You know that children can provoke parents to anger, but how do parents provoke their children? Saint Paul cautions parents to be on guard against stirring their children's anger - either deliberately or through careless but unnecessary provocation (Eph. 6:4).

Remember that your children are commanded by God to honor you. Therefore, when parents provoke their children to wrath, they are causing them to sin against the Fifth Commandment.

Check your behavior as a parent. Are there areas you need to correct in your parenting style?

How parents make their children angry:

Overprotection. When you smother your children, never trusting them to do anything on their own, you can make them feel stifled and crushed. Parents certainly need to protect their children, especially in an environment with so many dangers, but rules and restrictions without privileges become a suffocating prison and lead to rebellion.

Overindulgence. Excessively permissive parents who indulge or coddle their misbehaving children are actually displaying unloving behavior toward them. Studies prove that children given too much freedom begin to feel insecure and unloved. Our society has fostered increasingly permissive attitudes toward children for many years. We are reaping the harvest of a whole generation of angry young people.

Favoritism. When parents single out one child over another with rewards or praise, they are destroying both children. Comparing one child to another makes one feel inferior and will provoke him/her to wrath in the process.

Unrealistic goals. It's the responsibility of parents to encourage and prompt their children to higher levels of achievement. But when it is constant, and the goals are unrealistic or unrealizable, you will rob your child of any sense of fulfillment. This applies to sports, academics, and personal looks and behaviors.

Discouragement. When you constantly criticize your children, never praise their accomplishments, and never allow them to enjoy their own successes, they will soon give up trying to earn approval. By always noticing their faults they will soon cease trying to do things right.

Neglect. Failure to show them affection, or take interest in their activities and opinions, pushes children to anger.

Condescension. If you put children down or laugh at them when they say naive or immature things, if you constantly talk down to them, or stifle them every time they want to try something you think is too grown up for them, you will never encourage them to grow, and you will confirm them in their immaturity. Give them your encouragement, support, and confidence.

Withdrawing love. Don't employ affection as a tool of reward and punishment. If you deny them love, they will respond in unloving ways.

Excessive discipline. Some parents seem to have the opinion that if discipline is good for a child, and abundance of discipline must be really good for them. Such behavior is really nothing but brutality and breaks the spirit. Harmful words, physical superiority, or needless rules spark anger.


From Successful Christian Parenting by John MacArthur, copyright (c) 1998. Used by permission of Word Publishing, Nashville, Tenn., 1-800-933-9673. All rights reserved.

John MacArthur is pastor teacher of Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, Calif. He is a Bible expositor and conference speaker and serves as president of The Master's College and Seminary. Heard daily on the national radio program, Grace to You, John is the author of such books as The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, and Faith Works.