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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Anger in Parenting

I really have a bee in my bonnet this time. I invite your comments and input here - please, share freely your opinions and insights!

We started off as parents agreed that discipline in the home should be orderly, un-emotive, controlled, calm, and firm. We read books such as 'Shepherding a Child's heart' and 'To Train up a Child' among many others. We interviewed other parents whose kids we liked. We talked to kids raised in homes we respected. Many of our conclusions led to a non-emotional approach to discipline. We felt that discipline should always be divorced from expressed anger from the parent.

Somewhere along the way I lost my convictions on this matter. I began to believe it was important for my kids to understand that anger isn't wrong, that disobedience invokes anger, that anger can be healthily displayed and controlled, that God can be angry at times - while still not treating us as our sins deserve - and on and on... At the same time, Scripture is clear that there is a call to self-control as a fruit of the Spirit and that our 'gentleness should be evident to all.'

I have a lot more to say on this, but I'm too angry to voice it here at this point, or it will come out as irrational ranting, which is not what I want. I am angry about and at anger. I am angry that addressing anger in myself even has to be a point I think upon. I am angry that I am caught between vascillating convictions - to be angry or not. It all just angers me so. And disobedience and siblings not dwelling in harmony - these anger me too. Should they not anger me? Should I just calmly apply discipline as some kind of robotic being who expressed nothing more than a firm 'This should not be done!' while implementing stern consequences for foul behaviour? Should I never yell at my kid when they disobey? Is yelling entirely wrong? Is anger harmful to children?

I'll toss this out there and wait for replies. Surely you all have something to say on the matter. I read in Proverbs yesterday about the foolish not heeding instruction and scoffing at wisdom. I hope not to be like that. Please feel free to point out the error of my ways/thinking. I will give it careful thought, I assure you!

Thanks people!

You can now read Part 2 by following this link:
Anger in Parenting Part 2

9 comments:

  1. I had a great reply typed earlier and it got lost as I tried to post it, so here I go once again....

    You've expressed a dilemma that so many parents feel but very few are courageous enough to voice. There is a stigma when it comes to anger and people are afraid to 'fess up. I belive that there is a time to express anger, although controlled, so your children understand the weight of the situation at hand. God does not hide his anger when there is just cause, however He also does not punish or lash out at us with immediate and senseless discipline. His punishment is always meted out with instruction and explanation and with a heart that is heavy with love, concern and dissapointment. To never express anger would be to give your children a dissolutioned view of the world- you would be a Stepford Parent of sorts. That's unrealistic and dangerous.

    That said, there are parents whose only form of communication is angry yelling. Their children either learn to tune out until the parent is shrieking in rage or they cower in fear of what follows.

    I believe it can be healthy to show your children that something angers you (whether it is their behavior or something else) BUT in a controlled and Godly way. I'll say to my kids 'that makes me angry' and I'll use a tone that let's them know that I'm not headed out for a happy meal and a stroll. But, my eyes are not rolling back in my head and my neck vein is not popping, hence, mature, controlled anger.

    A parent cannot allow their anger to be the catalyst for action and punishment. When I get angry, I will tell my kids why I am angry and then I will send them to their room to think about the situation, while I also think about and pray about what my next action will be. (self-preservation and preservation of the younger generation) Then when everyone is more settled we talk about what happened, consequences are delivered and apologies are shared. The main point is - what is the goal? If it's just anger and venting to get out frustration and blow off steam, then call the therapist. But if it's a learning opportunity to allow your children to see that there are some things in your home, life, this world, that are simply intolerable and will not be allowed, then it has its place. Anger must be handled rightly. Godly parenting is the ability to show all emotions with self-control (three cheers for the fruit of the Spirit!) and teach your children that they too can show emotion and still bring glory to God in what they do.

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    1. I really liked your input here. In fact, I have begun to follow much of your advice - telling my kids when I am angry and why and taking some time to process it! Great thoughts here!

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  2. Two verses come to mind: Eph. 4:26 "Be angry but do not sin". and "for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" James 1:20.

    I probably yell and lose my cool more often than I should..and I don't like it because I feel foolish afterward. I feel like I am much more effective when I stay calm. But I do not think we should be hypocrites and try to be someone we are not.

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    1. You are right Robyn - I continue to mull these things over and will probably have to write a part 2 and include these verses! I too feel more effective when I'm calm...

