Don't Lose Heart

Right now, I am studying the book of Colossians.  Every single book in the Bible is applicable, including this one.  In chapter three, Paul gives instructions in how to handle various relationships. He speaks to wives, husbands, children, parents, servants, and masters.  There is one verse that I haven't really understood fully and it pertains to parenting...

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart."  Colossians 3:21

We have been given a tremendous responsibility to train and raise three boys.  God entrusted each of these precious individuals to us, and we only get one chance at the job.  I don't want to mess it up and look back years down the road filled with regrets.  As a mom, I constantly second guess myself and wonder whether or not I am doing the right things.

I am reading a commentary by John MacArthur as a companion to my study and there were some helpful insights to me in explaining what this verse means.  MacArthur lists several ways that parents can cause their children to lose heart.  I mean, what parent wants to do that??  As I was reading this list, I was going along and feeling good about myself, and the further I got the more I realized that this verse indeed applies to me!  There are no perfect parents, myself included!  No child can ever look back on their childhood and say they had perfect parents at all times, but I do desire for my boys to have parents who intentionally pour into their hearts things that are eternal.  I don't want them to have a long list of things they will never do when they have children of their own because we scarred them.  I don't want them to have to spend years trying overcome their childhoods.

Parenting is hard work and a juggling act.  It is extremely difficult to have perfect balance in all areas where God is first, your husband is second, then your children, then all other responsibilities.  This can easily get rearranged unintentionally.  When it does, everything is off kilter.  Also, to be perfect in all of these areas is nearly impossible, but what a great goal!

How to Make Your Children Lose Heart by John MacArthur from "The New Testament Commentary: Colossians & Philemon" 

1.  Overprotection- Overprotective parents never allow their children any liberty.  They have strict rules about everything.  No matter what their children do, overprotective parents do not trust them.  Because nothing they do earns their parents' trust, children begin to despair and may believe that how they behave is irrelevant.  That can lead to rebellion.  Parents are to provide rules and guidelines for their children, but those rules should not become a noose that strangles them.  Parents must communicate to their children that they trust them.

2.  Showing Favoritism- This is often done unwittingly by comparing a child unfavorable to siblings or classmates.  By making a child feel like the black sheep of the family, parents can create a terrible sense of frustration.

3.  Depreciating their Worth-Many children have been convinced that what they do and feel are not important.  That is communicating to children that they are not significant.  Many parents depreciate their children's worth by refusing to listen to them.  Children who are not listened to may give up trying to communicate and become discouraged, shy, and withdrawn.

There was a quote by Catherine M. Wallace that I saw on Pinterest that really convicted me in this area.  "Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what.  If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff."  

4.  Setting Unrealistic Goals-Parents can do that by never rewarding them, or never letting them feel they have succeeded.  Nothing is enough, so the children never get full approval.  Such parents are often trying to make their children into something they themselves were not.  The results can be tragic.

5.  Failing to Show Affection-Parents need to communicate love to their children both verbally and physically.  Failing to do so will discourage and alienate a child.

6.  Not Providing for their Needs-By providing necessities, parents show their respect and concern for their children.

This one seems obvious because it is our responsibility as parents for providing basic needs, but there are many children all around us who go without.

7.  Lack of Standards-This is the flip side of overprotection.  When parents fail to discipline, or discipline inconsistently, children are left on their own.  They cannot handle that kind of freedom and begin to feel insecure and unloved.

8.  Criticism-Haim Ginott wrote, "A child learns what he lives.  If he lives with criticism he does not learn responsibility. He learns to condemn himself and to find fault with others.  He learns to doubt his own judgment, to disparage his own ability, and to distrust the intentions of others.  And above all, he learns to live with continual expectation of impending doom" (Between Parent and Child).  Parents should seek to create in the home a positive, constructive environment.

9.  Neglect-The classic biblical example is Absalom.  David was indifferent to him, and the result was rebellion, civil war, and Absalom's death.  Parents need to be involved in their children's lives.

10.  Excessive Discipline-This is the parent who abuses his children, either verbally, emotionally, or physically.  Parents often say things to their children that they would never say to anyone else.  They should never discipline their children in anger.  Rather, parents should lovingly correct their children, just as their heavenly Father does them.

To live out this list takes a great deal of work, time, effort, and energy.  It will not happen by accident and it an incredible balancing act not to swing too far in either direction.  I want to do this well, and the sad thing is even if we do every single thing on this list well our children could still walk away and not believe. However, not exasperating our children is essential if we are going to "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" Ephesians 6:4.

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