Monday, March 29, 2010

Do Not Exasperate Your Children


"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Eph. 6:4

My father generally had clear cut instructions for what he expected of his four children. We had to do our chores, respect our mother, obey the first time we were told to do something, and not fight with each other. Even though these rules were understood by all of us, we still got in a fair amount of trouble for violating them, at least the three boys, anyway.

Since our chores were often related to construction or farm work, it required dad to give us some instruction and training in how to do our job, whether it was milking cows or nailing siding. The procedure was generally to tell us what the task was, to show us how to do it, and then to watch us as we performed it. Praise or constructive criticism followed the completion of the task.

Respecting mom meant we had to listen to her when she spoke, do what she said, and not talk back. Talking back incurred the angry side of dad.

Obeying the first time we were told to do something was expected ever since we were very little. Dad permitted very few exceptions to this rule. When he said "hop," we did.

Not fighting with each other is probably the rule we broke the most, especially the three boys. We were smart enough to generally do our fighting when mom or dad was not around, but occasionally our displeasure with each other would get the best of us and we couldn't wait for a more opportune time. Yes, on those occasions we would get caught, and discipline followed.

I can think of only a few times when I got in trouble that I was surprised. Usually when corrective discipline was administered I knew I had it coming. I can remember a few times being greatly relieved that dad overlooked some misbehavior, forgot, or had a streak of mercy. Yes, at those times I knew I should have gotten in trouble but was blessed to escape it.

Some might think the parenting style I just described was too strict. At times it may have been, but as a rule I don't think it was. Within these parameters my siblings and I had tremendous room to act and play. We had our own farm plus thousands of acres of public land bordering our farm to hunt, fish, and roam. We played ball. We devised all kinds of creative games. Our childhood was a blast in many ways.

Within this parenting scheme is the fulfillment of Eph. 6:4. My parents communicated to us the level of behavior they expected. That is teaching or instruction. Secondly, they trained us. After verbally instructing us, they provided hands-on demonstration of what they expected. Sometimes this included an object lesson, such as pointing out the misbehavior of another child and saying we'd better never do that. At other times it included mom or dad physically showing us how to perform a task. Dad would frequently end such sessions by asking, "Do you understand? Ok, show me how to do it now."

I don't think our kids get exasperated because we give them too many chores. If anything, I question if many children today get enough responsibility given to them. (Growing in responsibility is something that helps us mature). What I think exasperates children is when we have high expectations for them without teaching and training them to perform at the level we expect. If we express disappointment in them and punish them without first making clear what our expectations are, and equipping them to live up to them, we fill our kids with a sense of confusion and futility.

We can get frustrated on our jobs if we don't have a sense of what our boss or company expects of us. It seems very unfair then for us to be reprimanded when we don't perform at peak level since we don't even know what we are supposed to be doing! It's no different for children. Giving them clearly articulated expectations for their lives, then teaching and training them to live up to those expectations, equips them to behave well and feel good about their lives.

Our ultimate goal as fathers and mothers is to bring our children up in the Lord. Our training, instruction and expectation of obedience prepares them for the transition from obeying our voice to obey the voice of their Heavenly Father. God bless all of you involved in such important work!

Warren Baldwin


Sonya Lee Thompson said...


This is a great post! I just wrote my post (due out tomorrow) and it was about having the proper expectations, based on their age and maturity level. We were on a similar page, and i hadn't read this yet! God it good.

There are so many ways we can exasperate our children, and this is one way. Great advice.

Sonya Lee Thompson said...

PS. Exasperate and Expectations are so similar in the way they begin, I wonder if a word analysis would reveal that they had similar root meanings.

Edie said...

Excellent post Warren! Discipline without training would certainly lead to frustration.

Warren Baldwin said...

Hi Sonya and Edie,
I didn't check this for a couple of days and didn't know anyone had posted comments. Thanks.

Sonya, a study of these 2 words would be good.