Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.(NIV)
“Honor your father and mother” and “Obey your parents” were preached and taught often when I was growing up, but I always wondered about this scripture. What does it mean to exasperate? Dictionary.com says: “to irritate or provoke to a high degree; annoy extremely.” Why didn’t they talk about this one? How exactly can fathers, or either parent, exasperate their children? At first I thought “Isn’t just being a parent annoying and irritating to kids?” But then I realized even proper parenting can be taken to the extreme. Reminding your child to pick up their things can turn into nagging. Encouraging them to improve can become overly critical if done in the wrong tone. Seeing or hearing a parent do something the child is told not to do can be very confusing to a child. As adults our lives get busy with deadlines and commitments, and spending focused quality time with each or our children should also be a commitment. And children don’t react the same as adults when they are irritated or annoyed. Their behavior will be altered—sometimes acting out in anger, sometimes acting out for attention, sometimes withdrawing because they feel undervalued or unwanted. So the next time we recite “Honor your father and mother” or “Obey your parents” maybe we should ask ourselves if we are doing anything (or not doing something) that would exasperate our kids. We can’t expect our kids to behave any better than we do.