Tools for Tackling Anger
The alarm goes off. As much as I would like to ignore it, I’m a “good girl,” so I get up, shuffle through morning grooming, and plod downstairs. Bible and first cup of coffee in hand, I sink into the armchair … just as the six year old and three year old start fighting in the bathroom, thereby waking up the baby, who is screaming and disrupting the whole household. Poof. Quiet time alone evaporates like morning fog and all of my self-sacrificial early-rising is, seemingly, wasted.
Can you feel the emotions that are throbbing through me as I fling aside the cozy throw and pivot toward the stairs? Last month we talked about three different perspectives on mom-anger. I promised that I’d follow up with some on-the-ground strategies for handling and processing this anger in real time.
Check Your Language
I’ve noticed that there are a few keywords that point out to me that I’ve swerved over into “I deserve” territory, or that perhaps my expectations are out of line:
- “Really?!?” and “Seriously?!?” There are times when I have actually used these words to voice incredulity directly to my children. But more often, they pop out in conversations with my husband or friends, or on social media. What do these words really mean? They mean, “I do not deserve this. This difficult situation is harder than I should have to handle.” I can almost imagine Jonah muttering, “Seriously?!?” when God called him as a missionary to the barbaric people of Nineveh, but he decided to go the other way instead!
- “What were you thinking?!?” My husband has actually asked me to remove this sentence from my vocabulary. I can certainly imagine how mothers could use it calmly and helpfully. But in my situation, it pretty much always means, “I was expecting you to have the wisdom and foresight of an adult, and I’m irritated that your eleven-year-old-ness has caused me inconvenience!” Clearly, the problem is not that my kids act like kids, but that my expectations are out of line!
Instruction, Not Destruction
In those moments when trouble erupts in another room and I have to head off to handle it, I have begun saying to myself, “Instruction! Not destruction!” Why? Because, if I’m really honest, what the selfishness in me really wants is to cause my children some pain, as revenge for the pain they have caused me. I may not be planning physical pain, but I might use my words to pierce their little hearts and drive home just how sorely displeased I am with them.
But God did not give me this sacred and awesome responsibility as the shepherd of little souls so that I could assert my own rights and exact retribution when they are violated. He gave me this weighty task so that I could participate with him in seeking sheep gone astray.
What my children always need is instruction. This doesn’t necessarily preclude consequences, but it does preclude self-righteous vindication. I am not the “good girl” thwarted by the “bad kids.” I am the humble sinner, being slowly refined by being called to lay down my life for other needy sinners. Some mornings I might learn by reading in silence. Other mornings it might be more of a “hands on” lesson.
Let’s be honest. Tips and tricks can be helpful. But at the end of the day (or the beginning of it!) battling down the destructive tendencies of mom-anger requires perseverance—and, most importantly, it requires a deep and heavy leaning into Christ and the means of grace. I’ll leave you with a few Scriptures that have been especially instructive for me in this battle.
Galatians 6:1 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (ESV). (Correcting the faults of others always provides temptation—to pride, anger, despair, and many other things. Go into the fray prepared!)
Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (ESV). (We have many tools at our disposal, including the breastplate of knowing that our righteousness is in Christ—and not in our awesome parenting!—and the shoes of the gospel, which ready us for peace.)
James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (ESV). (I wonder how many times I’ve given in, when victory was moments away?)
James 1:20 “…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (ESV). (Losing my temper might make poky kids move faster, but it will not make them love God more or desire to work as unto the Lord. If anything, it inflates and perpetuates a fear of man!)
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (ESV). (I am never beyond the reach of God’s grace and mercy, even on my ugliest days.)
James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (ESV). (Confess to your children, too, and ask them to pray for you. Their prayers have great power!)
Lynna Sutherland blogs at Homeschooling Without Training Wheels, where she loves to remind moms (and herself!) of the freedom and flexibility that come with homeschooling! Lynna and her husband have seven children. The motto of their homeschool is “Wisdom Is the Principal Thing” from Proverbs 4:7. You can follow Lynna on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Periscope.