How to parent more effectively with less guilt: dealing with anger as a Christian parent

“That’s it, go to your room,” I said. “No!” said my four-year-old son.

I quickly responded, “Yes! Go to your room right now! One…two…”

“Nooooo! I hate you!” he shouted back.

As I quickly reached my boiling point, I threw him up onto my shoulder and carried him back the hallway to his room, kicking and screaming the whole time.

I put him down not so gently on his bed and told him he needed to stay in his room until he could calm down and improve his behavior. To this he responded with an ear-drum-blowing scream that I’m pretty sure broke some glass. I left the room quickly and slammed the door.

As I rejoined my wife in our living room, we talked over his screaming and crying saying things like, “I don’t know what else to do; I don’t know why he gets like this,” and “I shouldn’t have lost my temper like that but he just makes me so mad.”

This scenario plays out often in my house. My son misbehaves then throws a tantrum when he is corrected, then me or my wife lose our temper and “talk” to him louder than we should, then we feel guilty for being “mean” to him. We try to be patient and reasonable; we try to give him second and third and fourth chances; we even try explaining consequences to him clearly and giving him choices. But often he chooses to continue misbehaving, being defiant, or just completely ignoring correction. He pushes our buttons so effectively that our anger can go from “0 to 60” almost immediately. Of course our anger blows up more quickly when we are exhausted, which is most of the time.

The Bible says, “in your anger, do not sin.” So experiencing the emotion of anger is not in itself wrong or sinful; however, it can easily lead to sin if we let it. As a Christian parent, where is this line? And how do we avoid crossing it in the heat of the moment?

When my son screams at me I get really irritated; when he ignores my correction I get mad; when he slaps my wife in the face I get livid. I don’t think its wrong for me to feel these various degrees of anger or even to act on them.

It is wrong for a child to rebel against his parents, to ignore correction, and certainly to slap his own mother at any age.

I should respond to my sons misbehavior with discipline and teach him to obey his parents.

I should punish him, as well as instruct and encourage him.

But when I respond to his screaming with louder screaming, or when I follow up his slap with another slap or make ridiculous threats and do things just to hurt him back, I cross that line into sin.

Whenever I react out of anger, I let my emotions in that moment determine my actions. Unfortunately, my emotions don’t often make good decisions that are consistent with what I believe and the kind of parent I want to be. If I respond to my son’s sin with more sin, how can I expect him to ever grow or change for the better?

If you’re like me and my wife, you need to learn to put some process into place to avoid this vicious cycle of misbehavior, angry blowups, and lingering guilt. Although we are still very much in the trenches, I believe there are at least 3 things we can do now to help us parent more effectively with less guilt.

  1. Plan Ahead

    I once heard the definition of stress is what happens when you experience the difference between your expectations and your outcomes. So to reduce stress, you need to modify one of these. If you expect your child to behave perfectly and follow all of your rules, I’m sure you will be disappointed every time. But expecting misbehavior and deciding in advance what your response will be can help you avoid an angry blowup. Setting clear rules and communicating expectations to our kids also needs to be a part of the plan.

  2. Act, don’t React

    My son told me that it makes him really mad when we use “mean words” or yell at him. This usually happens in response to his use of mean words and yelling. Its easy to react to another person in the same manner they have acted toward you. However, if we follow the rule that we should treat others how we want to be treated, we won’t simply spit back the same disrespect they throw at us. Especially with our kids, we need to focus on leading and teaching them what it looks like to live this way, showing them that its possible to respond in a loving way even when we’re angry.

  3. Debrief well after the fight

    Even when you make a plan, communicate expectations, and try your best to respond instead of just react in anger, there will still be times when you just lose it. You will say and do things you’re not proud of and you know are not helpful to your kids. But all is not lost, because you still have the chance to talk about the fight after its over. Once the dust settles and the smoke clears, make sure to have a follow-up conversation in which you apologize for losing your cool and give your child the opportunity to both apologize and be forgiven. As parents, we can’t have a big screaming fight with our kids, punish them, then just pretend it didn’t happen and assume everything will automatically be smoothed over.

 

QUESTION: What other ways have you found to parent more effectively with less guilt? I would love to hear your response in the Comments, on Facebook, or you can send me an email

Other articles you might like:

 Why is parenting so hard?

For the Weary…and the Busy

The Truth About Marriage (series)

 

This article appeared first on tylerjbrooks.com 

 

 

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Why is parenting so hard? 

Before I had kids I used to think about what I would be like as a parent. Of course I would be a good parent because I was a good and loving person and I thought “who doesn’t love their kids, right?” Besides, by the time I finished college I had figured out everything my parents had done wrong and how to things better. I even took some classes on child development so I was pretty sure I would be an awesome parent with very well-behaved children. 

Then we had our first child, our son. The pregnancy had gone smoothly but nothing about the delivery or the first few months of his life went as planned. It was a much more stressful situation than either me or my wife had anticipated and we struggled to adjust to our new normal. 

However, as time went on we got settled into some routines that helped us feel normal. We learned to really enjoy our son as we watched him grow. And he was a good kid. 

We actually came to believe the idea of the “terrible twos” was a myth…our son was extremely well-behaved when he was two and grew into a sweet, well-mannered 3 year old. 

And then he turned 4. 

It was almost like someone flipped a switch in his brain that caused utter chaos to ensue. 

Temper tantrums, screaming, throwing toys, defiance, back-talk, and all kinds of rebellion have suddenly become our new normal. Spanking just adds fuel to his fire and time-outs often do the same. 

