Breaking Bad Parental Patterns

Repeated Aggravation

The biblical instructions that parents “don’t provoke” their children to anger are given in the present tense (Eph 6:4). This indicates that bad feelings develop in a child over time as the result of a parent’s (or parents’) repeated failure or wrong behavior. Like a dripping faucet, wrong parental behavior repeated over time eventually leads to exasperation in the heart of your child.

Children look to their parents for hope, more than they look to anyone else. So, when they find that you repeatedly misunderstand them, hurt them, or let them down, they lose hope. They grow angry, embittered, or frustrated instead, but not only towards you. They grow bitter towards life and towards God as well.

It is interesting to note the way that Paul gives these instructions. He assumes that causing frustration in the hearts of our children is our natural tendency as parents, just as disobeying parents is the natural tendency of children (Eph 6:1). That’s why we need a warning like this that urges parents to break this harmful pattern. How can we do this?

Cleaning Out Your Eyes

As parents, we are responsible to guide and correct our children. However, in our noble attempts to do this, we may easily overlook an important precondition. Before we can effectively correct the failures of our children, we must correct our own flaws and failures first. If we don’t, then our failures become hurtful patterns that discourage our children over time.

This general principle applies to any relationship (Matt 7:1-5). It especially applies to child training, though, because our children often display the same weaknesses as we do. After all, they inherited their personal traits and tendencies from us.

For this reason, parents should learn to ask themselves first whether they are committing the same errors as their children. Jesus describes this as removing a “log” from your own eye before you extract a “splinter” from the eye of someone else. When parents refuse to acknowledge their own failures and weaknesses, but seek to correct the same problems in their children, their children will grow weary of this contradictory correction.

Correcting Known Offenses

Sometimes as a parent you are aware of a way that you have caused frustration for your child. Perhaps you made a promise and failed to keep it, or perhaps you spoke in anger and never apologized. There are many possible scenarios.

Whenever this happens, speak to your child about it. Admit your wrong behavior and request forgiveness (Matt 5:23-24). Not only does this simple step release your child’s frustration and restore his hope, but it teaches him how to seek forgiveness whenever he sins against you as well. This serves as a powerful teaching opportunity.

It takes a strong and mature Christian parent to confess your faults to you child (Jam 5:16). Furthermore, any parent can do this, even after their child have become an independent adult. This action can go a long way towards reaching the heart of a wayward child and persuading him to return to a vibrant walk with God, regardless of his age or stage in life, whether in the home or outside of it (Mal 4:6).

Review Questions

  1. Did either of your parents ever apologize to you? How did this affect you?
  2. Have you ever apologized to your children? Was it hard to do? How did it turn out?
  3. Is there anything that you need to apologize for to your children today?
  4. How can your family put into practice what you have learned from this lesson?
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