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10 Ways You Might be Exasperating Your Children

10 Ways You Might be Exasperating Your Children

Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. - Ephesians 6:4

No matter how hard we try, there’s just no such thing as a perfect parent. It’s a difficult job with lots of important aspects. One of the essentials is to provide our children with emotional security. And with parenting being so fast and furious—a non-stop event—we often forget how our words and actions can have lasting effects.

Maybe there’s no standard-issue handbook, no clear-cut formula to follow, but we do have God’s Word to guide us in how to encourage our kids in becoming who God created them to be. His Word gives us instruction as to how to parent without provoking our children to discouragement, resentfulness, and anger.

With the above Scripture in mind, let’s take a look at 10 possible ways we could be exasperating our children without realizing it. 

  • 1. You may be exasperating your child by being overly protective OR too permissive.

    As our children grow older, like it or not, we have to give them some freedom to make their own decisions and experience certain aspects of life for themselves. Without it, they become fearful and later resentful that we’ve held the reins too tight and for too long.

    This means giving them the opportunity to actually fail—as long as the liberty is appropriate and not one that could lead to a life-altering consequence. An occasional failure works to make our kids resilient and teaches coping skills.

    On the other hand, despite the current free-range trend, kids really need and desire structure, security, and our guidance. They’re not chickens; they’re small humans who need to know we care what they do and where they go. And they’re also the people who’ll one day lead this country.

    Ask God to help you find the balance between micromanaging and hands-off to guide your child on their journey to adulthood.

    See Proverbs 22:6

    Image Credit: Thinkstock/Jacob-Ammentorp-Lund

  • 2. You may be exasperating your child by speaking of your spouse or ex-spouse unkindly.

    By making the mistake of projecting our hurt, anger, and pain onto our children, we’re not only placing them in the middle of it all, we’re saddling them with a burden. A burden not for them to carry and one they may feel somehow responsible for causing.

    When we speak unkindly about someone our child loves, whether it’s true or not, the outcome is the same. It breaks our child’s heart, causing unnecessary pain. It also hurts your credibility with your child and others.

    Ask God to help you refrain from speaking badly about others in front of your child—no matter how much your flesh screams in protest. Ask for His help in holding your tongue, that you would be able to display grace as a model for your child’s future relationships.

    See James 5:9

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  • 3. You may be exasperating your child by showing favoritism or comparison.

    Those who have multiple children would probably agree that each child is quite different. Sometimes these differences can demand or even attract more than a fair share of our attention, which also means it can detract attention from siblings.

    Sometimes we find ourselves comparing our children to one another. This can even happen with an only child by comparing him or her to a cousin who always makes straight A’s or to the teammate who, unlike your child, never strikes out.

    Whether it be intentional or inadvertently, showing favoritism and drawing comparison creates resentment and jealousy in a developing child.

    Ask God to reveal to you if you’ve allowed the seed of jealousy to take root in your child’s life. Ask Him to help you take the steps needed to correct this and help you resist doing so in the future.

    See James 2:1

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  • 4. You may be exasperating your child by socially shaming them.

    Most parents would without hesitation take a stand against their child being bullied and hold those responsible accountable. That’s why it’s so hard to believe that some of these same parents are cyber bullying their children.

    Social shaming is the digital age’s latest form of tough love for many parents. It can be as subtle as a Facebook post about her not making A-Honor Roll yet again or as drastic as a YouTube video of sticking him on a street corner wearing a sandwich sign for the afternoon.

    It’s believed that if you embarrass the offender that whatever the offense was will never happen again. That may be true, but the trust you once had in your relationship will be a thing of the past, and anger and resentment will burn indefinitely.

    As parents, we’re to be our kid’s safe place, a refuge. We’re to parent in a way that is pleasing to God.

    Ask God to help you use good judgment before posting anything on your social media channels, particularly anything that may damage your relationship with your child.

    See 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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  • 5. You may be exasperating your child by punishing unfairly.

    Parental discipline is to be tempered with love, full of compassion, and should be fair so as not to harden our child’s heart toward us.

    If we’re to be obedient to God’s command of not provoking our children to anger, we’ve got to be in control of our own anger.

    As parents, we must refuse to allow our emotions control over us, which could lead to “losing our cool,” inciting excessive punishment.  

    Ask God to help you keep a cool head when the need for discipline arises and to help you model to your child how to relate lovingly to others.

