Bad Kids: One Father’s Approach

The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus giving them instruction, among other things, regarding dads and moms and children.

In the opening of chapter 6, Paul says

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”  Ephesians 6:1-3 ESV

And, then, Paul goes straight to the dads.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4 ESV

To the church in Colossae, Paul tells fathers not to provoke their kids “lest they become discouraged.”

Apparently, in the United Kingdom, a father and mother have reached the tipping point with their children.  The children – 2 daughters, ages 40 and 38, and 1 son, age 35 – have greatly disappointed their parents.  And, the dad let them know.  He sent them an email, saying

With last evening’s crop of whinges and tidings of more rotten news for which you seem to treat your mother like a cess-pit, I feel it is time to come off my perch.

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.

Dad is upset.  And, it seems, for good reason.  It looks as though the kids treat marriage like – well – their mother.  Mom and Dad are rightfully upset, and in the letter, we find out the reason why.  He writes

We are constantly regaled with chapter and verse of the happy, successful lives of the families of our friends and relatives and being asked of news of our own children and grandchildren. I wonder if you realise how we feel — we have nothing to say which reflects any credit on you or us.

Mom and Dad are looking for good standing within their social circle, and can’t find anything good to to say about their own children, their own family.

Really?  Nothing positive to say?  How about “they’re not dead”, or “they don’t have cancer”, or “we have wonderful grandchildren”?  I wonder, if Mom and Dad were less concerned about their status in the eyes of their peers, and more concerned about their own family, would the outcome be different?  I’m not sure.

One daughter – the oldest – published the email her father sent and goes on to defend him.  The daughter said she needed a “kick up the backside” and goes on to say

He wouldn’t retract what he said, and nor should he. In no way would I ask him to apologise. Fundamentally, I couldn’t have a great quarrel with what he wrote. I accept it was too harsh. But if you live in France, you’re used to being judged harshly.

The son, however, stated that he was “not going to dignify ” his father with a response.

I must admit, it was a gutsy move by the father.  And, it was refreshing to see one child respond positively to the discipline her father dished out.  I’m thinking, though, that everyone is at fault here.  I applaud the father for disciplining his children and expressing disappointment, yet when he says…

I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about. I don’t want to see your mother burdened any more with your miserable woes — it’s not as if any of the advice she strives to give you has ever been listened to with good grace — far less acted upon. So I ask you to spare her further unhappiness.

…I think he pushes them in the “lest they become discouraged” direction.  Dad has cast them off and wants nothing more to do with them.

Discipline and correction is good, and it’s needed at times.  But, it must be done with respect and love, otherwise it is rendered futile.  As the writer of Hebrews says

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:7-11 ESV

1 Comment

Filed under Commentary

One response to “Bad Kids: One Father’s Approach

  1. Jan Hubbard

    When my brother and I were disciplined, my dad would say “Someday you’ll thank me for this”. In this “Someday” I may not say “thanks” but parenting has truly helped me to understand .

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