How To Provoke Your Children To Anger

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

I was thinking about this today as I prepared for a parenting class.  Here are some ways that we parents can provoke our children to anger.  I’ve done many of these, and for this reason I’m grateful for the blood of Jesus and the power of the Spirit to change.

We can provoke our children to anger:

- By constantly criticizing them and not encouraging them.  When they feel they can never please us enough.
- By having double standards – Do as I say, not as I do.  Expecting them to do things we don’t do, e.g. ask forgiveness, humble themselves, etc.
- By anger and harshness
- By a lack of affection
- By telling them what to do or not do without giving Biblical reasons (e.g., Do it because I said to do it, or because it’s just wrong).
- By being offended at their sin because it bothers us, not because it offends God.
- By comparing them to others (Why can’t you act like your sister?)
- By hypocrisy – acting like a Christian at church but not at home
- By embarrassing them (correcting, mocking or expressing disappointment in them in front of others)
- By always lecturing them and never listening to them
- By disciplining them for childishness or weakness, not for sin
- By failing to ask their forgiveness when we sin against them
- By pride – failing to receive humble correction from our spouses or our children when we sin.
- By self-centered reactions to their sin (How could you do this to ME?)
- By ungracious reactions to their sin (What were you thinking?  Why in the world would you do that?)
- By forgetting that we were (and are) sinners (I would NEVER have done that when I was your age).

May God give us gracious, gentle, humble, affectionate hearts toward our children.

photo by lucianvenutian

  • Petra Hefner

    "I’m grateful for the blood of Jesus and the power of the Spirit to change." Gosh, me too. Thank God for Jesus!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Amen Petra!

  • Ben

    I'm not a parent yet… but this scares me to death! It seems like all of those would be soooo easy. But I'm thankful that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

    • MarkAltrogge

      These sins are at times easy to fall into Ben (if that's what you meant) – I know because I have done many of them, but the Lord is for us, gracious, and greater than our sins. He gives us a heart for our children, a heart to repent and change. Don't let this scare you – you're right, fearing God leads to wisdom.

  • Elaine

    Well, I've had my dose of conviction this morning!

    Excellent post, Mark! Thanks so much! It fits well with the CJ's article on the wounds of a faithful friend. Thankful for the Holy Spirit who convicts us and gives us the power to change.

    • MarkAltrogge

      Thanks for your constant encouragement, Elaine. I am thankful for the way you so relentlessly pursue the Lord!

  • Marcy

    What about how children provoke their parents? Being verbally abusive and bullying us?

    • MarkAltrogge

      Hi Marcy,

      That is a major topic that I'd probably need a lot more information on exactly what you are talking about – how old are the children, in what sense are they verbally abusive and bullying, etc. I'm sorry I can't address that here, but if you would want to email me I could try to give you an answer if I have one. Thanks for asking though.

  • Christina

    Kinda Scary, how our expectations from love ( desiring the best for and from our children) can soooo sneakily turn into(expectations full of sin) out of our loving hearts! I am always praying, that amidst my sinful expectations of them that they can see a glimpse of Gods Grace..the Grace he pours over me and the Grace to extend to them…. Thanks for caring for us, that you desire to help us!

    • Christina

      I also tweeted this to my world of tweeters!!

      • MarkAltrogge

        Hi Christina,

        Thank you for your comments – expectations can easily become sinful cravings, as you said, and as you said we desperately need God's grace, which he pours out abundantly. I like the way you mentioned that the grace God gives us we extend toward them – or at least we should. Great comments! And thank you for tweeting it to your tweet world!

  • Cheri

    Thank you for this! It was very timely. My husband and I are currently struggling with our oldest of five children. I needed to be reminded that *MY* heart, attitudes, words, and actions as a parent need to be right with God before I can expect someone immature, comparatively, to behave properly and make wise decisions. May God give me the grace to show mercy, love, and forgiveness, as He has shown to me, while setting a godly example and practicing wise discipline and correction!

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  • David Schlimme

    Many good comments and an insightful list. Might I add, as a sinful and forgiven father of 4, ages 11 to 22 who are by God's grace all currently walking with the Lord, suggest perhaps an unspoken "by . . . " not in the list
    We provoke our children to anger:

    -"by NOT lovingly disciplining and correcting them, with a patient grace and explanation, when they do sin because it is an offense against God. Then lovingly and continually pointing them to Jesus and his obedience and submission to his heavenly Father because we desire to see them walk after him."

    May we all humbly take our children before the Lord, asking Him to save them "despite our best efforts."

    • MarkAltrogge

      Excellent, David,

      Thank you for adding this!

  • whatmm

    Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

    • MarkAltrogge

      You're welcome, whatmm, thanks!

  • Brett

    Can I reproduce this in the form of a bulletin insert for our church?

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  • C. M. Sheffield

    Woe is me. Christ have mercy on this sinner and save my children.

  • Rich

    I'll add: "by being too busy (and/or lazy) to really play with them and build memories with them"

    I've been guilty of that many a time…

    • MarkAltrogge

      That's another good one, Rich! Thanks for adding it!

  • renee

    By treating yoursons better than your daughters

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