“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
The book of Proverbs contains many admonitions regarding child-rearing methods. We find that an improperly disciplined and rebellious child will bring untold heartache to his or her parents. “A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1). “A fool despiseth his father’s instruction” (15:5) for “He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: And the father of the fool hath no joy” (17:21). But things can be even worse: “A foolish son is the calamity of his father” (19:13). “He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach” (19:26). Such wanton selfishness may so twist a mind that a son even “robbeth his father or his mother” (28:24).
The writer of Proverbs knew that “the rod and reproof give wisdom” (29:15), a truth restated in our text. Paul states that we are to “bring them up in the nurture (literally ‘chastening’ or ‘discipline’) . . . of the LORD” reflecting the same ideas as “rod” in Proverbs 29:15. Proper training of children includes a set of rules enforced by rewards and punishments. Children need established limits and to be assured of the joys of acceptable behavior.
Paul also advised the use of “admonition,” which is similar to “reproof,” and has to do with proper verbal teaching. We must both train and instruct our children properly. They must learn discipline and reasoning.
Of course, in all of this, we must be careful to “provoke not (our) children to wrath,” thus fomenting rebellion. May God give us the wisdom to strike this delicate balance, thereby raising a God-honoring and God-loving heritage. JDM