    See Proverbs 19:18

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  • 6. You may be exasperating your child by being overly critical.

    Remember that not being perfect is okay, despite what the world would have us believe. As parents, we’re to be our kid’s biggest fan, encouraging them and lifting them up. Building them up, not belittling.

    Though they’re getting older, the truth is they still want us to be pleased with them.

    Proverbs 18:21says that the tongue possesses the power of life and death. As parents, we must monitor our criticisms and be sure our children know they come from a place of love.

    Ask God for wisdom to discern when you should offer constructive criticism and how to offer it in a way that builds up your child.

    See Ephesians 4:29

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  • 7. You may be exasperating your child by holding them responsible for YOUR happiness.

    Good parents want happy kids, right? I’d even suggest that good kids want happy parents. Nothing wrong with that. But, I wonder if we sometimes equate our child’s happiness with our success as a parent. And when this happens, we parents might be unknowingly burdening our kids with the responsibility of keeping us ever-happy.

    That begs the question: What happens when they see us unhappy?

    Even if our unhappiness has nothing to do with what our kids did or didn’t do, if we’ve led our children to believe that the happiness of those they care about is wrapped up in their own performance, we’re setting them up for a frustrated life of people-pleasing. Ones who are more concerned with pleasing people than with pleasing God. Ones who strive for acceptance, will say yes to any and everything out of fear of disappointing someone, and will strive to find their worth in this world, not in Him. 

    Ask God to reveal to you if you’ve been putting undue pressure on your child to make you happy at all costs.

    See Galatians 1:10

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  • 8. You may be exasperating your child by not prioritizing.

    We can do everything right and say all the right things, but that won’t matter if we forget to make sure our children feel validated, loved, and valued.

    It’s just so easy to get caught up in our Facebook feed or zoned out bingeing on Netflix instead of taking a walk with our kid or reading a good story with them.

    Truth is that without even knowing it, many of us have allowed technology to supersede the intimate connection with those we say we love most—those who need us most.

    Ask God to show you opportunities to have some old-fashioned eye contact and connection, and to help you be more conscious of making sure your child feels like a top priority.

    See Psalm 127:3

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  • 9. You may be exasperating your child by setting unachievable goals.

    Have you ever had a job where the expectations you were to meet were unattainable? One where no matter how hard you worked or how many hours you logged, no mere mortal could achieve success.

    If so, then it most likely created an immense amount of stress, a feeling of helplessness, as well as a sense of “never good enough.” And something else may have happened. You may have even quit that job in search of one with achievable goals. Maybe you left in search of a place where you felt you could succeed and feel proud of your accomplishments.

    As parents, we’re in charge of those goals we’ve set for our kids, making sure that they are, in fact, attainable while also a challenge for them. By setting unfair and/or unattainable goals, we run the risk of setting them up for failure and exasperating them to the point of discouragement.

    Ask that God give you wisdom when defining your child’s goals and expectations, so that you’re setting them up for success both now and in the future. 

    See Colossians 3:21

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  • 10. You may be exasperating your child by refusing to admit fault.

    Our children are watching us to see if our private beliefs match up to our public behaviors. Watching to see if we model that Christ-like behavior we expect from them. And they’re also watching to see how we handle the consequences when we mess things up.

    As parents, it’s important to be authentic, resisting the urge to model an illusion of perfection.  Kids need to see us mess up now and then. Just as importantly, they need to see us handle it in a graceful, godly way. See us own up to our mistakes, not cover them up.

    When you mess up, do you admit it? Do you accept responsibility for your actions? Do you apologize to those you’ve offended? Do you ask for forgiveness?

    Maybe today God is prompting you to focus more on godly parenting that doesn’t provoke your child to anger or discouragement. Pray that He would help you model His commands of being patient with your growing child and apologizing when you fall short.

    See James 5:16


    Writer by day, transcriber by night, Renee Davis is a boy mom, PPD survivor, recovering fear-a-holic, and former educator. She lives on Christ and caffeine as she attempts to finally transcend mediocrity and live the life Jesus died for her to have. When not tied to her desktop and swimming in coffee, the native Floridian can be found wherever the water is salty, spending time with her son and husband of 15 years.

    She’s a contributor to The Good Men Project, Crosswalk, and, most recently, The Washington Post. You can learn more about Renee’s journey and her passion for helping women find their worth in the Word, not the world, at The [email protected] Scribe.