I used to think I didn’t have a problem with anger – that is, until I had kids. It’s easy to lose it when you’re sleep deprived and have to repeat the same instruction over and over again. Or how about when your kid does something humiliating in public, or when they start fighting with their sibling(s) – again. My kids bring out some of the best in me, but they also know how to touch that last nerve.
The longer I go through this journey of motherhood, I realize just how much God is using it to refine me, especially when it comes to emotions like anger. In talking about it with the Lord, He continually brings to mind Ephesians 4:26 (see also Psalm 4:4) “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” More often than not, I DO sin when I’m angry. Instead of enacting justice and righteousness, my anger usually serves to fulfill weakness or selfish desire. But I love this verse so much because it points to the freedom that we have to experience those strong feelings, and yet not give in to our sinful nature. What a blessing it is to be reminded that the God who created us to feel the full gamut of emotions also empowers us to honor him with them.
As with any other sin area, I’ve found it most helpful to have a strategy to help nudge me toward a more God-honoring response when I’m feeling angry. These little “checkpoints,” if you will, are reminders for me to bring clarity and diffuse the situation.
PAUSE before I cause more harm:
One of the first things I try to do when I’m really angry is to pause. Instead of raising my voice, pause. Instead of doing something I’ll regret, separate from my kids for a few minutes. Sometimes just the very act of a change of scenery or pace goes a long way towards clearing my head.
Remember the WHO: In the heat of the moment, it’s so easy to lash out and wound our kids. I am learning to take the harder road of addressing the issue but also trying to build up my kids. One way to do this is to physically get on their level, when possible. Instead of having a physically threatening posture, getting on their level helps me connect with them more quickly, and I’m less likely to lash out when I can see their eyes. Of course, when I’m trying to hurry everyone out the door or remind them to stop hitting brother while we’re driving in the car, that doesn’t work…But you catch my drift. I also try to ask myself:
- What stage are they in (developmentally, spiritually, etc.)? Did they actually do something wrong, or are they just being energetic, curious kids?
- If they did sin, how can I point them back to Christ?
Unpack the Baggage:
We are more likely to hurt ourselves (and others) when we’re carrying around something heavy or volatile for extended periods of time. Since anger is more of a cover emotion for deeper issues, it’s so beneficial to unpack it and give the underlying issues their suitable place. Sometimes I do this alone, but sometimes I do it with my kids. Not only does it help me release a burden, it models healthy ways to cope for my kids. Some different ways to unpack anger are:
- Identify the hurt
- Ask for help from God or others (Is this a sin issue or a hormonal issue that needs medical attention?)
- Prioritize forgiveness (ask and/or give others) and trust God for healing
That last point is one that I especially struggle with most. Sometimes holding on to anger feels like the only bit of control I have in a situation. I also don’t always experience healing right away. Yet, I’m trying to remember that faith in God is not just for salvation, but also for trusting Him with our emotions – big or small.
How about you? How do you deal with anger with your kids?
Extra resources: For going deeper, I highly recommend the Core Lies study from Dave & Cathy Bowman