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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Anger in Parenting Part 2

A long time back I wrote about anger in parenting.  I think it's time I revisit this subject.

Because as I ponder it I realize that I still think it is healthy for children - especially as they get older - to know that:

1. Anger is a powerful emotion that has a proper place in the home.
2. Anger is meant to be controlled.
3. Anger can provoke fear - and fear is not always to be avoided.
4. Anger is appropriate at times.
5. Anger needs to be addressed, dealt with and expressed in a healthy way.

As I have considered all the feedback I realize that anger is wrong when it:

1. Is based on my selfish desires and wishes.
2. Is focussed on retribution or retaliation.
3. Is not instructive but merely biting or hurtful.
4. Is out of control.

These thoughts raise some theological questions, as all thoughts should in any thinking person.  Namely, God, as a perfect parent, does get angry.  Sin, unrighteousness, injustice, degrading one another, tearing down those He created as His own image bearers, rebellion, unrepentance, pride, arrogance, haughtiness, superiority, unforgiveness - these all bear the wrath of God - and rightly so.

If our children grow up devoid of any sense of righteous indignant anger on our part as parents, are we truly revealing to them the character of God?

I really believe the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.  And I believe fear means fear.  As in afraid.  Shaking in our boots.  Woe-is-me type fear.

We should be afraid of the wrath of God and our children should be afraid to incur our wrath - no question.

Should we love God less?  No - where else can we turn - He has the words of eternal life!
Should we fear to approach Him?  No - when covered in the atoning blood of His perfect Son we stand shielded from His mighty wrath.  Should we then deny His wrath exists?  No - we should humbly adore and gratefully devote ourselves to Him for undertaking our just punishment.

Should our children love us less because they fear us?

No.

In homes where I see strong discipline and children who almost shake in their boots in the presence of their fathers I also see deep loyalty, respect, devotion, affection and love towards this one they respect so highly.

Children need strong parents - it goes without saying - but I'll say it.  It is almost cliche by now, but I really believe wet-noodle parenting yields disastrous results.

I fail at many turns and in this way of course I do not emulate God as a parent.  But I believe it also behooves us as parents to repent of our failings and demonstrate humility and our frail humanity and show them what it looks like to fail.  But in apologizing to our children, when it is called for, I do think it is important to make clear to our children that regardless of our failings it is not their place to critique us as parents (unless we invite their input at a neutral time), or to gloat over their parents when they do fail.  I have often apologized to my children and at the same time told them that they are still required to respect and obey me even when I make mistakes or am wrong in my attitude.

So many parents live in perpetual guilt that they are afraid to call their kids to respect and honour their God-given authority.

Some would tell me that we must always be gentle in our tone, always building up in everything we say.  Scripture does teach this - but Jesus often demonstrated to us that 'building up' may include correction, rebuke and a call to change.  I somehow cannot see Jesus saying to Peter - his close friend - 'Get thee behind me Satan!' in a syruppy sweet voice.  We don't know what tone he used.  We don't know the tone He used with the Pharisees - 'You white washed sepulchres!'  We can only guess.

When our children demonstrate foolishness, insolence, rebellion, unrepentance, haughtiness and disobedience I do believe we have not only the freedom, but the obligation to communicate to them the dangerous ground they are standing on.  If we do that with an edge in our voice, a seriousness in our tone and a rebuke on our tongue, so be it.  They need to fear God.

Their lives depend on it.




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