By Ryan Sanders
If you asked my kids, “Is your dad nice or angry?” Their answer might be, “Oh, our dad’s nice, except for in the mornings before school and nights before bed…and Sunday mornings before church. During those times, he turns red and should have a pitchfork.”
My kids would be right. The devil seems to work on me at night when I’m most tired and in the mornings before school or church. The Bible is interesting though, isn’t it? It doesn’t give me an out just because my kids are slower than slugs when going to church. The Bible speaks—whether I like what it says or not. Ephesians 6:4 says this:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Let’s look at this vital verse for how to be a good dad and let it speak to us. Is there hope for us dads, or should I add a reasonably-priced pitchfork to my Amazon wishlist?
How to Be a Good Dad
This means that you, dad, have the leading responsibility in raising your child. Hear me out—not the sole responsibility, but the leading responsibility. I’ve heard my responsibility as a dad explained this way: If there was a problem with my kid’s behavior and Jesus knocked on the door, and my wife answered the door, Jesus would say, “Hello, Tonia, (my wife’s name), is Ryan home? We need to talk.”
Not that Tonia bears zero responsibility—of course not. But, I bear the leading responsibility in seeing that the children are brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
So, what does this look like on a daily basis? When you see yourself as the lead responsibility-holder, it means that you stop farming out your child’s discipleship and instead see others as assisting you in this process. Grandparents, teachers, pastors, coaches, you name it—even if they are experts—they are assisting you, not stepping in for you.
Now, this also assumes that I, as a dad, take the initiative. It means that I know what’s happening in my child’s life and teaching. Remember, the spiritual leadership qualification for leading in the church is whether a man manages his own children and household well (1 Timothy 3:4, 12). This means that we take the initiative to make sure that plans and processes and people are in place to teach our children about God.
Do Not Provoke Your Children to Anger
Realistically, I don’t think this verse means that you never get upset, annoyed, angry or displeased with your child—ever. We still struggle with sin.
It does mean that we should not handle our child in a way that he will be encouraged to a wrathful kind of living. Note: The warning here is not about one incident of anger, but about a lifestyle of anger. Here’s the challenge: Avoid raising a child like the one described in the following verses:
A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again. (Proverbs 19:19)