What does it practically mean to “provoke your children to anger”?


What would “provoke your children to anger” mean? I would like some simple examples, from life. 

There are two cases in which this phrase “provoke your children to anger” is used in the New Testament. So let’s analyze them and we will see practical examples.

Don’t ask of your child what you alone do not accomplish

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4 NASB)

As a parent, raising children in the Word means that I first live by the Word. So, if I don’t want to provoke the kids to anger, I don’t ask them for something I don’t do myself. If I teach children not to lie, but I sometimes lie, of course it will provoke them to anger and the day will come when they will say, “But why can you do it, but I can’t?” 

Do not exaggerate with prohibitions or punishments

Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart. (Colossians 3:20-21 NASB)

From the previous text we saw that rebuke is good and children need rebuke. Children need rules. They feel safe when they have rules, a guide to follow, but sometimes we need to make exceptions. Sometimes parents give punishments that provoke anger and hatred. For example, making a rule to read the Bible for 30 minutes and if they do not, they will be punished. We need to awaken their love of the Word, let them see how interesting it is to study the Bible, and that it is not a torment. 

Another exaggerated punishment is when the child comes home with a bad reading grade and the parent makes him read 10 chapters from the Bible. Is the reading of Scripture the punishment?

So in this way we can provoke anger and children will be discouraged or, as it is written in other translations, will lose their heart. 

But sometimes parents do not take the initiative to punish a child who deserves to be punished, and thus provoke others to anger. 

Then Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house. Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry. But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13:20-22 NASB)

David was very angry, but he did not take any action against Amnon, he did not punish when should have punished. And he provoked Absalom to anger, who then hated him, and later killed his own brother. 

So, on the one hand, we must be careful when we punish, but on the other hand we must not neglect punishments, because this can still be a reason to provoke anger. 

On this occasion, I invite you to the Sunday school teacher training sessions where you will be able to learn interesting things about educating children and also how to develop children’s love for God’s Word. 

May God help us to keep His Word and give us the wisdom to raise our children in obedience to Him!

What other examples do you know, dear readers?

Translated by Liza Bîrlădeanu