This article is excerpted from Encouraging Kingdom Kids by Tony Evans
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Paul reiterated the same concept in his letter to the church at Colossae when he wrote, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” (Colossians 3:21).
Yet before we dive into this arena of encouragement, I want to point out that in both verses Paul used the Greek word that has been translated into “fathers.” It applies to the male parent, but it can also encompass both parents in its application. The same Greek word is used in Hebrews 11:23 when talking about Moses’ mother and father, and it is often translated as “parents.”1 In choosing that term, Paul wasn’t limiting this pillar of parenting to just the man. These verses could have just as easily been translated as “Parents, do not exasperate your children “ or “Parents, do not provoke your children to anger.” I also want to point out what they could not be translated to read. They could not have been translated as, “Government, do not exasperate your children,” or “Village, do not exasperate your children,” or “School system, do not provoke your children to anger.” This is because the onus of raising kingdom kids is on the parents. It is on you and me, not the government, or even our schools.
A child needs parents to raise him or her well, not a village. Unless the village has kingdom values, that village will mess up a person. After all, gangs are villages. Entertainment is a village as well. In fact, entertainment is probably the most prevalent village raising kids in our nation today. The average child spends thirty-two or more hours a week in front of the television, tablet, gaming devices, or other forms of electronic media. We don’t need more villages raising kids; we need more parents raising kingdom kids.
It is the parents’ responsibility to raise their children well, and one of the first ways to do this is by not exasperating them. This means that parents are not to provoke their children. They’re not to create irritation, anger, and frustration in the lives of their children. We can easily turn this verse around and say that, rather than discouraging them, parents are to encourage their children. Scripture tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). A parent who discourages his or her children instead of encouraging them speaks failure and curses into their future. Instead, as parents we are called to give encouragement. There’s a difference between encouragement and praise, though. Praise is tied to what a person accomplished. Your child did something you want to acknowledge. Praise is good. But children need encouragement even more. Encouragement is not tied to what they did; it’s tied to who they are. Encouragement relates to their identity in Christ and their inheritance as image bearers of God Himself as children of the King.
Have you ever seen a drooping plant quickly perk up when someone pours some water on it? That’s what encouragement does. Encouragement will take a droopy kid and perk him or her up again. As the Bible tells us, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). Encouraging your children gives them an expectation of God’s goodness and favor on both their todays and their tomorrows. It sets within their hearts an anticipation of a glorious future. Encouragement tells them they are fearfully and wonderfully made and have been gifted by God. It helps them believe that God has a plan for them filled with both a future and a hope. One reason so many teenagers get caught up with negative groups of their peers today is because that’s where their encouragement is found. They get more affirmation from their peers than their parents, and so they respond to that which makes them feel significant.
Parents, let your words reach deep into your children’s hearts with encouraging truths that communicate to them that you know their personalities, dreams, hopes, struggles and that it will all turn out okay because of who they are and to whom they belong. Give them the hope that they need to face each day.
On top of that, don’t “provoke” your children to anger, as Paul said. Provoking them can happen by disrespecting them in your words or actions, comparing them to others, or even showing favoritism to one child over the others. We all remember what Joseph’s brothers did when his father showed favoritism by giving him the multicolored coat. Be fair with your treatment, time, and attention, because your children are all equally valuable to our heavenly Father.
Being critical, finding fault, and setting up your children with negative thoughts about the future can also develop in them a spirit of frustration. These things have a profound impact on children, more so than we might even know or realize, so always be mindful of whether you are speaking life to them or discouraging them with your words and actions. There are times it may not feel very easy to encourage your child, but those are the times you need to dig deep and find the patience and commitment required. Lois and I faced a time like that with our oldest child, Chrystal.
Chrystal was around twelve years old when she developed what I would call an identity crisis. I had never seen anyone struggle with his or her identity on such a profound level, let alone at such a young age, and I was literally at a loss for what to say to her. At times she would be crying and asking us to help her, but neither of us knew what to do. Lois and I would look at each other as if to say, “You handle this.”
This went on for so long that it became frustrating, and at times I just wanted to give up and walk away. But even though I couldn’t understand where it came from or where it was going, I had to dig deep to find the patience to walk with Chrystal through it. Part of parenting is in connecting your child with a healthy esteem. Some children are more difficult than others in this area. Some kids seem born with a strong esteem, while others are more fragile. As a parent you must be committed to walk with each child as he or she discovers his or her personal identity and esteem. Thankfully, Chrystal came through this challenge and discovered her strengths and purpose. But getting through it required much patience from us as her parents—and a lot of encouragement.
Above all else, encourage your children and build them up.
Raising Kingdom Kids by Tony Evans
From the bestselling author of Kingdom Man and Kingdom Woman, Raising Kingdom Kids equips parents to raise their children with a Kingdom perspective and also offers practical how-to advice on providing spiritual training as instructed in Scripture.
Dr. Tony Evans begins with an overarching look at the need for Kingdom parenting, our roles and responsibilities in raising God-following children, and how to prepare children to take on the assignments God has for their lives. He then takes a practical turn, with examples and illustrations to help parents understand and provide specific training for kids in the power of prayer, wisdom, loving God’s Word, getting through trials, controlling their tongues, developing patience, the surrender of service, and much more.
This book is for every dad or mom who wants to fulfill the parenting role God has given them—not just in raising healthy kids intellectually, physically, and socially, but in contributing to their child’s relationship with God and alignment under His plan.