How to Frustrate Your Child’s Spiritual Growth

While parents should be the supportive catalysts for a child’s spiritual growth, sometimes just the opposite is experienced. Have you ever thought that your words, expressions, and actions might be discouraging your child’s personal discipleship?

The Apostle Paul provided some incredible teaching regarding family relationships. Nearing the conclusion of his letter to the church at Ephesus, he gives pivotal and practical advice for parents and children. Read how he exhorts us in Ephesians 6:1-4.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:1-4

While some of this teaching is repeated elsewhere in the Bible, some of this content is uniquely direct. Paul begins by instructing children to obey the Lord (Eph. 6:1). It is right and appropriate for children to honor both their father and mother (Eph. 6:2). You might be hoping that this content is going to be driven home with your children, but this particular passage is not geared towards just those teenagers and younger. Paul cited the original command to honor father and mother (Ex. 20:12), and that instruction was not reserved initially for only the adolescent Israelites. Every person at every age had was expected to honor his or her parents. 

Regardless of how healthy or unhealthy a relationship with parents is, God has commanded each of us to honor them at every age.

Even when it is hard to honor the person of your parent, always honor the position of your parent. God has put your parents in your life, and He expects you to honor them.

He also expects your children to honor you. Out of all the original commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the fifth commandment was the first one that provided a promise with it (Eph. 6:3).

The instruction seems to imply that life is more beneficial and less chaotic when we seek to honor those who have cared for us.

In verse 4, Paul does something somewhat shocking. He progressively highlighted parents (Eph. 6:1), fathers and mothers (Eph. 6:2), and then just fathers (Eph. 6:4). Why would Paul expect both fathers and mothers to receive honor, and yet chide only the fathers for neglect and harshness? Paul seemed to show concern over what fathers could do and what they could fail to do.

Paul singled out fathers apparently due to how they could frustrate their children or fail their children. While Paul felt it essential to ensure that both fathers and mothers receive honor from their children, he thought it necessary to call out dads due to a disposition towards passivity. While we wish it weren’t so painfully accurate for some homes, most of us would acknowledge that a father has a unique role in directing a family.

While your home may be at a disadvantage due to the father’s death, desertion, or detachment, God has not given up on your family. 

While fathers need to be singled out, the principles can and should apply to any parental figure. We should heed Paul’s warning. Don’t frustrate your child with expectations while failing to instruct him or her in the way to go. A parent can do a lot of damage by crushing a child’s spirit by emphasizing relentless rules while neglecting real relationships. Most children are stirred to anger by parents who expect one thing but reflect another.

Do you see any progress in your child? Even minimal progress? Good. Here’s how you can encourage it.

  1. Affirm the good you see.
  2. Address the serious bad you see.
  3. Share the lessons you’ve learned.
  4. Pick upon which hills to die.
  5. Reflect the grace you’ve been given.
  6. Parent for the long game.

Your child’s discipleship has enough deterrents in this world. Don’t be one of them.