5 Parenting Don’ts

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. ~ Colossians 3:21

The Bible is full of warnings, instructions and promises. In Colossians 3:21, we receive a clear parenting “don’t”. Paul warns us not to embitter our children because it leads to their discouragement.

Paul warns not to “embitter” (NIV), meaning to cause one to feel bitter or resentful. He explains that it causes kids to feel discouraged. Discouraged literally means to cause someone to lose confidence or enthusiasm.

I doubt any of us desires to discourage our children, however we can easily fall into patterns that are harmful to our precious relationships with our kids. Here are 5 patterns that can result in discouraging our children.

1. Don’t be Over-Critical (Colossians 3:21)

It can be easy to fall into being over-critical when kids are going through a period of poor choices. However, as we become increasingly critical of their behavior, they give up on trying. Have you ever been in a relationship when you just couldn’t seem to please the other person? Nobody wants to feel like a disappointment. We eventually stop trying.

Being over-critical and fault-finding is the opposite of grace, mercy and patience we find in Christ. God desires we reflect the Light of Christ to everyone around us, including our children.

Instead (1st Thessalonians 5:11)

Make it a point to identify everything they do right. Offer words of affirmation…
I love when you_________.
Thank you for being so _____.
I appreciate when you _____.

2. Don’t Compare Siblings (James 2:9)

Lining up one’s strengths against one’s weaknesses can also lead to discouragement. God has blessed each one of us with unique strengths and weaknesses. He uses both our strengths and our weaknesses to shape us for His purpose and our good.

Instead (James 2:1)

Using words of affirmation can be very effective rather than comparing strengths and weaknesses between siblings. Rather than pointing out their weaknesses and comparing them, encourage them. Grace comes alongside and helps. If an area of weakness is exposed, we as parents get the privilege of shaping and encouraging growth.

3. Don’t React with Anger and Yelling (Proverbs 15:1)

Parenting is a tough gig. I’m certain one of God’s purposes in blessing me with children is to refine my patience. (For more on why we choose anger click here.)

Instead (James 1:19-20)

Be slow to speak, and slow to become angry. This sometimes calls for your poker face. It’s okay to do, what I call a “reverse time out”. A reverse time out is when I take a time-out. I collect my thoughts and think things through. The bonus? My parenting regrets have been cut down drastically. It also allows wisdom to soak back into my brain before I open my mouth.

4. Don’t Use Harsh Words (Proverbs 12:18)

Conveying frustration through harsh words and tone of voice is another cause of discouragement. Harsh words are often received as negative messages.

Instead (Ecclesiastes 10:12-14)

Convey gentleness and patience in your voice. Gentle words convey messages of love and belonging (more on that here).

5. Don’t Treat Them Anyway You Wouldn’t Want to be Treated Yourself (Luke 6:31)

This one is pretty self-explanatory and connects to the first four don’ts that we covered.

Instead (Matthew 22:39)

Remember the golden rule here. Demonstrate love through action. Reflect on how you would want to be treated when making a mistake or poor choice. What would be the most effective response if you were in their shoes?

Some Encouragement

Every parent has engaged in these behaviors at one time or another, to one extent or another. It is important to remember that it takes time and practice to change patterns and see the fruits of our labor.

Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13:17


  • Seek God through prayer. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  • Confess to the one who forgives and forgets. (1st John 1:19)
  • Ask for wisdom (James 1:5)
  • Trust in Him and His ways (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Quick Recap

We don’t want our kiddos to feel discouraged by our parenting. We want to avoid being over-critical and harsh in our responses to their behavior. We can accomplish more through offering grace and encouragement.

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