What should fathers look out for?

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord,” Ephesians 6:4 says. This is an excellent guide for fathers on how to raise their children.

The “do not” is crystal clear because it means “do not incite your children’s rage to the point where they begin to seethe with resentment and irritation.” “You fathers, once again, must not goad your children to resentment,” says the New English Bible. The directness and simplicity of this “do not” invites us to think honestly about the ways we exasperate our children.

The exhaustive “do not” of fatherhood is followed by the explicit “do’s” — “rather, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” — which, when fully understood, necessitates three “do’s”: tenderness, discipline, and instruction.


The words “bring them up” mean “to nourish or feed,” just as they do in 5:29, where the exact Greek words describe how a man “feeds and cares” for his own body. Calvin translates “bring them up” as “kindly cherish them” and emphasizes that the overall idea is to speak to one’s children gently and with friendliness. 


Then there’s “training.” This is a strong word that means “discipline, even to the point of punishment.”

When Pilate said of Jesus, “I will punish him and then release him,” he used the same word (Luke 23:16). When necessary, corporal punishment is included in the discipline. However, it provides everything needed to “train a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).

The tragedy is that so many men have abandoned this responsibility to their children’s mothers. This is not only unfair to the mother. However, it also deprives the child of the security and self-esteem that comes with being disciplined by the father.

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