Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.Colossians 3:21(NASB)
Biblically based practical Christianity and our fundamental relationships at home, in Church fellowships, and in the wider community, is an important theme Paul addresses in this section. He starts by identifying certain general standards of godly behaviour for all Christians, before addressing roles and responsibilities that specifically relate to married couples, children and parents, and servants and their masters.
In this section, children are instructed to be obedient to their parents in all things because it pleases the Lord. They are to pay heed to parental instruction, respect their father's directive, be quick to obey his voice, and learn life-truths from him. Here the word 'children' is particularly addressing youth, although younger children also need to be taught appropriate standards of discipline and behaviour in their early years, if a good character is to be appropriately shaped.
In verse 21 fathers are directed, "do not exasperate your children, so they will not lose heart." When Paul's directives are carried out by both father and child, a right relationship develops between them and mutual respect is fostered. Although Scripture often calls for children to be obedient to both their parents, it is the father who is addressed in this passage because he is the head of the house as ordained by God. It is the father who should set godly standards of behaviour for his entire family and he should be the one responsible to implement them.
While obedience is required from a child, the father is not to frustrate his children which could cause emotional or spiritual damage and discouragement. There are many ways that parents can exasperate their children. Too authoritarian an approach, as well as a careless disinterest in their child, or a home with little or no discipline, can dishearten, de-motivate, or simply irritate a child. A wise balance between correction and praise - discipline and encouragement is what Paul is advocating here.
Parents who place too great an emphasis on discipline while neglecting encouragement risk provoking their son or daughter to bitterness, frustration, anger, depression, or even worse. Constantly 'nagging' their children or scolding them can also hinder a child's development by stifling their creativity.
How sad when excessive discipline, a lack of discipline, over-indulgence, or a lack of interest in their child, an abundance rules and regulation, or a lack of them can cause a child to become 'exasperated, "so they lose heart."
There is a close correlation between a child who is obedient and respects their parents, and parents who do not frustrate their child or cause them to lose heart. When both are implemented as required by Scripture, a godly relationship is fostered... and both a child and his father enjoy one another's company.
Today there is an increasing disconnect between children and their parents, and Scripture indicates that one of the main reasons is that God has been eliminated from the family... and a worldly mindset of selfishness and disrespect has replaced a biblical perspective.
How important for parents, children, and church fellowships, to refuse to be impacted by worldly standards and to reinstate godly principles and biblical teaching in their home, so that the children of today will not become the parents of tomorrow who exasperate their children and cause their children to lose heart.
Heavenly Father, what a lot there is to assimilate and implement in Paul's simple instruction, for father's not to exasperate their children so they will not lose heart. Forgive us for the way we have allowed biblical principles and godly practice to be gradually removed from our homes and Christian churches. Help us individually and corporately to return to the truth of Your Word, so that children will understand the need to obey and respect their parents... as parents bring up their children in the fear and nurture of the Lord through wise discipline, gracious encouragement, and godly respect. In Jesus' name, AMEN.