Like most moms, I have a plan in my mind about how things should go. When I clean my house, it should stay clean. When I tell my kids it’s time to leave, they should put on their shoes and get in the car. When I sit down to help my children with homework, they should pay attention and work quickly. Yet things don’t always go that way. I’m not sure why I’m often surprised and upset when my kids get angry, but I am. And episode after episode builds my frustration and the anger I hold inside.
Whenever overwhelming emotions built within me, I’d try to pause and think, Okay, my emotions are telling me there is a problem. First, what is the problem? Second, how can I fix this? Or instead of fixing it, do I just need to relax and not get so worked up about this today?
Sometimes the fix meant creating or reevaluating a system or schedule. Other times it meant being creative with finding a solution. Very quickly my thinking began to change.
Before: This place is such a mess. I can’t believe my kids treat me this way.
After: This place is such a mess. We’re going to have to do a fifteen-minute family cleanup before dinner.
Before: This kid’s attitude stinks. I don’t deserve that attitude.
After: This kid’s attitude stinks. I’m going to pull him aside for one-on-one time after dinner.
Can you see the difference a change in thought patterns makes?
As I changed my thinking, I realized I was in control, instead of feeling helpless. I developed systems, and I became proactive. I chose how to respond, instead of just piling up all my negative emotions inside. Of course, that doesn’t mean I always get it right. That’s where confession comes in.
Confession Opens Us Up to Our Kids
Like anything else, changing worried, anxious, and angry thoughts to thoughts of peace takes time. Change happens, though, when we make a conscious effort to do so—and when we evaluate ourselves at the end of each day to see how well we’ve done.
One of the best ways for our kids to learn how to handle their anger is for them to hear us confessing the areas where we mess up—and to see how we’re trying to change. I confess when I’ve been frustrated or angry. I confess when I raise my voice or talk rudely. I confess when my expectations are too high. I confess when I don’t make time for my kids and instead fill my time with so many other things it leaves them frustrated and needy. And after my confession, I ask for my children’s forgiveness.
Of course, sometimes I don’t wait to confess or ask for forgiveness. Many times I ask immediately—in the moment—and then I bring it up again later in our family’s devotional time. I explain how I’ve messed up and how I’m turning to God to help me, and then I usually share a verse that illustrates how I am seeking God’s help. For instance, I might say, “James 1:19 says, ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’ And I haven’t done a good job of doing that. I haven’t listened. I’m sorry I got angry. I’m praying that God will give me more patience.” The more I’m willing to humble myself, the more my kids are willing to do the same.
Confession isn’t easy. It’s hard to peel back our layers and share our true selves, even with our families. But as hard as it is to confess our shortcomings, that confession is what our kids need. They need to know that we struggle too. They need to know there’s more behind a parent’s anger than what they can see—otherwise, they might think they are the problem.
So be honest with your kids when you mess up and act out in angry ways. Don’t try to justify yourself. You’re not fooling them. Instead, model for them how to repent and how to ask for forgiveness when you have messed up. And turn to God for help in dealing with your own anger toward your children.
Tricia Goyer, TriciaGoyer.com
Excerpt from Calming Angry Kids by Tricia Goyer