do not provoke (exasperate) your children to anger, but bring them up in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
This verse directly turns the spotlight to parents. It makes it pretty clear that God
holds parents responsible for how we use our authority. In all my years of ministry I
have never come across a parent that does not want and desire to be a good parent.
However, sometimes in wanting to do the right thing for our children we end up
doing it the wrong way. It is all in how we approach instructing, disciplining and
teaching our children. When we do the right thing the wrong way we exasperate our
The NIV translation of verse four says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so
that they will not lose heart.”
WOW! The last thing we want to see happen is for our children to lose heart. When
they do, we lose one of the most important battles in our lives as parents – the battle
for our child’s heart.
Parental authority comes with great responsibility and higher accountability. There
are two things to consider about this parental responsibility and accountability:
First, as parents we must model what it is to live under God’s authority so our
children can see the benefits of living under this authority and the benefits of
avoiding sin. Second, the ultimate goal of teaching our children to walk in obedience
under us as parents is to allow them to experience first hand the goodness of
walking and respecting God’ authority. The fruit is a promise - “that it may go well
with you and that you may live long in the land.”
What does exasperating your child look like and how can you avoid doing so?
1. Abusing your power to discipline: The ultimate goal in discipline is for a heart
change in your child. Many times we as parents view discipline as enforcing
punishment, which is the easy way out. Discipline is a great teaching moment to help
your child to recognize their error and ask for forgiveness. It is modeling Christ in
parenting. Proverbs 22:6 puts it this way; “Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Discipline is part of that training in
shaping and protecting your child’s heart. Before you enforce discipline PRAY first
for guidance before you react.
2. High expectations without understanding your child’s natural gifts, talents,
learning style and unique personality traits. Proverbs 22:6 uses the phrase “train up
your child in the way he should go” it actually means to understand your
child’s bent. Take the time to educate yourself on what is going on in your child’s
natural stage of development and what is their love language. (The 5 Love
Languages of Children by Gary Chapman & Dr. Ross Campbell)
3. Disciplining your child without warning them (no matter the age): Give grace the
first time you see your child do something that is harmful. Take the time to explain
future consequences in repeating that behavior. If it does continue you must follow
through with the consequence!
4. Constantly administering harsh discipline: Harsh discipline induces fear and
hardens their heart toward you. It does not produce a heart change. If you’re not
observing any change in your child’s behavior patterns, try administering a
5. When the punishment does not match the crime: This is a BIG one! This
exasperates your child more than anything else you do as parent in disciplining
them. For example: they get a spanking for not picking up their toys but when they
hit a sibling you just talk to them.
6. Playing favoritism: Your child seeks and desires your approval and favor. When
you show more approval and favor over one child then another. The child not
getting your approval and favor could seek attention by acting out in negative ways.
Favoritism makes children develop behavior patterns that are attention seeking
rather than character building.
7. Withdrawing affection, especially after disciplining your child: Nan and I adopted
the phrase “kiss away the tears” after disciplining one of our children. Some of the
sweetest times we have had in disciplining our children came after the punishment.
We made it a practice to give them physical affection and tell them how much we
loved them. It is kindness and love that provides a place for children to safely turn
their back on behaviors that are harmful in their life. Make it a habit to hug your
children, or playing with them when you’re done disciplining them.
8. When your yes is not a yes and your no is not a no: Talk about confusing your
child! Your child thrives under consistent and predictable guidelines.
9. When you don’t apologize: If you want to raise a child after God’s own heart,
model asking for forgiveness. Man! This is a big one for me personally. There were
so many times that I over reacted with harsh punishment for a behavior issue in our
children. God so convicted me that I was wrong with the harsh punishment that I
had to go back to that child and ask for forgiveness in my actions toward them.
10. Over-protecting them: One of the goals of parenting is to teach them to gain
independence as you earn their trust. Over protecting them as well as micro
managing them will kill their confidence and lowers their self-esteem. Let them
learn the hard way and don’t bail them out of situations. Letting them fail is a great
11. Not keeping a promise: A broken promise leaves long-term scars on a child’s
heart and mind. As adults we continue to break our heavenly Father’s heart,
however, he never breaks his promises towards us. Children internalize broken
promises as loss of love, attention and value. Words of wisdom: Use your promises
12. Embarrassing them in private and in public: Nan and I took our boys to Wal-
Mart one day and one of our boy’s behavior was not acceptable. I remember Nan
saying I will be right back. Nan and that child retreated to a dressing room and
punishment was administered in private not in public. Another part of this point is
the words we use in private and in public toward your child. For example: Using the
phrase “why don’t you act like your brother, he behaves so much better than you”.
Public and private embarrassment is a gateway to feelings of shame. God does not
shame us to confession of wrong actions but he does convict us of our wrong actions.
13. Model hypocrisy: The most poplar phrase we as parents use with our children is
“do as I say not as I do”. Hypocrisy leads to disrespect and loss of credibility.
14. Not listening to them: I personally (again) am guilty of this one. It began with
Nan. I would be in the middle of watching a football game on TV and Nan would
begin a conversation with me and I was more interested in the game than I was in our
conversation. I started with putting the TV on mute but I was still watching the
game. Then I made the best decision I have ever made; I turned the TV off and
listened to her. What did this say to Nan? You have my focused attention and I
value what you are saying. I began to use this same principle with my boys. When
they came to me when I was in the middle of a project, watching TV or reading I
stopped whatever I was doing and gave them my focused attention.
15. Treating them as your friend rather than as their parent: You are NOT their
friend you are their parent! Parenting requires making hard decisions that your
child may or may not like.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Being a good parent takes work. There are no days off from parenting. However,
the pay off has earthly and eternal benefits.
Nan and I love each and every one of your children that you have entrusted to us in
the First Kids Children’s Ministry. As always, we are here for you. Please do not
hesitate to contact us for any pastoral and biblical guidance regarding parenting