While I’ve heard plenty of sermons delineating the importance of “bringing up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (with an emphasis usually on the “admonition” part), I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a sermon expositing the idea of “not provoking your children to wrath.” Of course, those are all Scriptural commands, and they’re found in the same passage (Ephesians 6:4).
If you have a teen who struggles with anger toward you, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re somehow provoking them. Of course, if your teen is angry in general, then perhaps it has nothing to do with you; however, if your teen responds favorably to others (perhaps even your spouse) but constantly seems angry with you, then you’ll want to examine your own heart and life to see if you’re in any way egging them on.
That pairing of words is actually redundant: All comparisons are unfair. Whether you overtly or subtly compare your teen to yourself or others, you’re bound to promote resentment. Your child’s achievements or potential may not measure up to those of his or her siblings, friends, or even his or her own past. Many factors can contribute to such a disparity, and your teen probably doesn’t need for you to point it out. Now, comparing your teen’s achievements to his or her clear potential is quite another issue, but even that can cause frustration when even an ounce of comparison is part of the discussion.
Have you ever tried keeping track of how many negative comments you make toward your teen in a given day or week, as opposed to positive, encouraging ones? What if you also count nagging, instructions, or “reminders” as negatives? Regardless of how deserving you believe your teen to be of criticisms, if you’re constantly sowing negativity, it should be no surprise when that’s exactly what you reap. We all love being around positive, encouraging people, don’t we? Of course, there’s a difference between being positive and being ridiculous or in denial, but even medicine is easier to swallow when it has some sweet flavoring.
We all have our tendencies, here, and none of us completely abandons those tendencies upon trusting Christ to save us. You may be an explosive person when your anger goes unbridled, or you may resort to silent treatment or passive-aggressive behavior. Emotional manipulation of any kind is far from being “kind one to another, tenderhearted,” (Eph. 4:32) or showing biblical love (see 1 Cor. 13).
If you realize that you’ve in any way provoked your teenager’s anger, then there’s good news: You’ve sinned. While that might not seem like good news, it really is, because for sinners, there is hope: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). When you ask your teen for forgiveness, as well, you’ll be on your way toward a more nurturing, anger-free relationship.