If you attended ACC’s church retreat last October, 2018, you heard many encouraging messages related to our church theme “Living with a View for Eternity”. The theme includes five main points:
1. Living with a focus on God (Col. 1: 18)
2. Living as faithful stewards (Matt. 25: 14-30)
3. Living in good relationships (Col. 3: 11 – 4: 6)
4. Living as a member of God’s family (Eph. 4: 1-6)
5. Expanding God’s kingdom (Acts 1: 8)
As a Children’s Minister, I want to focus on the third point of the theme which is “living in good relationships”. The accompanying scripture verses are Col. 3:11 – 4:6. The specific verse about parenting is Col. 3:21 (NIV) which says “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” A similar scripture verse is Eph. 6:4 (NIV) which says “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
The word “embitter” is defined as causing a person to feel bitter, angry, discouraged, or resentful. To exasperate someone is to severely frustrate him or her. How can parents embitter or exasperate their children?
Children can feel resentful when the things they say or do are not valued by their parents. If parents constantly compare their child with other children and their own child does not meet high or unrealistic expectations, it can lead to discouragement and frustration. Over time, neglecting to build up a child’s self-worth can lead to depression, anger, and other emotional issues. It can also affect their social skills and suppresses the unique gifts that God has given them for His glory.
Children will not feel valued if they do not hear words of encouragement or praise. Encouraging a child does not build up their pride if done properly. Encouraging a child also does not mean that you don’t discipline them. You must continue to discipline your child (Prov. 13:24, Prov. 29:17), however, use discipline with grace and gentleness, and be instructional (Col. 4:6, Eph. 6:4). Try to balance praise and discipline. Too much praise and not enough discipline may build up their pride. Too much discipline and not enough praise may cause your child to have a very low self-worth.
Sometimes when children mess up, they already know that they’ve done wrong. This is a perfect time to explain the consequences of their sin, but it also reinforces their need for our Savior. It’s also a way to teach them to ask for forgiveness. Then rebuild your child with gracious and encouraging words. Prov. 16:24 (ESV) says “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.“
Too often, parents only tell their children when they’ve done wrong, but never tell them when they’ve done right. This is an imbalance in the discipline of a child. A child needs to hear when he or she has done wrong, but also needs to hear when he or she has done right. Discipline is also a form of training. When we train someone for a task, we show them how to do it the right way. Teaching your child what is right promotes good behavior and helps to build his or her character for a successful life (Prov. 22:6, Joshua 1:8). It also leads a child to have a right view of God.
Here are some ways to avoid exasperating your child:
- Do not compare your children to someone else’s child: Let your child’s successes and failures be opportunities for teaching and building up character and humility. Use the Bible as your guide and make Jesus the standard for their lives.
- Do not be overly protective: It’s natural for parents to be protective of their children. But over-protection can make your child feel restricted and suppresses your child’s ability to make good decisions as they grow up. Let your child make mistakes. Mistakes are God’s way of teaching us how to make better choices in life.
- Do not be too permissive: Without rules and boundaries, children will not learn how to navigate through life. Rules help children to feel safe and guide them as they explore life.
- Do not place unrealistic expectations on your child: You cannot expect your preschooler to excel at the same speed as your high schooler. Unrealistic expectations can lead to harsh criticism when those expectations are not met. Let your children learn things at their own pace while nurturing their self-worth.
- Admit to your child when you have done wrong: As parents, humility, repentance, apologizing and asking for forgiveness have to be modeled to our children. Your children need to see it lived out in their parents.
- Do not live vicariously through your child: If you try to fulfill a lost dream through your children, you are placing the responsibility for your own happiness on your child. Give your child choices in the activities you want them to participate in. Then let your child choose the instrument, sport or activity and support their decision.