If you want to see how unchristian you are look at the way you raise your children. In what concerns me, this works very well.
Yesterday I spoke harshly to the child. An hour later he was cheeky and my wife rebuked him: `In our house we show respect to the other one when we speak` she said to him. I had to interrupt her to apologize so that she would not seem a hypocrite. Before that I hadn’t shown any respect to my child with the words and tone I had used.
Exasperating the children
When they interpret the counsels given by saint Paul, the Apostle regarding marriage the scholars mention the fact that the Apostle advises the husbands mainly to love and the wives to show respect, because if they were to go astray, they would do it in this two directions: the men become cold and they women lose their respect.
We should apply the same principles to the fathers. The Apostle says twice in his Epistle to the Collossians, `Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.` (3, 21), while to the Ephesians he tells Fathers, `do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.` (6, 4).
When I rebuked my elder son I caused him frustration and exasperation.
I looked for patristic comments of these verses hoping to find something surprising but most of them do not include their comment and I think they did this because there is nothing much to be added. Saint Paul the Apostle and the Holy Fathers don’t need to give too many counsels and teachings in this case because the things are clear: `You as parents are sometimes inclined to exasperate your children.` Don’t do it!
The advice of the monk
I read the counsels of elder Porphyrios about the education of children from the book Wounded by Love. It’s amazing what he says.
`The parents must devote themselves to loving God`, he says. `They must become saints in the relation with their children, by gentleness, patience and love. They must make a new start every day, with a fresh attitude, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children.
Am I doing this or I am making a file to my children, writing down their mistakes instead of forgiving them ?
The children’s behavior is not improved by punishments, discipline and strictness. If the parents don’t live a holy life and if they don’t dedicate themselves to spiritual struggle, they will make big mistakes and they will transmit them their own flaws.` `A parent must impose disciplinary measures`, he admits, `but most of all you must pray.`
Oh, God, have mercy!
Grace is the solution
Reading such counsels I realize how much grace I need. I can rebuke my child all day long but if everything comes out of a callous heart, I won’t do anything else than turn his own into a callous one too. As saint Paul the Apostle warns us, I won’t do anything else than exasperate him or even worse than that.
In the Orthodox Church there is a prayer of the parents for the children which says as follows: `Oh, Righteous Judge, Who punishes the children for the sins of their parents, do not punish my children for my sins, but pour over them the dew of Your grace. Amen.`
God, please help me to bless my children in everything and see my sins!
PS: The sins of the parents
A reader draws my attention upon the use of the word `punish` from the prayer from above. In fact the paragraph is found in Exodus 20 where we read that God returns the sins from a generation to another. Neither the Scripture nor the theology of the Church suggests a punishment per se and it is probably clearer if we say that the children suffer the negative consequences of the sins of their parents.
For example I am divorced and remarried. The children of the divorced children have an altered feeling of their self. The divorce is an ontological crisis for the children. The children from my first marriage suffer the consequences of my own sin and they will probably suffer a storm for the rest of their life. My sins returned to them, to use the same expression as in the Exodus.To pray using the words of the prayer from above means to ask God to have mercy for their life, to ease the real consequences of your sins and `pour over them the dew of His Grace.`