Children in the first century didn't have any rights. They were under the absolute authority of their father. He literally had their life in their hands. That is why it was important for them to be obedient, because it brought them longer life. Yet, the gospel redeems children from the brutality of the world and lifts them up as valuable in the eyes of God, and therefore, in the eyes of fathers.
The Apostle Paul gives father's very specific instructions on how to relate to their children. First, he doesn't single out boys. This is important because in the first century father's had little to do with their daughters specifically and children generally. Wives raised children until they were close to their teens, at which point the father took his son under his wing and taught him the family trade. Girls remained in the home and under their mothers care until they were married. By identifying children in this command Paul raises the status of not just children but girls as well (if you remember in Proverbs the writer always addressed the sons).
Secondly, Paul instructs fathers not to provoke their children to anger. The Greek word means to exasperate or irritate. When seeking the unity within the home (and thus in the church) father's have a responsibility to treat their children with respect. But what does it mean not irritate your children? I am sure my boys could tell you that I irritated them all the time, whether it was through discipline or embarrassment (and I don't think the Apostle would deprive a father of the joy of embarrassing his children in front of their friends).
There is nothing more exasperating then demanding unreasonable expectations. Mothers are more compassionate, but fathers tend to tell their children to stop crying and get over it. Unreasonable expectations are the sign of weak parenting. Each child is different. They have different personalities, different, gifts, different intellectual and physical capabilities. Parents who expect the same from each child hasn't taken the opportunity to learn about their children's particular needs.
Unreasonable expectations sets the course of the child's life. Parents who decide for their children what they will be, what career they will pursue, what person they will marry, or what school they will attend exasperate children who are trying to make their own way. Good parenting sees how a child is bent and guides them in the way they should go.
Unreasonable expectations does not allow for free exchange of ideas and emotions. "Because I said so," may be true, but it stifles communication, reasoning skills, and compromise. I don't believe you can reason with a two year old and I have watched mothers argue with toddlers trying to get them to understand and obey. Explaining is an important tool in the growth of the child, and encourages them to use reasoning skills. A simple explanation for a toddler and a conversation with a teenager. When parents engage their children in the rationale of their decision it helps children to form good reasoning skills. They may not agree with the decision and you might have to end with "because I said so," but it should never be the starting point.
The third part of Paul's instructions is for the father to engage in the discipline and instruction of his children. Parents should always display a united front before the children. That means parents need to agree on discipline techniques, standards for video games, TV, and friends. Children are good at divide and conquer,mane if parents don't agree then watch out.
Our boys hated the answer to their question, "let me talk to you mom (or dad)." Ahhhh, they would say. "Mom said I needed to ask you." Which meant Rebecca and I needed to talk. We typically agreed that the most conservative opinion was followed. I was more apt to let them wander the streets aimlessly. But usually if Rebecca or I said no that was the answer.
Parents need to parent ahead of their children. Too often parenting is reactionary and last minute. But looking at the next stage of your child's development and determining your decisions ahead of time takes a lot of pressure out parenting. That's why the third child is easier. By then you have figured out what battles are worth fighting. Thinking ahead with the first child will help eliminate unreasonable expectations.
Parenting should be in the Lord. There is nothing more frightening then your children walking away from the faith. Parents hover, protect, and manipulate to keep this from happening. In the end the child must make his own decisions. Again discipline and instruction in the Lord means there is a base or moral expectations and personal value that shapes parental discipline and instruction.
This includes theology and the disciplines of the faith. It means teaching didacticly and by example. It means serving your children and teaching them to serve. It means asking for forgiveness and extending grace. It means knowing when punishment is redemptive and mercy preferable. It means being sure of what you believe, but allowing room for questions of doubt. It means guiding not pushing. It means eventually letting go and trusting the Holy Spirit.
I have three godly young men who have married godly women and it brings joy to my soul. They are different and are finding their way in life differently. We don't agree on every point of our faith, but we are free to express lovingly our points of view. Parenting never ends, but it morphs and grows. I am thankful that my children still want to talk with me about life and faith, and I hope that the mistakes I have made as a father have been covered by the grace of God and my children's love.
Their are few guarantees in parenting, but their are clear instructions. Have at it..I'm just saying...
Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."