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Fathers, do not provoke your children (Eph. 6:4)

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Ordinarily and generally, father means a male parent or progenitor. “One who performs the office of a parent by maintenance, affectionate care, counsel, or protection” is also regarded as a father. The Greek word for father is pater (nainp), from root pa (na), “nourisher,” “protector”, “upholder,” which indicates the roles or office of a father. Fathers are celebrated all over the world, though at different times: Roman Catholic countries of Europe, like Italy, Portugal, Spain, Angola, etc., celebrate them on 19th March, as part of the Feast of St Joseph. Few other countries like Germany, Denmark, Belgium, etc. celebrate them at different other times. But most countries of the world, including Nigeria, celebrate fathers on the 3rd Sunday in June.

Father’s Day is usually spelt as singular, perhaps for personalisation and particularisation. It is a special day for appreciating and honouring fatherhood and paternal bond, as well as reflection on the influence and role of fathers.

Stating the roles of different family members, Paul enjoins the fathers: “Do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4 NKJV). The word “provoke” literally means “to call forth,” hence, to excite or stir up. In the passage, it is used in the sense of stirring up anger or making angry. The Greek word that is used in the text, parorgı́zō (napopyizw) is a combination of para (napa) – alongside- and orgı́zō (ogo) – derived from anger (orge) – and means to anger alongside, enrage, rouse to wrath, or exasperate. The given contrast (bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord) shows that not provoking children does not mean allowing them lavish in frenzy of unfettered life or avoiding disciplining them, so that they will not feel unhappy. Fathers have the duty, not only to raise their children in the way of the Lord, but to also do so responsibly, with love and by example. Lording it over them with cruelty and engaging in disgusting and reprehensible acts capable of embarrassing and humiliating the children is provoking them. Parents should avoid actions and treatment capable of rousing deep-seated anger and resentment in their children.

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There are many ways in which fathers can provoke their children, and they include as follow:
Dereliction of Fatherly Duty: It is the father’s duty to provide for, protect/guard, guide and ensure the academic, spiritual and social training and development of his children. Failure to play this role is like making the children fatherless and virtually rendering them destitute, and will naturally arouse anger against the father, especially if it is out of the father’s careless, profligate or irresponsible life.

Abuse of Power and Discipline: Fathers have the right and responsibility to discipline their children, but it has to be done with love and prudence, devoid of unreasonable severities and rigidity. When discipline is overly harsh, with the punishment far exceeding the misbehaviour, message of oppression rather than correction may be conveyed. Parents should be careful to carry out punishments only when they are in full control of their emotions. They should also explore different methods of correcting and training their children that are more friendly, relational and humane.

Undue Strictness and Overprotection: Parents should be firm and guide their children, but overdoing these can be inhibitory to children’s development and self-confidence. They can be frustrating and considered as encaging and lack of trust by the children, who may even tend to rebel.

Despising the Children: Such acts as name-calling, constantly finding faults, unrealistic expectations with undue pressure to do beyond their capabilities because others are doing so; castigation for not being strong, fast or smart enough; using abusive words on the children and making them feel unwanted, among others, can make them feel bad, unloved, inferior, abused and despised.

Favouritism: Preferring one child to the other and expressing it can instigate bitterness and resentment in the one(s) not favoured. Children can also, in turn, prefer one sibling or parent to the other.

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Double Standard Life: Saying or teaching one thing and doing another, or acting a certain way in public and a different way in private can get children confused and angry.

Bad life: Being bad generally can make children to be angry with their parents, when they are influenced to be bad themselves and eventually face the consequences of being bad and knowing that their parent are the cause. They can also be ashamed of their parents, if they eventually toe a noble path and the parents remain unrepentant.

In conclusion, we may learn from this reflection of an old Christian father:
My family’s all grown and the kids are all gone. But if I had to do it all over again… I would love my wife more in front of my children. I would laugh with my children more—at our mistakes and our joys. I would listen more, even to the littlest child. I would be more honest about my own weaknesses, never pretending perfection… I would do more things together with my children. I would encourage them more and bestow more praise… I would share God more intimately with my family; every ordinary thing that happened in every ordinary day I would use to direct them to God.
(Adapted from The MacArthur New Testament Commentay: Ephesians.)

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4 NKJV) The Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.

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In this article:
Princewill O. Ireoba
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