Recently, I posted one of those “Throwback Thursday” photos on Facebook. 7 years ago, while I was in the thick of parenting a toddler and a colicky infant, we somehow found time for family portraits. I’m smiling in the picture, but beneath the surface I was a ticking time bomb.
Quite often, I’d lose my temper with my son, saying unkind words and making threats I had no intention of following through on. I reacted badly to disobedience and became easily frustrated with what I perceived as slowness to complete tasks.
I was an angry mom.
As I look back on that photo now, I wish I hadn’t been ruled by my emotions, and overlooked the special moments right in front of me. Anger towards our children can have serious consequences, not just for them, but for us. It can cause us to miss out on all the blessings God has for us as parents.
In Numbers 20:10-12, we see Moses becoming so angry and frustrated with the Israelites that he ultimately ends up losing the blessing of entering the Promised Land.
Angry and stressed out parenting has become the norm of our society, even among Christians, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Here are six ways to stop responding in anger to your kids’ behavior:
When we’re short on time and energy, we tend to react poorly, even to minor situations. Some of the biggest reasons why we’re angry and stressed honestly have to do with habits and things we allow into our lives that are completely unnecessary.
All those activities like ballet, little league, and even church clubs that have us running our kids here and there during the week, and then racing back home to prepare meals, get baths done, etc. leave us pretty exhausted. The stress that piles up from having multiple commitments coupled with small children is not conducive to a happy home. A mama who is not stressed and feeling perpetually behind sets the tone for a peaceful, loving home.
I find that my kids also get on my nerves more easily when I haven’t been disciplined with my time. When we fail to plan ahead, or prioritize our to-do list, we view all their little interruptions as infringements on our ability to get things done. Try getting up 30 minutes earlier in the morning to knock out some tasks, or keeping a detailed planner. Also watch how much time you spend on social media! It’s a huge time suck.
Another completely avoidable factor may just be a bad diet. There are strong correlations between rage and certain ingredients in food like gluten, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors. After radically changing my diet a few years ago, it’s amazing how much better (and calmer) I feel!
For the sake of convenience, we tend to overlook what we consider small things and don’t deal with them right away. We ignore, excuse, or justify poor attitudes and behavior, and don’t make active parenting the priority it should be.
Eventually however, those “minor offenses” escalate until we have a much bigger problem. We’re more likely to respond out of frustration and anger then, because we feel the issue has grown beyond our control.
Counsel Your Children With the Word
Most of us get frustrated because we’re simply trying to change attitudes and behavior in our own strength, instead of letting the Bible convict our children. We do it according to the flesh, instead of the Spirit, and therefore produce more flesh.
Ephesians 6:4 tells us not to exasperate our children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. The fruit of the Spirit is only produced by the Holy Spirit. We provoke our kids when we’re frustrated that working on their behavior is costing us time, and demand that they change according to our timetable.
Let God do a work in their lives, in His own timing. After all, they’re His workmanship. And those frustrating, annoying traits of theirs? They may just be a very particular way God has created them to walk in the specific good works He has planned for each one.
Understand Motherhood In Context
As moms, our anger tends to be triggered any time our kids’ behavior could potentially reflect badly on us. But our primary role as a mother is to be an ambassador of Christ to our children.
You are telling your kids, in all your interactions with them, “come back to God!” Instead of thinking how this particular behavior is an interruption in your orderly day, or how many times you have to correct the same thing, consider how this is another chance to appeal to your children for God.
And as you lead them to the Lord, their behavior is the very thing He uses to change you more into His image! It’s not an inconvenience; it’s an opportunity for sanctification. This 24/7/365 parenting process is His primary means of drawing you close to Him right now.
Moses was denied entrance into the Promised Land, not so much because he acted in anger, but because of what drove the anger– his lack of faith in God.
Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill. – Numbers 20:10
Before gathering the people together, Moses and Aaron had been instructed by God to speak to the rock in order to get water for everyone to drink. However, Moses lost his temper (and his ability to think clearly) and struck the rock with his staff instead. In this way, he failed to demonstrate complete dependence upon God. He didn’t need to use force; he simply needed to obey God and know that God would be true to His promise.
When we don’t trust God for the outcome with our children, our emotions cloud our judgment. We end up believing our own abilities will somehow bring about change in their hearts, instead of allowing the Lord to do a work of righteousness in them.
Pray In Earnest
If you feel overwhelmed and hopeless that things will change, cry out to God! He promises that He will help us, if we ask and believe He is able.
Pray that He would help you overcome your angry outbursts and harsh words towards your children. Then, be willing to surrender to His will. The same Spirit that will develop good fruit in your children is the same one who will produce the fruit of self-control in you.
It’s not easy parenting some days, and our kids are really good at pushing our buttons. But it’s not impossible to break the cycle of blowing up and then feeling guilty! The more you make your relationship with Christ a priority and stay connected to Him, the more control you’ll have over your tongue and emotions.