To wrap up this little series on child discipline there is one more aspect of misbehavior that is important to address: ANGER. An angry kid is a difficult one. They can be sullen or volatile, moody or vicious. But at the heart of anger is pain. Anger is easier than working through grief. It is easier than self-control. And anger is easier than choosing kindness and love.
The first order of business that needs to be addressed when dealing with an angry child is the mirror. Someone somewhere has offended this child. If that someone is you, then you must repent and ask your son or daughter’s forgiveness before you can effectively begin to address the anger issue. Discovering the origin of the anger may be obvious: divorce, bullying, favoritism, grief, disappointment or abuse. Or the origin may take soul searching and prayer to identify. God’s Word firmly warns parents about provoking their children to anger in Colossians 3:21. It comes directly after the verse commanding children to obey parents. So do not beat your child over the head with Colossians 3:20, lest you violate verse 21!
Anger is a heart issue. It cannot be corrected by behavior modification. That would be like cracking the tip of the iceberg off so that the frosty waters look safer and leaving the dangerous, hull splintering part below, just waiting for a victim. Anger sucks the joy out of life. It robs us of peace. Anger demands its rights. As Christians we give up our rights to Jesus, aligning our will and wants with His. We are angry because things do not go our way. But no one ever promised that everything would go our way. Even a child knows that is a foolish assumption. But children will need help to identify what is the heart motive behind the anger response. If it is not you, you will want to ask questions (after the outburst has cooled) like, “What happened during that outburst of anger?” Acknowledge the feelings, but ask for or provide if they cannot, alternatives to the angry outburst for that particular situation. You may need to give small children a hand. “If you felt angry when your sister took the toy, say ‘I felt angry’.” Emphasize forgiveness and role play appropriate responses.
When my girls leave an exchange with me where they did not get what they wanted and make a poor choice of a response, particularly my passionate second born with her highly developed sense of justice, they are required to back up, literally walking back through the door or retracing their steps and re-do the scenario with a biblical response. Sometimes this take several tries! I do not get upset. I simply tell her that was a disrespectful response, and to try again. If she is at a total loss, I fill in a respectful response that still acknowledges her feelings about the situation, for her to repeat. It goes something like this:
My Sunshine Doll: Can I watch a movie?
Me: Nope, your room is a mess.
Sunshine Doll: That’s not my stuff! It’s mostly my sister’s!
Me: Some of it is yours. You can be kind and help your sister out, but dirty room means no movie.
Sunshine Doll: It’s not fair! I always clean up her laundry and she never does mine. You just don’t want me to watch a movie. You are being mean!
Me: That was disrespectful. Try again.
Sunshine Doll: (deep breath) Mom, I want to see this movie so badly and it is due back to the library tomorrow. My sister frustrates me this way and I really wish you would make her pick up her things, because I end up doing my job and hers.
Me: That would upset me, too. But her physical therapy means you have more free time than she does right now. You can choose whether or not to do her a favor, but the movie really is dependent on a clean room.
I wish I was making up this conversation, but just ask my Sunshine Doll. It has played out often enough to be familiar. Unfortunately, she has my temper, inherited from my hillbilly ancestry, I think. We have to ask each other forgiveness and practice Proverbs 15:1. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.”
A great book to read, if anger is a struggle in your home is
|The Heart of Anger|
By Lou Priolo / Grace & Truth Books
Proverbs warns us that only fools give full vent to their anger. (Proverbs 29:11) Let us teach our children wisdom instead. There is enough anger out there already.