Every parent has felt anger toward their children at one time or another. While there is such a thing as righteous anger, most of the anger I’ve given into as a parent was more the result of impatience, lack of grace and the feeling that my goals were being blocked. While some parents treat anger as a discipline strategy, Scripture has convinced me that getting angry at children usually does more to model the parent’s lack of grace than it does to help build grace in children. As James 1:20 warns, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Even when you’re convinced that most anger is counterproductive, it doesn’t take it away. We still need a plan for dealing with our anger. This week, I read Sam Crabtree’s excellent article on how to keep your cool when your children misbehave. Let me share some of the things I learned and add some other things that have helped me.
Crabtree gives parents seven tips:
1. Plan Early: Look at the root causes of your anger and plan strategies to address them.
2. Own Your Eruptions: Admit when you have blown it and seek forgiveness for your outbursts.
3. Pause: Step back from the conflict and try and gain perspective.
4. Go to God: Pray and ask God for help, for humility and the filling of God’s Spirit.
5. Laugh Together: Use humour and laughter to lighten the mood.
6. Absorb the Bible: Get God’s perspective on anger with specific Scriptures to guide you.
7. Give Thanks: Thank God for the opportunity that the conflict gives for your growth.
I think this is a helpful list of ideas and I’d commend the rest of his article to you.
Let me share some of the ways I’ve tried to deal with anger in my parenting:
1. Re-visit your parenting strategy. For me, anger is usually a sign of exasperation: my plan isn’t working. My anger is a signal that I need to revisit my plan. Have I resorted to nagging instead of consequences? Have I become lazy when I need to be consistent? Do the consequences for sin reflect the seriousness of the sin that’s been committed? Adding anger to an ineffective parenting strategy isn’t a recipe for success.
2. Re-visit your parenting goals. One of the things that ignited anger in me and frustration in my children was trying to work on too many goals at once. I found that my children were more focused, and I was more relaxed, when I worked on one goal (i.e. one new behavioural change) at a time.
3. Re-visit your parenting expectations. Today, many parents’ moral and spiritual expectations for their children are too low rather than too high. But one of the things that fueled my anger and my children’s frustration was expecting behaviour in my children that I hadn’t prepared them for. Before I expect behaviour, I need to teach the behaviour and the basis for it.
4. Re-visit your schedule. When I’m healthy and well-rested, I’m much less prone to anger. But when my schedule fills up and I’m stressed, I’m far more irritable. When I feel myself getting angry, I need to slow down and ask, “Is it me? Is this more about my stress and busyness than my child’s behaviour?”
Parenting comes with a long list of temptationsto anger, but all of us can work at becoming slightly less angry. Anger short-circuits what we’re trying to say and accomplish in our children’s lives and often only communicates impatience and frustration. May God give us wisdom to understand the causes of our anger and seek the Spirit’s help in nurturing patience, grace and self-control.
In awe of Him,