Resentment is a tricky thing in the parent/child relationship. The word communicates an idea of not being treated fairly. I will be the first to admit that I am constantly preaching to my children the fact that nothing in life is fair. Every time one gets more nuggets than the other it is inevitable that a fairness case will be presented from the court of children in the dining room. I LOVE telling them about life and that life is not fair and that they will always face situations that feel unfair.
That being said, as our children grow in maturity, they have a growing understanding of what fairness in a loving relationship should be. Honestly, they probably begin understanding this long before we give them credit.
If I am honest, sometimes it is my laziness that creates unfairness in my parenting. It could be anything from just being tired, to wanting some peace and quiet. I might not enjoy playing with American Girl dolls or I may have listened to people talk all day long and have no further capacity to listen to the string of words being fired from a little one. The reasons and situations are limitless.
This is the kind of ‘fairness’ which our children understand and feel much more than we realize. I used to not really connect very well with the Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:4 when he says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So many times I thought, “Provoke them to anger… I don’t do that…”
As I was recently reading over this again, my study led me to understand that it is speaking of anything that may lead a child to resentment. In other words, if I come home feeling exhausted after a draining day of work and allow that to be the reason that I will not spend some quality time with one of my children, I have led my child to resentment.
We often quickly read over those powerful words without giving them the thought and prayer they deserve. When we parent out of a posture of selfishness, then we are provoking our children to this place of anger. When we place the expectations of a 10 or 16 year old on our 5 year old we are provoking them to the anger that Paul is describing. When, because our own priorities are messed up, we offer nothing but the leftover crumbs of our day to our children, then we are provoking them to anger and resentment.
It is true that life is not fair. However, this lack of fairness must never characterize the way we practically love our children. A parenting approach which is rooted in selfishness is the provocation of anger.
Depending on the age of your children, they may not be able to rightly articulate their resentment but I believe you know where it lies. Let’s look at Paul’s words there and see the heart issues that are truly being addressed.
What might change if we took a good look at our parenting from our children’s point of view? How are the hearts of our children responding to our choices as parents? What if we parent as those who place our role as caretakers of those little hearts above our own selfish desires and feelings?
Our children will quickly understand that life is not fair, yet may they see first that love is truly selfless.
Matt Powell serves as teaching pastor at Crossings Community Church, a body of believers whose mission is to engage, equip, and empower homes for gospel transformation in Katy, TX.