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  3. It seems crucial to take the time to get honest with my own heart as to the REAL cause of my anger! It's all too easy to give a quick reason that sounds good, while the REAL reason stays hidden from view!

    Is my anger caused by my being inconvenienced? I wanted things done MY way and MY timing! Is it my lack of love that "is patient and kind" cause my anger? Was my real concern that someone else noticed, so now I'm embarrassed and bothered, when it wouldn't have bothered me, had no one noticed? Is it my fear of man, and what they'll say, that drives my anger? What thoughts and beliefs are driving my angry feelings? Am I justifying my unloving, sinful response, based on their sinful choice? Am I blaming their unloving choices, attitudes or words for my unloving reaction? Was a lie-belief about myself triggered by their behavior? (E.g. "I'm a failure as a Mom, and this proves it!" "I need to make my children do right, so that I look good to others.") ETC.

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  4. "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity." Eph 4:26

    This SEEMS to imply that the initial feeling of anger is not the problem, rather what I do next. Don't justify my sinful reactions, because I feel that anger! Rather, let my anger help me discover that there IS a real need and what that need is. I can then find the helpful and effective solution!

    Feelings are often regarded as "enemies" when in fact they are incredible "friends" when I allow them to alert me to important things that NEED my attention!

    E.g. Someone IS sinning, causing pain and damage, and they need to stop. Or, my own sinful heart is being revealed by my anger. Or, my anger is revealing a lie that I'm believing. Or, their anger is revealing a lie that they are believing!

    Invest the time, effort and attention to finding what the REAL cause of my anger is. VERY important, but rarely done. Discover how God would say I should respond to "that." Trust Him, believe His word enough to respond HIS way, rather than the ways that seem right and come so naturally to me! Realize and acknowledge that apart from Him, I can do nothing, but WITH Him all things are possible! :)

    ****"...and do not give the devil an opportunity." (An easily ignored, but crucial part of that verse!) The devil is a liar, Deceiver.****

    There's a LOT we'd do differently if we realized the lies that get planted in the person's heart, every time we get angry! If we recognized the cause and effects and the damage caused by the responses that flow from those lies believed! The massive effects on our relationship with that person!

    You asked, "Is anger harmful to children?" I don't think we begin to realize the incredible amount of pain and damage we cause to children, (and to all of our relationships), by our impatience, and unkindness, and all of anger's subtle fruit!

    My guess is, that if we realized how HUGE the damage is, we'd be shocked into giving our attention to what the REAL cause is, of my anger, and what God says I should do about that!

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  5. I appreciate your comments and invite more on this subject. Let me clarify that what I mean by my anger as a parent is not to do with when I am inconvenienced or embarrassed by their behaviour. I tend not to get embarrassed by them, because I don't buy into the notion that everything they do or appear as is to my credit or to my blame. That would be a waste of emotional energy, of which I have none to spare.

    Usually my anger is specific to sinfulness displayed in my children (to be consistent I should feel the same level of anger when confronting sin in myself). There are few things that rile me up more than: siblings injuring/hitting/hurting each other, blatant disobedience when obedience has been clearly directed (not the same as distraction etc.) and disrespect - for me or each other. Getting annoyed about my own inconveniences isn't usually a source of my anger, or even just their childishness - I feel I understand those things and have patience and compassion for the most part in those departments! It is blatant wrong-doing that gets me going. Apparently, God has similar reactions to His recalcitrant people who disregard Him, as displayed in the O.T. When we talk of being 'godly' do we include God's anger in this description? Of course in His anger, though He allowed and even brought on suffering, He also followed up with compassionate pursuit of their hearts, which is also what I aim to do. But God never 'blows it' inappropriately, like I might do, and therefore never needs to apologize for His anger, whereas, there are times I blow it, wrongly, and must repent before God and the kids and seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

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  6. Kids will be kids and no matter what, they are little sinners. We are all sinners who fall short of the glory of God. We need to train them up to respect the Lord and other people, while honoring their parents. When we felt we have done wrong in diciplining them, we can turn to them and ask for the same forgiveness Christ offers us. Most of all, PRAY and keep PRAYING, God is always listening and his peace will help you greatly.

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement to pray. I feel this is such a key area and so necessary and yet I devote so little time and effort to prayer for them. Great reminder.

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