Tuesday, June 16, 2020
When I take time to reflect on my skills as a father I can become somewhat discouraged. Why is it that our minds are filled with memories of mistakes rather than successes? Every one of my three children is a faithful servant of Jesus Christ, and is faithfully raising their children to follow Jesus. I am more convinced than ever of the faithfulness of God to accomplish His purpose in the midst of human weakness. His greatness shines best when our weakness is exposed.
One major area of weakness I still seek to correct is that I failed to listen before demanding to be heard. It is this issue that the Apostle Paul address in Colossians 3:21 when he writes,
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
Let’s take a look at the word “provoke.” In the original Greek, it means “to stir up, excite, stimulate.” It is used twice in Scripture, once in a positive way and once in a negative way. In the positive, Paul tells the people in Corinth that their zeal for giving resources to help needy people has stirred up others to also give. In the negative, the verse above states that fathers are capable of provoking (stimulating) their children to anger.
There are many possible ways to stimulate our children, both positively and negatively. On the positive side, we can encourage them, affirm them, and train them. On the negative side, we break their spirits when we shame them with words that belittle them or criticize them. But I think the worst way we provoke them is by not honoring their feelings and viewpoint before we enforce our viewpoint upon them. People of all ages, but especially children, get discouraged when they don’t believe they are being heard. It invalidates not only their viewpoint but attacks their belief in their value. They begin to believe that they must not be important or valued because their viewpoint is not even worthy to be heard.
Dads, this is critical. Seek to understand before you seek to be understood. Seek to discover how your child reached the conclusion that caused them to choose that behavior before you condemn the behavior. Seek to know the child rather than dictate the behavior of the child.
When we focus on correcting behavior without understanding the person, we provoke children to anger. We stimulate rebellion. We motivate them to not communicate, and worse, to lie about it when they do speak. We instill fear of rejection when we don’t listen first with a sincere desire to understand.
Emotional responses to the stresses of life that are directed at a child’s behavior will cause them to be discouraged. I know it’s hard, but we must set aside our feelings and embrace the Holy Spirit’s fruit of self-control, and put the condition of the child’s heart ahead of our desire to conform their behavior. That’s being a father like our Heavenly Father.