Relationships require constant work, and the work of love is never really over. This is never truer than when it comes to dealing with the people closest to us, including our kids.
Our children are a gift from the Lord. The Bible tells us this when it says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3 ESV) Of course, if we are honest with ourselves, we may not always feel like they are a gift.
When you’ve broken up the same fight between siblings for the fifth time in then minutes, or you’ve stepped on Legos again after saying they should be put away, or you’ve been interrupted once again while you’re on a work Zoom call – an ungodly thought or two can cross your mind.
When we get angry at our kids, we know that we should have more patience and should probably react like the adult in the situation. What do you do then, if you find yourself feeling angry more often than you feel you should toward your kids? Here are a few tips to encourage you.
Anger Is a Natural Reaction
Firstly, recognize that anger is a natural reaction to the circumstances we encounter. Don’t berate yourself for feeling angry about something. We have emotions, and those emotions exist within us and are part of us.
Parent guilt is real. We may feel that we shouldn’t get angry at all when our children behave in certain ways. While it’s true that having patience is a necessary virtue as a parent or caregiver, that patience can run out.
Give yourself permission to feel angry. However, it’s vitally important to know what you will do with that anger. But as a first step, don’t add guilt to the burden of feeling angry. You feel what you feel, and it’s how our bodies and minds tell us that something is out of order and needs to be addressed.
Don’t Let Anger Take Charge
While anger is a natural emotion and reaction to the things we experience, it’s a good servant but a poor master. If anger stays in the driver’s seat while you’re interacting with your child, you will be asking for trouble.
The Bible says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV) These verses remind us that anger shouldn’t be allowed to lead us, as it may have disastrous consequences.
If your child does something that angers you, and you respond to them in anger, you may veer from the role God has given you as a parent. There is no constructive role that anger plays in raising a child. While something might anger you, your words and actions should come from a place of love. If it is discipline or a rebuke that your child requires at that moment, that is best given in love, while you’re calm and in control of your faculties.
Get to the Root of the Matter
Anger is a strange emotion. It can erupt without warning, and when it flares up it may not be connected to the situation we are in presently. The person we get angry at may not even be the real culprit that aroused our ire.
All this means that we need to be careful when we get angry because innocent bystanders can get caught in the crossfire. It is wise to take some time to dissect your feelings when you are angry.
Sometimes anger is rooted in unmet expectations. You may be expecting your child to pick up his toys and clothes before guests arrive, and when he fails to do this, you might get angry. With your older children, you may have had conversations about the standard of behavior expected from everyone in the house, and when those standards are violated, your anger can be aroused.
At other times, we might find ourselves getting angry at our children because of something else that’s happening with us that has absolutely nothing to do with them. For example, you may be struggling to meet a work deadline, and your anger toward your work situation is simply displaced and directed toward you child who plays her music a bit loudly. In cases like these, we can learn to direct anger where it belongs.
Sometimes we can get angry at our children if they are behaving poorly in public because we are feeling embarrassed or judged by onlookers. You may feel that your parenting is being called into question, and your anger at these strangers, at yourself, and at your child, can become a comingled mess. The child is simply collateral damage in the situation.
At other times, anger and irritability are simply symptoms of another problem, such as depression or a personality disorder. By getting to the root of your anger, it will help you tackle the real issue – whether it’s your own expectations, your sense of self-worth, or mental health concerns that need to be addressed.
Learn to Practice Self-Control
Anger needs to be expressed in a healthy way. Not expressing anger is problematic, and similarly, expressing anger in ways that aren’t safe and healthy for the people around you is also problematic. This is even truer when you are around children, who are so impressionable.
If you need to pause before you speak when you’re feeling angry, then give yourself a quick time out. Take a moment to parse what’s going on in your own heart, then use clear and calm words to express how you’re feeling and why.
Don’t hesitate to apologize, as this will heal any damage in your relationship with your child. You can say, “I’m sorry I yelled at you when all you wanted was to spend some time with me. I noticed you felt bad after I yelled. Will you forgive me?” Apologizing to your child models to them that no one is perfect, and it shows them how they should respond when they come up short.
Let Some Things Go
Parents aren’t always perfect, and we say and do things in anger that we shouldn’t. We should repent of that, apologize when needed, and keep pressing on. You’re not perfect, and that’s something to acknowledge in front of your kids as well as something you need to take to Jesus.
In other situations, like when we get angry because of our expectations, we sometimes need to take a step back, take a breath and recognize that kids are kids. They have a way to go before they are mature. You must keep modeling good behavior to them.
Don’t assume your children know how to do things, and practice patience as you teach them. When they mess up, show them how they can do better next time. Sometimes we simply need to forgive our kids for how they sin against us. It’s important to let as many things go as possible to keep grudges and hard feelings from forming.
Help for Angry Parents
Paul writes to Christian parents in Ephesians 6:4 ESV saying, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” We don’t always know how to be the best parents we can be to our children. It’s a skill set, and like any skill, we need to learn before we become experts.
We can find help for our journey from older people and mentors in our own families or within our church community. There are many parenting groups online which offer encouragement, affirmation, and support. If you find yourself struggling with anger, don’t hesitate to talk with an anger management therapist to help you get your anger under control.
“Father and Children”, Courtesy of Juliane Liebermann, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Washing Up”, Courtesy of CDC, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman and Child”, Courtesy of Bruno Nascimento, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cuddles from Mommy”, Courtesy of Jordan Whitt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License