I coached Little League baseball for over twenty years and I have had many angry children on my teams. It was more than rebellion, but a deep, abiding, residual, boiling anger. The first time I met them they were angry. I hadn’t done anything to make them angry…they just were.
They also were angry at their parents, teammates, umpires, strangers – their anger spilled out wherever they were. They didn’t trust authority, were suspicious of any kindness to them and never developed healthy friendships on the team. What happened to them?
God has given parents a simple, but clear directive in raising their children. In my opinion it is the most comprehensive text in the Bible on parenting. Though it is simple, it is not easy to fulfill. Here it is – “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
The first part of a parent’s responsibility is the most important because if ignored the other three tasks will not be received by your child. God instructs us to “…provoke not (our) children to wrath…” (Ephesians 6:4).
The word “provoke” means “to be angry as you are journey alongside someone.” It has the idea of making a person angry in the daily routines of life. It may happen because of something you do to them or that you fail to do that you should do. The word “provoked” also has the idea of evoking and stirring of feelings; it is a term of emotion.
Let me pose a very personal question. Are your children consistently angry with you? Do you have adult children that are angry with you after many years? My prayer is the following posts may help you to eliminate things that are causing your child to be angry and help you to realize why your older children have simmering anger against you from years, even decades, ago.
Though a father is responsible for overseeing the training of his children, he is not to use his authority as a tyrant. God is warning dads (mothers, too) not to be severe in their leadership as they influence their children. This is the foundation to everything else you do as a parent.
Angry fathers discipline with an attitude of revenge from being embarrassed rather than correcting for the child’s benefit with a heart of loving concern. Discipline given in anger does not work for the long-term and causes a child to pull his heart away from his father. An angry parent produces angry children.
The focus of a father is not to make his children obey him so that his life would be more comfortable. He is not to be a dictator that organizes everything to his benefit. Rather all that he would ask and expect of his children are for the benefit of the child.
One of the issues that has escalated is in our culture over the past thirty years is the presence of angry, malicious children. When I say “children”, I mean that in the literal sense. They travel in gangs, rob and physically attack and harm people. They murder their parents, family members, and friends. You can see the anger on their countenance at an early age.
My mother was a secretary in the public school system for over thirty years. She loved her work, but retired a few years before she wanted to do so. She worked at a high school and told me that she had become frightened as she watched the anger of teenage young men and women become more pronounced within a five year span. Mom told me, “Rick, it got so bad that I was afraid to correct them. Each year the respect of the kids for adults grew less and they became more angry”. She saw the faces of thousands of kids over those few years before she retired and she was concerned for her safety.
Before you accuse me of being cynical and not liking teenagers, that is far from the truth. Though I am in my mid-50’s I love young people very much. Currently I work with them several times a week in our church and it is a great joy. But I see it in young people that attend our church sometimes, too, when they walk in and sit down. A dour expression, arms crossed, legs extended, no warmth or friendliness, and a spirit that communicates, “Leave me alone; I don’t like you and I don’t want to be here”.
God’s first direction to parents is to not make their children angry. It isn’t always the parents’ fault that their child is angry, but most of the time it is. We are not to give them an occasion to make them angry.
He’s not just writing about teenagers here, but children. Effective parenting begins with creating an atmosphere in your home of encouragement, not one characterized by anger, fighting, shouting and arguing.
When Paul wrote this truth to the Ephesians it was a new concept to them. At that time children were expendable. It is difficult for us to comprehend how children (and teenagers) were treated in that era.
A Roman law called “the father’s power” gave him absolute power over his family. This included the ability to sell his children as slaves or even to execute them. As long as the father lived he had this authority.
For example, when a child was born he was placed at the feet of the father. If he reached down and picked him up, the child stayed in the home. If he turned and walked away, the child was taken away. Those rejected by the father would be taken to the public forum, a meeting place, and in the evenings people would come and buy the boys to be slaves and the girls to raise as prostitutes.
Children were not only unimportant, they were seen as obstacles. A letter written in 1 B.C. from a man named Hilarion to his wife, Alis, showed the callousness people in that time had against children. Here are his words to his wife, “…heartiest greetings. Know that we are still, even now, in Alexandria. I beg and beseech you to take care of the little child and, as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. If…you have another child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl – expose it”.
