Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When We Exasperate Our Children, We Put Their Salvation At Risk

If you haven't noticed recently, I'm struggling with anger, especially with my children. My expectations are too high, my need to impress is ridiculously out of whack, and my frustrated attempts at perfection are hurting everyone. 

Can you relate? 

I have felt very much alone lately, as if this were only my sin because for some reason, Moms don't share their bouts of anger, their temper tantrums. Yet, I dare say I'm not alone, as is evident from the abundance of {great} comments in this post.

Spilt milk
Photo Credit: andypowe11

Personally, when my children spill the milk, drop the eggs, backtalk, sass, hit their siblings, and act like children, I start out okay: I'm patient, use calm words, forgive, clean up the mess, encourage. 

But as the childish and disobedient behavior picks up speed, my patience reaches a breaking point. I begin to yell, I lash out, I criticize, and I provoke my children. 

Yet God specifically instructs parents that this behavior is wrong:
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

Ephesians 6:4 {NIV}

 To "exasperate" means "to irritate or provoke to a high degree; annoy extremely." 

The King James Version uses "provoke" instead of "exasperate."

 "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

Provoke means "to incite, stir up."

It comes from the Latin provocare, which means "to call forth to someone, to challenge."

When we are too critical of our children,
When we punish them for every.single.error.they make,
When we yell,
When we speak discouraging words,
When we are quick to ridicule and slow to praise,
When we dwell on the negative,
When we set unachievable expectations,
When we stop instructing our children "in the way they should go,"

We provoke, exasperate, incite, and stir our children up. 

That is sin.

What are we supposed to do instead of provoking our children?

At the end of verse 4 in The Message, Paul writes:
"Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master." {emphasis mine}

As moms, we have a heavy responsibility: we are often the primary--maybe even the only--spiritual influence our children have. Therefore, we need to make sure our words, actions, and attitudes reflect a desire to see our children walking in the Light. We are responsible for bringing our children up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." That is no easy task. It means teaching them how God expects them to talk to one another, to act towards one another, how to love one another.

Millstone, Waterfoot
When we provoke our little ones in any way, we hinder them from knowing the Lord. We stop leading them "in the way of the Master" and start tying that millstone around their fragile little necks. We may not realize it, but when we exasperate our children, we're drowning them because we aren't giving them opportunity to come up for air. The weight of our words, tone, actions, and behavior is too great.

My goal shouldn't be getting my children to obey me because I said so, but encouraging them to obey God because He says so.

So, I've got to get my temper under control. I've got to stop provoking my children because if I don't, they will stop following God and start following me. 

And you know what?  

I am not the way, the truth, and the life. 

Jesus is.

What about you? Do you struggle with provoking your children? I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, advice in the comments below.

Blessings to you,

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  1. God bless you for your candor and honesty. I agree that we don't willingly put our sin out there for everyone to see but our children know, don't the? May God use your desire to lead your little ones to Him to strengthen you as you seek to honor Him. I hope this doesn't seem to forward or out of place but I've recently read a blog series that I think you may find helpful on this front:
    The last few days post specifically are helpful.

    1. Marty, thanks for the recommendation. I found the post "Mastering Your Passions" particularly rich and will refer to it again as I continue on my journey. Thanks for the referral. Blessings to you!

  2. Thanks for sharing your heart Kerri. I have no advice, I'm in the very same point. Your post really made me think though. I have been trying to be more patient and more gentle with my children, but it isn't always easy for me. Some days I'm the one acting like a big kid with the kind of attitude I have. I don't want my children to be so afraid of me that they don't do something or try to hide something, I want them to do or not do things because of Jesus and I want them to see Him through me!

    1. Being patient and gentle is hard for me too, Del. God sure knows how to grow us through our children! But I think that as I'm learning how to be more like Christ, my kids are seeing my growth and they too are growing more like Him. It's a process; it doesn't happen over night. I am slowly learning that for myself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Thank you so much for your honesty! After my post yesterday, I was beginning to feel alone.

    1. You aren't alone. Anger is something many moms struggle with, but it's almost taboo it seems to talk about it. I read your blog post and commented. I can relate. We have to really fight Satan back. Don't let him take us down. When I know I'm weak, I start looking for Satan to attack because he always does when I'm low.

      Blessings to you.

  4. This is exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you

  5. Such a great post. I struggle with this too, and like you, I can start off patient but by the end of the day, it's a challenge. I had no idea that's what a millstone looks like, so it was a real eye opener. Thanks for sharing. Found you on the RH Link up!

