In the church, there’s a lot of teaching of “honoring your father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2), but very little on the following verse:
4 Fathers,[b] do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
“Exasperate” means “anger, frustrate or annoy”.
I have been hearing much from adult children who feel angered and annoyed by their parents.
Let me put this in context for my readers who are in the West. In Asia, it is expected for the younger generation to look after the older, which I believe honors God. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency for the older generation to demand it as a right.
The thinking goes something like this: “Because I brought you up, you are obliged to repay me when I get old.” The children are resentful as they are being treated as a commodity — an investment against loneliness and insurance against financial lack. Growing up in an Asian family often means a son, more often a daughter, is expected to “pay back”. The parent-child relationship is transactional, a unilateral contract that is imposed on the offspring.
With that undertone marking the relationship, adult children often express anger, irritation and resentment over something they have involuntarily signed up for. They are “exasperated”; at the same time, they are plagued by guilt over the possibility they are being disloyal or ungrateful.
In addition, Asian parents very often don’t change their overbearing attitude. There’s a tendency to “talk down” to their adult children and they feel hurt if the response is one of irritation. They do not understand that their grown-up children want to be treated with respect and the way the generations relate need to be re-negotiated.
2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
But one must also not “exasperate your children”. The two go hand in hand. Emphasising the first without dealing with the second causes an imbalance in the equation.
Listening to adult children sharing frustration over unreasonable parents, my only feedback was to try to work out a win-win if possible — yes, do look after the aged, but take care of yourself too. Beware that you are modeling for your young children how you would like to be looked after when you get old and God forbid, a little hazy in the mind and a little clumsy in the body.