Seneca, a philosopher during the Roman Empire, said, “We slaughter a fierce ox, we strangle a mad dog, we plunge a knife into a sick cow, and children who are born weakly and deformed, we drown”. Children were not valued.
This type of behavior had been perpetuated from generation to generation. It had become the norm. While it is repulsive to us today (though we as a nation endorse and practice the crime of abortion), we tend to justify our being angry. I think that those patterns, too, are passed from generation to generation until it becomes the norm. Someone has to break the chain.
Many adults still carry wounds in their hearts from angry parents when they were children. You will never go forward until you release yourself from the tether of hurt to your past. That means you will have to fully forgive one or both of your parents. Sometimes the parents that hurt you have already passed away, but you must do so if you would have peace in your life and would not be in bondage to an angry spirit.
About ten years ago a car pulled into our church parking lot after a Wednesday evening service. Most everyone had already gone and there were just a handful of us talking outside. I noticed the car which was far away from us and didn’t think anything about it. I thought it was just someone that had stopped to make a phone call.
Suddenly the car lurched forward at a high rate of speed as they drove by us, barely missing some of our young people. Incredibly the vehicle pulled into an apartment complex across the street and I saw a young man and young lady get out and go into one of the buildings.
I called 911 immediately and requested an officer to come and investigate. If someone had been standing a few feet closer the driver would have hit them. The police arrived and I pointed out the door where I saw them enter across the street. From a distance I watched them interview the two that were in the vehicle.
The officer came to me and asked me what I wanted to do and I said, “Sock it to him! He almost killed some of our kids out here! Whatever you can charge him with, do so.” We had ample witnesses to what had happened and the person had absolutely no way to deny what had happened.
I learned from the officer that the young man was trying to impress his girlfriend and stupidly did so with his driving antics. They were both teenagers. Though still intent on pressing charges I asked to talk to the young man that was driving.
He returned with the policeman, his head down, shoulders stooped and feet nervously pawing the ground. I talked to him kindly, but firmly, trying not to lecture him as I knew he was in a lot of trouble already. I have always had a heart for teenagers, especially those that had struggles.
He didn’t say a word. He just listened as I talked while he stared at the pavement. Finally, he lifted his face, looked me in the eye, and softly said, “Hey, Coach”.
I didn’t recognize him. After asking for his name I remembered him very well. I had coached him ten years earlier over a three year period of time. He was one of the most angry kids I had ever coached. He always had a chip on his shoulder, was negative, wouldn’t listen, and never had a smile on his face.
Paula and I had become friends with his mother during those years. She was the only parent in the home and struggling mightily to help her son to do right. She was always grateful for my trying to help her son, not just as a baseball player, but as a person. I loved that kid. Later he went on and played baseball at one of the local high schools. I would go to some of his games just to let him know I cared about him.
After talking with him, I asked for his mother’s cell number. I walked away, called her and explained what had just happened. She apologized, cried and shared how she was unable to help him to do what was right. I took the officer aside and told him to read the riot act to the kid, but that I was going to try and help him.
We talked a couple of times after that. I kept in touch with his mother, but didn’t feel we were making progress. I knew that ultimately anger is a symptom and people aren’t helped long-term by managing their anger, but resolving it. He needed Christ in his life, but wasn’t ready for that by his own admission.
A couple of years later I was reading the paper about a robbery at a business in our city. They caught the person and it was this same young man, now in his mid-20’s. His anger was now going to lead him to prison. Unless he has come to salvation since then he is still angry and will be when he is released.
My heart is broken for him, his mother, and the waste for what could have been. Perhaps if he had a father that had not abandoned him it would have been different. I never dreamed when I was coaching a ten year old kid with a bad attitude that I was watching someone that would self-destruct and devastate his mother. Angry children grow up to be angry adults and not only destroy themselves, but others, too.
This begs a crucial question: how do parents cause their children to be angry? In the following posts I’ll give seven ways we frustrate our children and create anger in their hearts. Each is a part of a deadly concoction that poisons the atmosphere of our home. The fruit of it are children that have been provoked to wrath. We cannot comprehend the sure destruction if it is not corrected. It all starts in the home.