He has an uncanny ability to get me from happy to completely ticked off in a matter of seconds and knows exactly which buttons to push. My sweet little boy whom I love so dearly can bring out an anger in me that I didn’t know existed. 

My calm, rational mind gets clouded and overcome by frustration and I lose my cool. I often put him in his room for time out so both of us can get a chance to calm down.

 My incredible wife is a stay-at-home mom for him and our almost-two-year-old daughter and I honestly don’t know how she does it. Some days are good but many days he pushes her beyond her limits. 

By the end of most days, my kids wear down my wife into a person I barely recognize and I hate them for it. Now I know hate is a strong word to use when talking about my kids, but let me clarify. I don’t hate my kids, I hate the results of their behavior. This is an important distinction to make but nonetheless, I often have strong negative feelings toward my kids. This usually results in a cycle of guilt and shame and feelings of inadequacy as a parent and as a person. Parents, the struggle is real.

Now I know you older parents and grandparents are probably preparing your “it’s just a phase” and “they won’t be young forever” speeches, but those are honestly worthless to me right now. Seeing parents of young kids struggling to make it through the day and throwing out a “positive” catchphrase is not helpful. As a matter of fact it’s annoying. 

It’s like seeing someone digging a ditch that’s ten feet deep and 5 miles long using nothing but a shovel with a broken handle and you come along and say, “enjoy this time in the ditch while you can because it will be over before you know it.” I’ve got news for you: most parents don’t appreciate these little whitewashed sayings and half-hearted smiles; either pick up a shovel or keep walking. 

The truth is, parenting is hard

Some children offer more challenges than others, but we all have our own junk to deal with and we handle things differently.

Ultimately, parenting is a gift and a blessing; but sometimes the greatest blessings are the ones that stretch us and challenge us and frustrate us to no end. They push us to our emotional and relational limits, then just a bit farther. They force us to adapt to change and bring out the core of who we really are, for better and for worse. In the end, we will come out of this turbulent time better people and with more love in our hearts than we ever thought possible.

 We go into battle ill-equipped, uninformed, and totally overwhelmed, but we leave the battlefield as heroes full of strength and bravery and honor, having overcome our enemies.

So what I’m saying is there is hope. I won’t downplay or sugar-coat it: your life as a parent probably sucks in a lot of ways right now, but it won’t last forever. It will feel like forever-maybe even longer-but it will have an end. You just have to hang in there and don’t give up. I promise you will be better on the other side-if you survive that is. 🙂

Here are 3 things to help you survive the battleground of Parenthood:

1. Clarify your goals as a parent

Think about what kind of parent you want to be and why, how you want your kids to live when they’re grown and define some practical ways to move toward those goals. Align your schedule with your highest priorities as a parent. 


2. Connect with other parents 

Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is enough to get you through the tough days and dramatically improve your attitude. You shouldn’t expect other people to solve your kid’s issues, but comparing notes and asking for honest input from others who are in the same boat or just reaching the other shore is always a good idea. 


3. Take a stinking break! 
Just because they’re you’re kids doesn’t mean you should never get time away from them. Especially if you’re married, getting some time on a frequent basis without the constant interruptions and crises of children is crucial to a healthy marriage. This doesn’t always have to be an entire weekend getaway; just a few hours a week can do wonders for your emotional health.

Why is parenting so hard for you right now? Let me know in the comments, on Facebook, or send me an email. I’d love to hear I’m not alone. 

For the Weary…and the Busy

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Do you ever feel weary or like you’re carrying a heavy burden? Do you ever feel like you’re at that point where you just might fall apart?

I’ve been there before. With two young, active kids at home, me and my wife are exhausted more often than not. Sometimes it seems like everything that could go wrong does—the kids are sick, the house needs cleaned, the cars need fixed, I had a bad day at work and I come home to find one more thing that broke that I can’t afford to pay someone else to fix and then my son decides to throw a tantrum over nothing.

If this was one unique, happens-every-now-and-then kind of day it might be more bearable.

But its more of a normal day that happens over and over again with only a few details changing.

When one day is tough and drains my energy, it usually runs into the next day which in turn starts out on the wrong foot as well. Then that day does the same thing to the next day. And the day after that.

Of course not all days are exactly the same and they are not all ridden with crises—but when I allow the bad days to knock me down and affect the attitude of my heart, even the good days can get tainted by it.

I recently asked my wife what she wanted to do for her birthday. She thought about it and responded that she would really like to check into a hotel room, even for just one night.

Of course I was intrigued at first, until she clarified that she would like to do this alone—by herself, no kids, no husband, no expectations. She just wants to get a break from the daily grind and the occasionally-controlled chaos that is our lives. She just wants to watch TV, then go to sleep without interruptions.

I often feel this way as well; I just need a break and some rest. But I rarely find it.

Jesus invites us to come to him, especially when we are weary, with heavy burdens. He says he will give us rest—that is, rest for our souls.

The phrase take my yoke upon you refers to two oxen being connecting together by a common yoke—they would carry or pull their heavy load together.

Jesus is saying that he wants to help you carry your burdens. He wants to teach you and guide you and give you rest in your relationship with Him.

You need only to take the step of coming to Him.

I’ve had a relationship with Jesus most of my life, but I often get caught up in my mess and forget that he doesn’t want me to be anxious, overwhelmed, and exhausted. He wants me to lay my burdens on Him; to rely on Him to guide and teach me and to give me real rest that lasts.

In what ways can you come to Jesus to find rest?  Share your thoughts, you never know who might need to hear them.

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