If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been there. You know the place. Your kids have been at each other’s throats all day long, and you’ve had it. You’ve tried to keep the peace. You’ve tried various disciplinary measures with a calm and collected demeanor, only to be met by sharp back talk, a rebellious eye roll, or a snippy, under-breathed comment. And what do you normally do at this point? If you’re like me, your anger gets the better of you. You’re the parent, dad nab it, and those kids ARE going to listen, be respectful and obey you! So what’s the problem? Don’t you have a right to be angry? Well, yes…and no.
Anger is justified if the situation truly warrants it and if it is handled properly. Every child is commanded to obey and respect their parents:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.” Ephesians 6:1-3
But notice the little phrase some of us parents tend to overlook or ignore – “in the Lord.” Does that phrase give me or you as the parent license to get angry at our kids over petty or stupid things, or over things that simply annoy us and aren’t actually wrong or sinful? No. Is what your kid doing contrary to Scripture (which, by the way, is the standard God gives for us to measure by)? If not, perhaps we, the parents, need to check our own hearts.
Consider this: If you or I, the parent, get so angry that we let our anger lead us to make a poor judgment, what we model to our children is just a grown up version of their own outbursts to us – the same thing we ourselves are angry about. Further, if we have not checked our own motives for our anger, we may be guilty of sin above and beyond what we realize.
For instance, if I am sitting at my desk typing and trying to come up with something witty and smart to say in a blog or social media post and my kid is in the background belting out their favorite song, doing nothing inherently wrong, I would not be justified in anger toward them because they were not acting in sin. The kid was simply singing and enjoying some free time. The aggravation and annoyance I may feel because it’s hard to concentrate is born out of a self-centered and self-serving attitude which has no foundation. Instead of anger, I could smile, remember he/she is only little once and that he/she is a precious gift from God, tell him/her that I’m glad so much fun is being had, and ask politely for the fun to move to another room so I can finish my task (or I could get up and take a break and join in). Rashly barking at my child to hush and go away will only discourage or belittle him/her, which goes against what God calls parents to do:
“Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
What way should my child (or your child) go? Are they not all unique? Will they not all choose a myriad of life paths, none that look exactly like another? Yes, they most certainly are, and they most certainly do! However, we aren’t called to train them up in a particular profession, life path, or personality. Our calling is to train them up in light of God’s Word. Each child needs to know the truth and validity of Scripture, to study it to see if what others say about it is so (to be Berean – Acts 17:10-11), and to develop a loving, believing, and saving personal relationship with Jesus.
If you have spent any length of time with a toddler, however, you know that what you say isn’t what’s always modeled (though sometimes it is, and we find out when we’ve made a blunder). More often than not, it’s what you do. Toddlers are beautiful and oh-so-accurate pictures of this truth. They will mirror everything you say and do. And though it may not be quite as evident in older kids, they still will follow this method of learning – mirroring.
So…do you want your kid mirroring your anger? Do you want them blowing up in your face (or at siblings…or, heaven forbid, someone outside your home) simply because they are annoyed? How can you scold, reprimand, or discipline your kids effectively if they are simply doing as you do?
I believe God gives mankind 18 years (or sometimes more, especially with multiple kids) of exclusive training in trust and dependence on HIM when we become parents. Parenting is a HUGE opportunity to learn to trust God’s wisdom, sovereignty, and plan. We can’t know the future. We don’t know what God has in store for us or our kids. What we DO know (or at least have the opportunity to know) is what He says in His Word – the Bible.
The book of Proverbs is chock full of wisdom. One such verse, found in Proverbs 19:11 says this:
“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”
Discretion, or to be discreet, is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “thinking carefully before acting or speaking, cautious, not saying anything that is likely to cause trouble.”
Whew. And ouch. How many times I have retaliated back at my kids in the spirit of “I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m big, you’re little, I’m the parent, you’re the kid, and because of all this, my opinion and my word matters more than you!” I am pretty much a queen of causing more trouble than already exists!
And what is this statement that says “it is his glory to overlook a transgression”? Does that mean I just turn a blind eye when my kids transgress (sin, or do something wrong)? Nope. Not one bit. We are called to offer grace and mercy in our discipline just as God offers it to all of us. What is grace? Unmerited favor (i.e. – getting what you don’t deserve). What is mercy? Kindness and pity, forgiveness, willingness not to punish (in other words, NOT getting what you DO deserve). He gave both of these to us all when he sacrificed Himself on the cross, shedding his perfect blood for the payment of all sin, even though He was blameless and we are fully guilty. We are forgiven and restored, though we must still bear the consequences of our sin. He then went even further and rose from the grave on the third day, offering every man, woman and child that ever lived the gift of eternal life in heaven with Him. WOW! What a calling we are called to follow!
