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How to Provoke Your Children


Next to marriage, parenting is one of the most challenging tasks we can do. You’ve heard it said, “They don’t come with an owner’s manual!” Well, that’s not true. The Bible has much to say about parenting your child if we will only listen and obey it. What’s more impressive, scripture is incredibly brief in its prescription for great parenting. The apostle Paul packs all we need to know about parenting into one straightforward statement: 

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4)

We can say much about Paul’s statement but will focus on his command not to provoke your children to anger. Here is a letter[1] your child might write if they were able to share their feelings with you openly: 

Hello mom and dad, I am your baby girl. 

You have brought me into this world and raised me to what I am today. If I am not what I should be or want me to be, please do not be too harsh. Remember, I am the product of your parenting. My actions are a direct reflection of the standards you have set in our home. Please don’t point at one of my friends as an example of how I should behave or who I should be. When you do that, you admit that their parents did a better job than you and that I am not good enough. 

You say you love me, and yet it has been years since you put your arms about me to reassure me that you love me and care for me. When was the last time you prayed with tears in your eyes, asking your heavenly Father to watch over me? When was the last time you prayed for my eternal soul? You talk about God and eternity, yet you live as if things of the world are all that matter to you. By your actions, you seem to be more interested in my achievements than in my spiritual condition. 

I feel like I am no more than a trophy on the shelf to you. You boast about my academic and athletic achievements on social media as if those are what matters most. You talk to me about my grades and push me toward academic excellence, but you rarely take the time to speak to me about how I am doing. I don’t think you know much about me – who I am, what I want out of life – yet you have memorized my SAT scores, my batting average, and have a list of the best universities for me. You want me to be the star player on my sports teams, but you don’t seem to care that I want to be a normal kid. You give me the impression that popularity trumps purity. You seem to think it’s more important to be attractive on the outside than to have that “inner beauty” that comes to one who loves the Lord. You talk at me as if I am an object that exists for your enjoyment. I wish you would speak to me like I am a person. 

I want to be heard and understood. Could you treat me with dignity and realize that God made me in His image; therefore, I am important to Him. Just remember, I love to play sports, and I enjoy academic achievement, but those things don’t define me. I am important in God’s eyes, even if I could not make good grades and run fast. I am not sure you would agree, and that’s frustrating to me.

So, the next time you feel like throwing up your hands in desperation because I don’t live up to your worldly standards – remember that God has made me who I am and has given me to you to help shape me into a responsible adult who loves Jesus. He allowed you to influence me since I was born. Please think of the regret you will experience if I am an academic success and a star athlete, yet I walk away from Jesus when I leave your home. 

I may not be easy to get along with right now, but deep down, I want to know that you care for me. I need you! Please don’t give up on me no matter how hard it gets. And please understand that it is a blessing and a privilege to be called mom and dad. 


your child

I am sure this letter hits close to home for some. I know it does for me. We should seriously consider how our actions may be negatively impacting our children. Therefore, you should evaluate how you may be provoking your children to anger and causing them to lose heart (Col 3:21). Here are ten surefire ways you can provoke your children to anger: 

Ten Surefire Ways to Provoke Your Children to Anger! 

You can stir them to anger by: 

  1. Having Unreasonable Expectations!
  2. Displaying Unreasonable Harshness!
  3. Showing a Lack of Patience and Understanding!
  4. Failing to Show Grace and Forgiveness!
  5. Giving Too Much Grace!
  6. Failing to Discipline Them!
  7. Criticizing Them Harshly!
  8. Being Inconsistent with Them.
  9. Nagging Them!
  10. Living a Hypocritical Life!

Download as PDF here

We have adopted this article from a sermon[2] preached as part of the Family Matters series. You can find this sermon and the rest of the series here[3].

[1] Michael P. Green. (2000). 1500 illustrations for biblical preaching (p. 42). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. Edited and adapted by Brandon Phillips for a sermon preached on 6/27/2021 at GBC – Gainesville. 

[2] https://www.gracegainesville.org/sermons/sermon/2021-06-27/family-matters-part-ix

[3] https://www.gracegainesville.org/sermons/series/family-matters