Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (NIV).
In Ephesians 6:4 the “do not” of fatherhood is followed by an explicit do. Dads should bring up their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Which, requires dads to do three things:
- Be tender. The words, “bring them up,” means “to nourish or feed.” Eugene Peterson puts this phrase into contemporary English by saying, “take them by the hand.” And Calvin translated “bring them up” as “let them be kindly cherished.” According to God’s Word, men are manly when they’re sensitive and sympathetic with their children. Dad, speak to your children with gentleness and friendliness. And take time to hold your baby in your arms, kiss your son, or hug your teenager or adult child. For even though fathers fight dragons almost daily, and even though fathers must do battle in the arena which is sometimes called an office or a workshop, you must nonetheless be a man who reflects the image of the Heavenly Father. So take your child by the hand and climb the mountain of life remembering there’s a son or daughter who’s following in your steps.
- Exercise discipline. The word “training” means “discipline, even by punishment.” The same Greek word is used in Luke 23:16 when Pilate said of Jesus, “I will punish him and then release him.” Thus the word “training” includes and encompasses everything necessary to help “train a child in the way he should go” Proverbs 22:6. Dad, don’t leave the issue of discipline to your wife. To not discipline your child is a sad breach of domestic responsibility and a denial of God’s Word which ultimately robs a child of the security and self-esteem which comes from being disciplined by a father. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your son in his early years while there is hope. If you don’t, you will ruin his life” (TLB). As a wise grandmother once said, “You don’t spoil a child by giving him love. You spoil him by withholding discipline.”
- Bring instruction. The word “instruction” literally means “to place before the mind.” Fathers should be alert for every opportunity to teach moral values and natural skills. This will only be accomplished if you take time to talk, listen, work, and play with your children. And it will only be effective when you back up your instruction with a walk that matches the talk. Yes, the most important instruction that your children receive comes from watching how you iron out disagreements with your wife, how you talk about your boss behind his back, and whether or not your dealings with people are honest and fair. Thus school is always in session when your child is growing up (but don’t tell her that!). And leading your child in the way of the Lord is a lifelong calling.
A dad can’t father his children by proxy. A dad should be leading family devotions, putting the children to bed, praying with his children, and reading to them. A dad should also worship with his children, attend their sporting or cultural events, and spend quality and quantity one on one time with them.