Yesterday we began looking at the issue of having an angry child. I pointed out that children are sinners just like the rest of us and struggle with sin too. The sin of anger in a child does not begin with the behavior, it begins in the heart of the child. The child’s desires are being denied, his perceived rights are being violated, he believes he is entitled to something he cannot have so he explodes in anger.
You must understand that the best thing you can do for your child is to help him or her understand that anger isn’t something that just “happens” and they are not a hapless victim of some unseen or external force that “makes me mad.” Help them understand that anger is a response, it is a result of what they are thinking, believing, and desiring in their heart. It is very common for people to want to shift the blame for sin onto something outside of themselves. The child will want to blame you as the parent, their siblings, the teacher, the bus driver, being tired, and any number of other things for his anger. You must begin to teach the child that he and he alone is responsible for his anger.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. James 1:13-15 (NASB)
No one can force another person to become angry or to sin in any way. It is always a choice, and it is always a result of the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of the heart.
To begin to help your child with this new way of thinking, you must teach him or her biblical truth. Even young children can be taught that sin does not glorify God, and this is where the teaching should begin. Teach your child that their purpose in life is to bring glory to God.
Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 2 Cor. 5:9 (NASB)
Teach your child that when he sins in his anger he is sinning against God. This will help you take your focus off of the behavior and put it on what is motivating the behavior, the issues of the heart.
You will need to learn the art of asking good questions, and be able to employ them when your child is becoming angry. For example, when you see anger building or you know from experience that how you respond to the child will normally result in his being angry you could ask the following questions:
- Do you realize that you are becoming angry?
- What do you think would be a better response instead of getting angry?
- What could you do instead of becoming angry?
- What do you want that you are not getting?
- What are you getting that you do not want?
- Does your anger glorify God?
- What kind of response would glorify God?
- What specifically are you thinking about right now?
- Do you think you are “owed” this thing (if he is being denied an object or treat)
- Are you thinking of yourself right now?
- Are you thinking of others right now?
Asking questions like these will help you to see what is going on inside his heart and will help you to know how to respond on the heart level. Now you must also realize that your child may not like these questions and may try to avoid answering or may even try to respond in anger as you ask them. Be patient and gently persist by talking with him and asking the questions.
You will be teaching your child as you talk with him in these precious moments and he is learning much more from how you handle his anger than you can ever teach him by only talking. Your responses are also revealing your heart. You are hopefully modeling godly responses and your child will learn very much from you in this way.
I will have more on this next time.