When a child makes a wrong choice, whether by omission (not doing what’s instructed) or commission (doing what’s been told not to do), parents are charged with these commands:
“Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will also delight your soul.” Proverbs 29:17
“He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Proverbs 13:24
“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.” Proverbs 23:13
Does this mean we are to go grab the heaviest and/or most pain-inducing thing we can find and beat the tar out of our kids? Absolutely not! (For a deeper understanding of the term “rod” in these passages, please visit this site.) Child abuse is a very real thing, and nowhere in Scripture is it promoted. BUT – as Scripture states, discipline is necessary:
Hebrews 12:11 “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
So, if our kids make a poor choice, a choice that is contrary to Scripture, which makes our anger justified, is it okay to lash out at them? Again…no. Here is where it is vital to check our parental anger. The Lord tells us through the Psalmist David (Psalm 4:4) and again through the Apostle Paul:
“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.” Ephesians 4:26-27
This instruction is two-fold: keep your anger in check but don’t let it brew and fester. When we discipline our kids, we need to be sure our discipline is timely and not doled out in anger. What is discipline, anyway? Webster defines discipline as the “training of mind or character.” What is correction? Webster defines this term as the process of setting right, removing mistakes from, or to point out and mark mistakes. We parents can choose to do this in anger, or we can choose a better way and do it in love. To discipline in love does not mean forfeiting firmness. It DOES mean that we seek to point out the mistake with the intention of setting it right and training the minds and character of our kids toward a Christ-like lifestyle.
In our efforts to parent, can parents sin? Yes. Even if the parent is justified in being angry? Yep. Unfortunately many of us fall into this trap Satan has set. He knows that people sin. He knows we have a terrible sin nature. And he uses it to his advantage. If our kids sin and we blow up in their face because we’re angry at their poor choice, they will most likely only see our angry lash out, and therefore our own sin, instead of being able to learn from their mistake, repent, and receive the vital forgiveness they need. They won’t see God’s love, grace, and mercy exhibited through their parents when their parents don’t respond to them in a Christ-like manner.
Sometimes our kids make poor choices because they haven’t learned better, and sometimes they are testing limits. (The same is true for adults, for that matter. But I digress.) So how can we effectively keep our anger in check while at the same time doling out the discipline that the situation warrants?
- Seek God’s word first! Our own walk with God is vital to keeping our anger in check and taming our own tongues (a whole different subject in itself). If we aren’t in sync with the Lord ourselves, how can we ever expect to model Christ-like behavior to our kids?
- Take a time-out moment. Anger is a hard thing to master. We parents may benefit from a time-out in the heat of the moment. If we’re at home and are tempted toward anger when discipline is needed for our kids, perhaps we can either send them to their room for the immediate moment (or we can walk into another room ourselves) and take a minute to gauge our own motives. Plus, we can use this time-out to assess the situation and determine the appropriate form of discipline for the infraction. By doing this, we may be able to sidestep the trap Satan has set for us.
- Remember the purpose of discipline. We are charged with training up our children IN THE LORD. We want them to learn to seek God’s heart and to grow in Him. We can only do that if we discipline them based on His Word. If the child’s transgression falls in a grey area that is not specifically addressed in Scripture, we parents will benefit from seeking the Spirit’s wisdom and from a close personal walk with God ourselves. Our judgments should be based on what we know of God’s character and not on our self-serving opinions.
- Put on the armor of God DAILY. If you don’t know what the armor of God is, I encourage you to look up Ephesians 6:10-18. God provides everything we need to ward off Satan’s attempts to sabotage your parenting. If you are a believer in Jesus, you already have this armor! But it won’t do you much good if you don’t utilize it.
- Pray, pray, pray!
Is parenting hard? I think we all know the answer is yes. Is parenting any easier if you’re a believer? I’d venture to say no. Satan will try his utmost to keep your kids from becoming believers in Jesus. If your kids already have a saving, child-like faith in Jesus, Satan will do everything he can to hinder others from seeing Jesus in them and in you.
The temptations to sin in our anger will always exist so long as the Lord tarries in His return. However, take heart! You and I have graciously been given the tools we need to parent effectively and with success – and without falling prey to anger! Angry parenting will ultimately lead to sin and to a thwarted attempt at raising Christ-seeking kids.
With the school year now begun and in full swing, fight off the urge to lash out at your kids in anger if they make poor choices at school, at home, or while participating in extracurricular activities. We all get busy. Make sure that, despite your business, your parenting is Chris-focused.
Be the Light! Grace and peace to you all.