Although the Apostle Paul use the word “fathers,” in verse 4, both parents have a responsibility in bringing up children in “the admonition of the Lord.”  This requires spiritual discipline on the part of the parents.

            Both parents need to be able to teach their children about the Lord, although, according to Scripture, it’s the father’s primary responsibility to lead by example. Even when the father is not in the picture, the mother’s influence is needed. We have an example of that in. the life of Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14). He was blessed to have biblical heritage from his grandmother and mother.

            But the ideal family situation needs to include both parents. This being said, the father and the mother, both need to send consistent message to their children.  Their aim as parents must be to lead their children to becoming Christians.

            Parents in general, especially dads, have at least two particular challenges in raising children.

“Do not provoke them to anger.”  In the ancient world fathers had absolute control over children and that sometimes led to harsh methods. The father must be fair, loving and consistent in training his children.  Here are some possible causes of angering our children:

  • Failing to consider the fact that they are kids.
  • Comparing them to others.
  • Disciplining them inconsistently.
  • Failing to express approval, even at small accomplishments.
  • Failing to express our love to them.
  • Disciplining them for reasons other than willful disobedience and defiance.
  • Pressuring them to pursue our goals, not their own.
  • Withdrawing love from them or overprotecting them.

What is the result of such actions? How can that damage our testimony as. Christians and as parents? In Col. 3:21, Paul writes these words, 21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they won’t become discouraged.  The aim of parents should always be to encourage, not discourage their children.

Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  We see 3 actions here; bring up, discipline, and instruct.  All are important.  In Eph. 5:29, Paul uses the verb expressed here as “bring up” as “nourishment” (ESV), or “feeding.” (NIV) Writing on Eph. 6:4, John Cavin said, “Let them be fondly cherished.”

            John Stott wrote, “Instruction,” carries the idea of teaching, counsel, admonition, or warning and perhaps verbal instruction.”  Parents are to teach Christian instruction and discipline in a way that honors the Lord.

            While parents have the responsibility to train their children, God in His grace is working in their lives.  The words of the psalmist in Ps. 127:1 remind us of this important need: 1 Unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain; unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain.”


Larry Miles lives in Louisville, KY, and attends the Cherry St. Church of Christ in New Albany, IN.  He is Co-Editor of Word & Work.