When I think of a characterization of anger my mind goes to Looney Tunes – love it! – and the coyote’s head about to explode after the road runner outwits him once again. Ever feel that way as a parent? Yes, I see that hand.
God knows I need His help in this. Every. Single. Day.
Thanks to so many of you that have confessed that this is your struggle too. Don’t you agree that bringing it out into the Light defeats the darkness and allows God’s truth to be transforming? So let’s just call for what it is, open ourselves up to His redemption and healing, and then watch Him work as only He can do.
In case you’re just joining us for our Angry Mom series, I’ve talked about the startling question God had for me a few years ago on the topic of anger (check it out). We’ve also looked at the physical effects anger can have in our lives (right here).
Today, we’re gonna cut right to the chase, because here’s the reality: our sweet and amazing children, no matter what their age, are going to do life different than us. Right? Whether they’re 2 or 22, they are designed and wired in a way that’s completely unique to them. And try as we may to be Wonder Woman and train them up in the way that they should go, there will absolutely be moments when they will push back/ignore/be flat out disobedient.
When that happens, how do we respond? How do we keep our super-strength, when we’re actually tempted to lose it?
Here’s 10 strategies that have made a HUGE difference in my life. They are practical, every-day-kind-of-ways to help me see my kids with His eyes, and help diffuse my anger and keep my joy. See what you think:
1. Know the rules and penalties, and make sure your kids know them too. Our children want to know how far they can push the envelope before it rips open. Define that for them. Sit down first with your husband (if you’re married) and determine the ground rules. (Being on the same page with your husband is critical here, otherwise the kids will try to divide and conquer.) Then let the kids know you are united, and lay out the rules and the penalties. Here’s an example: “When we go into the restaurant, here’s how we’ll act. If you choose to act differently, here’s what will happen,” or “Here’s your curfew. This is what will happen if you miss it.” When everyone understands the expectations and consequences, it allows everyone to start on the same page.
2. Discipline sooner. When said rules and expectations have been crossed, do what you said you would do. Sooner, rather than later. Anyone familiar with this series: “stop… stop… Stop… STOP!” Me too. But when I discipline sooner, it take the emotion out – “Bummer that you chose that. Well, here’s what we said would happen.” Do what you say you’re going to do as soon as it happens.
3. Ask yourself this question: Are they being disobedient, or are they just being little people with big imaginations? This is taken from Dr. Dobson’s Bringing Up Boys - it’s such a great question. Imagination is a God-given gift that our kids use (really) well. We are wise moms to stop and ask for discernment when we walk into a crazy mess our child just made and ask: imagination or disobedience?
4. Listen to your child’s heart – what are they really trying to communicate? Are they tired, hungry, or overwhelmed? At times I’ve put unfair expectations on my kids, expecting them to respond to situations as if they were an adult. When in reality they may just need a break, or something to eat. Maybe they can’t communicate as quickly as I can and need space to process. When I work to hear my child’s heart, I’m more apt to listen out of compassion.
5. Kneel down to their eye level when you’re talking to them. If you have younger children, this is powerful. I’d probably freak out too if a tall giant was towering over me in anger. When I get down to their level, it softens me and allows me to see them just as they are: little. Yes, they can still argue with me like they’re 18, but in reality they are really just little.
6. Focus on the children who are making good choices. This one has been gold in our house. When my husband and I call out the good choices in the other kids, it makes that other one want to grab for some of that good attention as well. Give kudos for good choices, see #2 for bad.
7. Have an age-appropriate reward system. Pinterest saved my summer last year with this idea for my elementary age kids. I bought a small mason jar and some glass marbles, then picked a character trait each week to focus on (my top three traits were the ones I felt they needed “help” with). Every time I caught them “doing” the character trait, they got a marble. When they filled their jar, they got a date with mom or dad. Find a simple system that works for you (Pinterest is awesome!), reward them for the good, and praise them when they succeed.
8. Put yourself in time out. I had to do this just yesterday. Get yourself out of the situation to cool off and gain some perspective. And yes, they may follow you, but just lock yourself in the bathroom, and take. a. moment.
9. Have someone you can call or text in times of need/panic. As a woman, one of the biggest lies we believe is this: I am the only person on the planet who can’t figure this out. Sisters, this is a lie from hell itself that’s meant to keep us in shame and isolation. We need others. For me, my husband is a pro at talking me off the ledge. Yet sometimes I need a fellow mom to listen to me when the crazy train hits my house. Whether it’s your husband or a friend, find someone you can trust, who gets the insanity, and will encourage and pray for you. Again, we need each other.
10. Pray. Pray. And pray some more. In the moment or on your knees, while you’re driving or while you’re cleaning. Pray for yourself, that you would be the woman He has created you to be. Pray for your children that they would be all that they were created to be. Pray, pray, pray. (1 Thes. 5:16-18)
So there’s my 10 – totally lengthy, thanks for hanging in there with me. I wish I could sit across from you at a coffee shop and hear your own ideas, strategies that have worked for you. We’d all love to hear them, feel free to share them below!
I’ll wrap it up today with a re-visit to #10 on the list. Pray. One of my favorite ways to pray is with God’s Word. God’s Word is alive and powerful and has literally transformed me from the inside out (Hebrews 4:12). I love to take a portion of scripture and personalize it, by putting in my name or the names of my family members and praying it over them. This section (below) from Colossians is powerful. Take my personalized version, steal it, call it your own. Then pray it with all your heart. You are well on your way to becoming the woman – and the mom – that God created you to be. Pray it… then watch Him move. Because He will. Not only in your life, but in the life of family.
Much love and grace to you today, my fellow mom in the trenches, you are amazing!
God, since you chose me to be the holy person whom You love, today I clothe myself with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. I will make allowance for other’s faults and forgive the person who offends me. I will remember, the Lord forgave me, so I must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing I will wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony. And I will let the peace that comes from Christ rule in my heart. For as members of one body, I am called to live in peace. And always be thankful. I will let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in my heart and make me wise. I will use Your words to teach and counsel. I will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to You with a thankful heart. And whatever I do or say, I will let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through Him to You, my Father. Colossians 3:12-17 (NLT)
What strategies have worked to diffuse your anger in parenting? We’d love to hear from you!
P.S. – I just read a great blog from LisaJo Baker on this very subject – check it out!