"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart." (Col. 3:21).
The loss of heart in a child is many times directly tied to the loss of hope instilled by fathers -- if there is a father at all. Exasperating a child is a serious sin. Discouragement is a learned outlook -- the loss of hope reinforced from a negligent father.
Fathers who give hope usually possess three essentials: First, they love their child's mother. Watching dad honor mom is a stabilizing anchor in a child -- a source of encouragement. But when the opposite is present -- raising of the voice, belittling of the person, critical of the effort -- children pick up on these things and are provoked, simply out of a defense for their mom. The result is they retreat in discouragement or act out in anger -- both signs of detachment from the instruction and discipline of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
Second, they treat every child consistently but each child sensitively. Children pick up on a lack of fairness, especially from fathers who set the standard of what will and won't be tolerated. Do for one and not for the other will grow resentment and bitterness -- accusations of "daddy's pet." But just as bad, treating every child as a cookie-cutter communicates a lack of personality or identity. While disobedience and dishonor must always be dealt with, how they're dealt with will depend on the maturity and needs of the child. One size doesn't fit all, yet all must fit a size!
Third, they're not afraid to ask for forgiveness when they make a mistake. To a child, integrity isn't being perfect, but it is being honest. Coming clean when you fail tells your child you're imperfect like him, shows him how to correct his mistakes, how to take the consequences like a man. Nothing discourages more than being around "perfect" people with your own imperfections.
Father's Day is a reminder that fathers carry a huge responsibility. They set the agenda for how their children see the world -- and especially the Kingdom of God. Grace in the heart of fathers should translate into hope in the heart of children. After all, our heavenly Father doesn't exasperate us. Anything less is an affront to the gospel.