I was a single mom raising a very angry son. The biggest problem was that I was raising myself at the same time I was raising my son. The next biggest problem was that since we were in conflict almost every day, my heart was always breaking. He seemed to enjoy the fact that the anger and conflict kept me more upset than him. No matter what my strategy was, his strategy was to make it harder for me. It was very hard on him and on me. The only thing that helped was the constant prayer. I would get lots of prayer from the bible study groups I attended.
He is still struggling but is now obtaining more victories (PTL). The teenage years got better but I didn’t have the internal structure in place to provide the external structure he needed. The church had lost connection with the fact that God gave us his commandments and told us to keep them in our hearts in order for us to have the internal structure needed to make sound judgments based on his wisdom and understanding rather than our own.
All of the hit and miss bible instruction gleaned from proverbs, psalms, gospels, etc. will not substitute for the heart being restored with the presence of God’s laws, statutes and judgments. It is the laws, statutes and judgments of God that the Holy Spirit uses to advise us as to the proper course of action to take at any given moment. Good judgment comes from keeping God’s commandments in our hearts and referring to his judgments to know what our own path should be. It is more than just a set of rules.
The words of God are spirit and they are life. When a person has never had the instruction of a mother or father in the ways of righteousness, never had a loving relationship within a loving family structure, there is nothing in the heart for them to go to for help in the day of trouble. With the church giving the commandments of men made doctrine rather than the commandments of God as doctrine, the reins of the heart are not girded in righteousness or faithfulness. No amount of commitment, determination, and dedication can overcome the lack of structure in the soul.
God restores the soul by the incorporation of the love of other believers (which is lost because of the nature of our isolated society), the instruction of the church (weakened by the imitations of the word of God), and the infilling of the Holy Ghost and the power of the Holy Spirit (weakened by the lack of sound doctrine that quenches the sound in the ears of the understanding that have become dull of hearing due to lack of simple, straight forward, sound doctrine).
I greatly appreciate your work and I am thankful that you are writing and providing scriptural support for your instruction, yet, I just want to say that without the fear of the LORD the instruction is still just rules and regulations about how to raise your kids. God instructs us to gather together the men, the women, the children and the stranger that lives among us; in the presence of his Holy Spirit and he will “teach us” the fear of the LORD.
It is the fear of the LORD that is his treasure and it is by the fear of the LORD that men depart from evil. The anger of man does not fulfill the righteousness of God but it will instill the fear of man. Character is built upon the laws, statutes and judgments of God being held in the heart (not the mind — the bowels of compassion — the thoughts of the heart are not the same as the thoughts of the mind) the thoughts of the heart are the words, thoughts, ideas, reasoning that we have believed. The mind can receive many words, thoughts, ideas and doctrines that we have heard of and know about. But, the heart is meant to believe the words that God has spoken. With the heart we believe unto righteousness. The mind is not the same as the heart. The mind is the place where we reason. We either reason for God or against God. But, in the heart we believe God or we believe the lie. That is why we put to death the lie in the spirit of the mind before it reaches our heart and we believe the lie. It is the mind that guards the heart to protect it from receiving and believing the lie. The word of God is supposed to be in our mind as a filter against the lies of this world and in our heart as the reins directing the path that we walk.
I know this is a long reply — but I’ve been reading a lot of your posts and this is sort of a response to all of them. You wondered about the boy that you wanted to help. I am thankful that you helped him as much as you could. I struggled and struggled, reading and reading, learning and learning, only now at the end have I discovered that the imitations of the word of God were actually working against me and my son at the same time.
Thank you for your insightful comments. Single parents are my heroes. There is no more difficult job in the world. I agree very much with you about rules alone not being effective apart from Christ’s presence in your life. One of the challenges of a blog is that it is by necessity limited to an economy of words. Most blogs are around 500 words – and most of mine are longer than that just because I want to make sure I give a broader context. Even then some things I write don’t have balancing truths with them, just because of time and space. I can tell you are a very thoughtful and studious person about the things of God. May He continue to help you – and me – as we influence our children for Him. Blessings on you my friend.