"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."
~ Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)
Recently, I was reading a memoir written by highly successful woman. She was also a mother, and the descriptions of motherhood sounded like this: “I love spending time with my kids . . . For me, motherhood is the highest calling . . . just looking at my children makes me so happy.” It sounded as if the majority of her moments with her children were blissful, fulfilling, and warm - with kisses and hugs all around. The more I read these rosy descriptions of motherhood, the more guilty I felt: lately, my interactions with my two teenagers have been a far cry from loving! Instead, they know how to “push my buttons,” and I find myself getting angry with them quickly and easily.
At first, I panicked, wondering, “Is this normal? Does anyone else get angry with their kids?” In other words, I was looking for some other moms who could commiserate, since misery loves company! But the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that - normal or not - being angry with my children feels wrong. The more often we argue or fight, the more tense our household becomes - and this is not the type of relationship I want my children to remember when they think back to their teenage years.
So, I set off to my Bible to see what God has to say about anger. Here is what I found, along with some ideas and takeaways:
- “The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (Psalm 145:8). As human beings, we do and say the wrong things so often, it would be easy for God to get angry with us, wouldn’t it? And when I think about the types of things my own children do that result in maternal wrath, it just doesn’t compare. For example, my daughter has a maddening habit of remembering to ask me to wash her gymsuit . . . at about 10 PM at night - long after I’ve folded the other laundry and cleaned up for the night. In the grand scheme of things, I can think of a lot worse that I’ve personally done. If God isn’t going to hold my transgressions against me, what makes me think I should treat my daughter differently?
Fortunately, God has infinite patience and is filled with love. As a parent, I can focus more on loving thoughts and words, in an effort to “crowd out” the negative. If I spend more time talking to my daughter in a positive way, I won’t have room for the criticism. That’s not to say she never needs to be admonished, and there are certainly times that she needs to experience consequences for her actions. However, when I find the dynamic tipping to a point where I’m upset with her more often than not, it is probably time to check myself and ask if I’m being “slow to anger” or not - and most times, the answer is probably no.
- “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1). This goes right along with the verse in Psalms. One way I can crowd out anger with love is by using gentle words. The next time I want to react to something my son or daughter says or does with a sharp tongue, I can choose a gentle response rather than a bitter one. I've seen firsthand that when I overreact with harsh words, their "tempers flare,” and they start yelling or reacting defensively right back at me.
- “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs” (Proverbs 19:11). In the words of the song from Disney’s movie, Frozen, I need to "Let it go!" I am not earning anyone's respect - including my children’s - by becoming angry; rather, I need to take that moment to pause so that I can better learn to control an angry reaction.
- “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quickly hold it back” (Proverbs 29:11). The older I get, the more wise I have gotten in many areas of life. I find that when I don’t feel the need to be right or have the final word, I am becoming more wise in this area, too.
- “An angry person starts fights; a hot tempered person commits all kinds of sin” (Proverbs 29:22). Ouch! How true this is. Whenever I react in the heat of the moment and get angry, I find myself saying things I later regret. Making a mean comment or just having to have the last word definitely falls into the "sin"category! Thinking of it in these terms makes me more committed to avoiding this type of transgression.
All of this sounds good in theory. The real question is, can I put this to practice in my life? My plan is to re-read what I've written here each day, and act on my own suggestions when I'm tempted to lose my cool.
Now, what about you? How do you react when you get angry with your children? Are there ways that you have positively dealt with these negative emotions? I'd love to hear from you!
Written By: Julie Lyons
Julie Lyons is a married, working mother of two teenage children - and first-time pet parent to a very spoiled five-year old Maltese. Last year, she decided to blend her part time freelance writing with her faith, resulting in her new book, The Inspired Woman. For more encouragement and inspiration, visit Julie’s website at http://www.mydailywalkwithgod.com.