Preventing Anger and Frustration

Both Parents, but Especially Fathers

Paul urges fathers not to cause hurtful feelings in raising their children (Eph 6:4), but mothers also share responsibility in raising children well (1 Tim 5:10). Parenting is joint venture. The Greek word for fathers sometimes refers to both parents, not just dads. For instance, it refers to the parents of Moses, especially to his mother (Heb 11:23; cf. Exod 2:1-3). I believe that Paul uses the word this way in Ephesians and Colossians (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21), while upholding the father’s ultimate responsibility.

The Possibility of Anger and Frustration

God expects children to obey their parents (Eph 6:1; Col 3:20; 1 Pet 3:1-7). At the same time, parents must understand that the way they raise their children may cause bad effects in their hearts, like anger (Eph 6:4) or exasperation and discouragement (Col 3:21). Not all bad feelings in a child come from parents. After all, sin is embedded in their heart (Prov 22:15; Psa 51:5). Still, parents can aggravate this problem and Paul urges them to avoid this. To that end, let’s consider some parental behavior to avoid.

Possible Causes for Anger and Frustration

A Broken Marriage

A good marriage is the backdrop for good parenting (Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18-19). A wife who will not respect and meet the needs of her husband and a husband who will not understand, love, and care for his wife will hurt their children. Furthermore, children need both to guide them as a harmonious team (1 Pet 3:7). Discordant parents will frustrate their children (Gen 25:28, cf. Heb 12:14-17).

Absence

Paul’s instruction to parents assumes that they are present at home to raise their children. Children need this. They need both parents to there. An absentee parent due to divorce, occupation, busyness, or pleasure-seeking will damage the heart of a child.

Repeated Aggravation

The words “don’t provoke” are given in the present tense, showing that bad feelings develop in a child over time. Like a dripping faucet, repeated, wrong parental behavior eventually leads to exasperation in your child. To solve this, parents need to recognize, apologize, and correct their wrong behavior to alleviate the hurt (Matt 5:23-24; Jam 5:16)

Neglect

Parents must “bring up” their children rather than foster damaging feelings. This concept requires meeting your child’s genuine needs, whether educational, physical, spiritual, or social (Luke 2:52). Children whose needs go unnoticed will become bitter and upset.

Permissiveness

Paul tells parents to meet the needs of a child through nurture or training (Eph 6:4). This refers to discipline or child-training, teaching children appropriate behavior for adult life through rules and consequences. Children need parents to establish clear, appropriate boundaries, with proper consequences for right and wrong behavior (Prov 13:24; 22:15). Contrary to popular opinion, this does not discourage children. It encourages them.

Silence

Paul also tells parents also to meet the needs of a child through admonition, or teaching that informs their mind (Eph 6:4). Doing this includes warnings, with an emphasis on talking with your children and helping them understand the significance of what you are saying. Parents must talk like this regularly with their children, rather than just reacting when they misbehave (Deut 6:7).

Disregard for Christ as Lord

Parenting must take place in a manner that is “in the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Parents must themselves be submissive and obedient to what God says in Scripture, and their children must know that this is the case. Parents who disregard what God says and behave as the ultimate authority in life will cause anger and frustration in the hearts of their children.

Failure to Understand Your Child’s Purpose

Raising children requires parents to understand each child’s purpose in life. Children need guidance to discover and prepare for “the way they should go” (Prov. 22:6). This “way” includes God’s general will for any person, but it also includes the way the he intends for each child to go as a unique individual. Children who reach adulthood uncertain about who they are and what they should accomplish may grow embittered and angry. Parents must take responsibility for aiming their children in the right direction (Psa 127:4).

Unresolved Anger and Bitterness

We may easily overlook this, but bitter and angry parents raise bitter and angry children. Anyone in a close relationship with an angry person risks becoming angry (Prov 22:24) and bitterness in a parent’s heart will corrupt those in the same household (Heb 12:15).

Favoritism

Scripture provides clear evidence that when parents favor one child over another, they foster deep-seated bitterness. Consider how Isaac favored Esau and Rebekah favored Jacob (Gen 25:28). The result was that Esau became a bitter man (Heb 12:14-17).

Hurtful Words

Parents must speak in ways that encourage their children, not tear them down (Eph 4:29). Sarcasm, calling them derogatory names, and responding only negatively to wrong behavior but never positively to good behavior will discourage your children over time.

Hypocrisy and Inconsistency

Parents are responsible to correct their children’s character flaws. However, when parents will not correct their own character flaws first, their children will view this inconsistency as hypocrisy. Over time, this may cause children to become exasperated or upset. As with any other relationship, you cannot effectively correct problems in another person, even your children, when you do not correct them in your own life (Matt 7:1-5). Furthermore, learn to be consistent in you what you expect of yourself and your children. Inconsistency and a double-standard will lead to frustration.

Review Questions

  1. Did you develop any anger or frustration as a child? Apart from your own sinful nature, what may have helped to cause this?
  2. Which of these possible causes do you already seek to avoid? Which ones may you be overlooking?
  3. How can your family put into practice what you have learned from this lesson?
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