  6. I've had this problem and God truly helped me after I prayed WITH my kids one day asking Him to help us!!! I can honestly say that its been about a month with NO yelling. It hasn't been easy but I am so much more conscious of it. I'm actually going to post about our experience with this very thing and how I believe God helped us.

    1. What a blessing, Steph. Every time when I have prayed with my kids, it has been a blessing to my kids and especially to me. I need to do that more often. A month with no yelling: Wow! That is what I'm working toward. God bless you. Thanks for the encouragement.

  7. I followed the link here from Titus Tuesday. :)

    I agree that quite a large number of moms probably struggle with anger issues more than they let on. It seems to me that part of the problem is that we're forever having to justify our ridiculous decision to stay at home with our kids instead of doing the 9-5 with daycare song and dance. Other issues, issues of the heart and such, are definitely involved but I know that for me, a big part of feeling alone with my frustrations comes from my 'choice' not being the right choice, therefore I have no right to my frustrated feelings.

  8. I admire your genuine truth. I'm in the middle of writing my own blog that points out some of my mommy flaws and as hard as it was to admit those things in writing, to the world, it opened my eyes to the changes that need to take place. I can totally relate to holding it together until you're pushed to your whits end.

    "So, I've got to get my temper under control. I've got to stop provoking my children because if I don't, they will stop following God and start following me.

    And you know what?

    I am not the way, the truth, and the life.

    Jesus is."

    You couldn't have say it any better or any more clear. Thank you for sharing this post with me today, at a time when I needed it most. :)


    1. Tiari, there's nothing more character-refining than motherhood. If I've learned anything these past five years it's that! I'm glad my post resonated with you. I will check out your post too.

      Blessings to you!

  9. If you don't mind.. I also shared a link to your post on my newest blog post about Raising Children. This one really hit home for me. THANK YOU!! :)

  10. Between yesterday and today I feel I have hit rock bottom with my temper. The only thoughts going through my head are that I have ruined my kids; I'm a terrible mother; I have failed with home school; I am a terrible role model; and how can she see Jesus at work in my life when I act this way. I feel as if I am in some whirlwind of anger and frustration. I feel everything you have written about and more. AND I have been praying, praying and praying. I know that by home schooling with a toddler around is nearly the most impossible journey one will ever have. I am going to post all these scriptures around my home and I am going to fight back against this sin through the power of God's cleansing Spirit. I don't want to be this way anymore. I have to take action. Funny, I will reply to this but I am unwilling to open up to friends about this. One sin after the next is being revealed. Thank you for sharing. Pray for me and I'll pray for you! See you in the Kingdom!

    1. I am certainly praying for you and appreciate your prayers. The beauty of the internet is that we can share our struggles with complete strangers and yet find healing and encouragement when we open up. I think sharing my struggles with the world holds me accountable to seek help from God and from others. They know I'm human, even if they don't know, and can offer advice, prayers, and hugs--real and virtual :)

      I can relate to your situation completely! I'm homeschooling my 4 year old with a 2 and 1 year old. It's HARD and we haven't even started technically speaking. You are NOT a terrible mother. Nor have you ruined your kids. I venture to guess you are a great mom because you recognize your sin and want to change. Keep praying. Keep meditating on His Word. Take time away from your kids when you get at your wit's end just for quiet. Anger and frustration are natural but you can control them if you realize they come from Satan. Read Ephesians 6 & put on the whole armor of God. Keep fighting.

      I am praying for you and hope you will read my latest post:

      God bless you!

  11. I agree - I don't need to provoke or incite my boys with my anger/frustration - and I start out like you - calm, patient and then everything builds, the choas, the things that go wrong - but one thing I am learning is that I have to try with Him - and that when I miss it - I apologize and seek forgiveness - and that maybe God knows we're going to miss it - and it is a way to show our children how to go to God when we miss it - how to repent and how He loves us, wants us still - not to hang back with guilt, not to wait until we're perfect. If we were perfect moms, then our children wouldn't know that God wanted us in our imperfection:)

  12. Bookmarking this for later! I really want to take this in. Thanks for posting this.

  13. “I am not the way, the Truth, and the Life.”
    “Jesus is.”
    That statement is so deep someone could sink in it! I am not a mommy or wife yet, but I am currently a sister and a daughter, training ground for what is hopefully to be. This post can apply quite well to my behavior, example, and instruction toward my younger brothers and sisters! I need to encourage them to obey, not because I said so, but because mom and dad do, but ULTIMATELY because GOD SAYS SO!!!