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Stop Provoking Your Children

Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” The passage specifically addresses fathers, as they are the heads of families, but undoubtedly the prohibition pertains to both parents. God does not permit fathers or mothers to provoke their children. The reason that we shouldn’t provoke our children is that it can cause them to become discouraged. To be discouraged is to lose confidence and enthusiasm, to feel like quitting, or to lack motivation. Another word to describe it is “disheartened.” In context, the danger of discouragement relates to the child’s duties of obeying his parents for the sake of pleasing the Lord in the name of Jesus with thanksgiving to God (3:17, 20). Undue provocation can cause a child to lose heart in following Christ. The provocation that Paul has in mind is an “immoderate harshness” (Calvin, Commentary on Colossians 3). It’s the opposite of loving discipline. Any sinful conduct towards any Christian can be a stumbling block in his way (1 Corinthians 14:13), but this is especially true for young children, who depend upon their parents to bring them up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). There are many ways that we can provoke our children. What discourages a child may depend on the age and disposition of that individual child. Below are some common provocations that would discourage almost any child.

  • Abuse (1 Samuel 20:30-34)

  • Neglect (2 Samuel 14:13,28)

  • Favoritism (Genesis 37:3-4)

  • Severity, inconsistency, hypocrisy

  • Laxity, indulgence, inattentiveness

  • Unreasonableness, fussiness, obsessiveness

  • Lack of responsibility, freedom, and challenges

  • Absence of instruction, correction, and encouragement

If you are in the habit of doing those things, or other such things leading to discouragement, you need to stop. Remember, God has entrusted you with the training of your children. Your goal is to encourage them to live as followers of Christ. That’s not a small thing. It’s also not an easy thing. In order to succeed you will need to “put on love”, “let the peace of God rule your heart”, and “be thankful” (Colossians 3:14,15). Don’t forget that, like your children, you are a sinner who needs God’s grace. Rejoice that your Father in heaven loves you very much! He not only promises to forgive your sins, but He also promises to help you in your weakness.


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