What it means to exasperate our kids

She bounced into the dining room looking up at me while I was finishing dishes and prepping for my morning routine the next day and maybe playing Words with Friends on my phone. I glanced up, didn’t say anything, and went about my business, walking back into the kitchen to grab something. When I came back into the dining room, she was gone. I walked into the living room. No sign of her. Walked upstairs, and her door was closed, a strip of yellow light shining up from under her door….

During the last couple weeks, I’ve been making my way through Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

I’ve been parked at 3:18-25 for the last few mornings. I’m trying to hang out on certain passages for more than a quick 5 minutes to see if things hit me in various ways over a couple days.

This passage includes that famous parenting Bible verse: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may lose heart.” (v. 21).

I’ve always assumed that this passage is telling me as a dad not to create tension or be contentious with my children.  I’ve assumed it means that those flare ups that cause a bit of frustration are to be avoided at all costs.

That may be true. The adult is responsible for bringing the temperature down in any situation.

But when I read it this morning, a vision of a very brief, seemingly insignificant event from the night before popped into my head. And I almost broke a little.

It was that brief moment I wrote about at the beginning of this post. My daughter, walking into the room while I was in whatever zone I was in.

My hunch is she was just coming in to say “Hi”, often mimicking Isabella from Phineas and Ferb with a “Whatcha Doin?”

I wonder if my not pausing at all is part of what Paul might mean about not exasperating your children that they may not lose heart.

I wonder if I repeated my lack of response over and over again, day in and day out, week after week, if she might not lose heart? Will she be exasperated – even if it’s not a contentious blow-up – and stop bouncing into the room to check in and say “Hi!”?

Is causing our children to lose heart less about raising our voice and more about failing to use our voices at all?

Is it about fiery communication or lack of communication?

I think maybe exasperating our kids and causing them to lose heart is about anything we do (or don’t do) repeatedly over time that sends a message that they do not matter or that they don’t measure up or that they are an annoyance or anything like that.

None of us do stuff right all the time. We do need breaks. We do get in zones. We do bring work home or allow some personal frustration to affect our communication.

But we need to watch out for patterns. We need to check what we consistently do.

That’s why I think being intentional is so important. Otherwise, we risk falling into ruts that we might regret later.

My prayer today is that I’ll notice these moments where I can connect. My prayer is that I bring my best energy to that time between 5:30 and 8:30pm, whether I actually have any energy or not.

The last thing I want any of my kids to do is lose heart.

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