Angry Children and Fearful Fathers

Posted on · Posted in Anger, Authority, Discipline

It is a challenge to patiently, lovingly, firmly confront a child who chooses to go his own way. For some fathers, it is easier to just ignore their children’s need for care and discipline. Other fathers also take an easy path by becoming angry and threaten severe consequences or engage in physical intimidation. These approaches do not honor God. They do not bless the child. These two damaging responses, indifference and anger, stem front the same root cause – fear.

Fathers, are you listening?

God created men to be confident, compassionate, caring leaders. But then, there was the fall. While Eve chose to verbally engage the serpent, Adam, who was with her, chose not to protect his wife. Instead, in fearful cowardice, he observed the most destructive conversation in human history in silence  (See Genesis 3:6). When Adam took the fruit from Eve, he had already fallen by doubting the word of God and failing to protect his wife. Adam compounded his sin when God confronted him. Instead of taking responsibility, Adam did what men still do to this day – he shifted the blame to his wife.

Men, our legacy since the fall, without faith in Christ, is to be cowards in relationships. This cowardice comes in the form of weak passivity or in the form of intimating anger.  Out of fear, we tend to either ignore our children’s sin or become angry as if we bear no responsibility for their actions. Why are we afraid? For the same reason Adam was: we fear the consequence of assuming the responsibility of leadership. This is where David fell short as a father.

Three of David’s sons illustrate this: Ammon, Absalom, and Adonijah,  David failed to address Amnon’s sin. Absalom and Adonijah both believed that they were wronged by their father. Absalom was angry that David had not punished Amnon for his sin against Tamar. Adonijah was angry because he believed he should have been made King instead of Solomon. These sons had not received loving discipline from their father. David’s pattern with Amnon continued with Absalom and Adonijah. His tragic failure with Adonijah is recorded in I Kings 1:6:

Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, “Why are you doing that?” 

David was not daunted by the lion, the wolf or the bear, or even by the giant, Goliath. But David, the brave warrior, lacked the courage to lovingly confront his sons. His family and Israel paid a horrific price for this passivity.  David, like his first father Adam, cowered and failed to lead and protect those whom he loved. His children became alienated and consumed with anger and bitterness.

Families with visibly angry fathers fare no better. These fathers reject the wisdom of God. Instead of pleasant, firm, gentle words as the Proverbs teach, they embrace the wisdom of hell as James warns. This anger will not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Being angry doesn’t help and acting as if problems don’t exist doesn’t help either. A fearful father will encourage rebellion in his children. Loving confrontation requires courage and trust in God. Yes, it is a challenge. Learn from David’s sin with his sons. Follow the exhortation of James and embrace wisdom from above: 

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

By following this wisdom from above you can lead your children away from anger to peace.

Related resources:

Shepherding a Child's Heart

Shepherding a Child’s Heart

 

Time for The Talk

Time for The Talk

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.