Today’s guest blogger is Linda Rice. Linda counsel at Gateway Biblical Counseling and Training Center. M.A. in Biblical Counseling. Certified by Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. You can read more of her writing here.
The post Anger Over Disappointing Dad (Part 1)
introduced the problem of Donna, a teen who perceives herself to be constantly disappointing a parent. Her escalating anger about it was boiling over into increasingly frequent arguments with her dad. Part 1 looked at how God’s love and sovereignty intersect with the situation, considered consequences of Donna continuing in her present anger and arguing, pointed her to evaluate her heart, and suggested that she plan God-pleasing responses. This post will provide specific actions a teen (or other person) can take to put on God-pleasing responses. Begin with some evaluation of the situation.
Evaluate according to options A and B below and make changes. Find out if your perceptions are accurate. For inaccurate perceptions, change to right thinking. For accurate perceptions about problems, work out your problems biblically.
A. Maybe it only seems like you frequently fail to meet your dad’s expectations.
Perhaps you are misreading your Dad. Perhaps he is weighed down with a problem totally unrelated to you. Or perhaps the expressions you interpret as disappointment are less over disappointment of his standard and more an intense concern for you out of his love for you. Your anger certainly won’t put him at ease; he knows that your anger will cause you trouble. Perhaps he feels anxiety that choices you are making will lead you to physical, social, or spiritual difficulties.
Seek to understand him. Proverbs 18:13 says that “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” In any given situation, don’t make assumptions. Ask him what his main concern is. Ask for clarifications. Consider how he sees the situation.
Provide information. Teens often withhold information. Sometimes they know parents will disapprove of what the teen really wants or thinks. Sometimes they like the feeling of control that comes from being in the know. Be aware that if withholding of information happens frequently, it can insinuate an intention to hide, which automatically and naturally raises suspicions in your parents. Rather than withhold information or insist on privacy, tell your dad all of the facts so that he has a fair chance to consider them and also so that you demonstrate candidness. It builds a reputation of trustworthiness.
B. Maybe you do actually fail to live up to your dad’s standards. In that case:
Option 1. Your dad’s standards are not the problem. Rather, you simply do not want to do what he asks. Perhaps you are harboring a sin in your life that you don’t want to give up. Sin results in guilt, and guilt causes fear (Prov. 28:1). If legitimate guilt underlies a sense that you constantly fail your dad, it isn’t worth the cost. Repent from it, put off desires for self-gratification and put on the desire to please the Lord. Confess your sin to your parents, and put on doing what is right.
Option 2. Your dad’s standards are too high. Like you, parents aren’t perfect and sometimes they do expect too much of their children. In that case, learn to appeal in a godly way. This post includes a few pointers, but study the Bible to learn how to appeal God’s way. Get help from a wise counselor. Read The Peacemaker, by Ken Sande.
Whatever the case or what you perceive it to be, out of obedience to God you must do your best to honor and obey your parent (Eph. 6:1-3). The Holy Spirit promises to provide the strength to do what the Lord commands, including honoring and obeying your parents (Gal. 6:16-23). Trust in the Lord to give you the grace to obey Him in this way.
Remember God’s wisdom, love, and sovereignty. If you love God, if you have trusted in Christ alone as your Savior, then obey Him and He will work out your trials for His glory and your welfare (Rom. 8:28-29). If you are seeking to glorify Him in all that you do, you will obey Him even when it is hard to do so. When you do, no matter what the outcome, you can have the confidence that you have succeeded in glorifying God. Joy and increasing godliness will be two of your many rewards.
Fear the Lord. It is good and right to revere parents and want to give them joy (Prov. 23:25). A certain fear of discipline or displeasing them can be a helpful aid to children toward obeying the Lord’s command in Ephesians 6:4. This is how discipline is intended to work. However, if you are so fearful of disappointing your parent that you are dominated by that fear or unwilling to converse respectfully with your parent, evaluate whether you harbor an inordinate fear of man. If so, put on fear of the Lord. “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted” (Prov. 29:25).
- Guard your speech. “A harsh word stirs up anger, but a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1).
- Make sure that you are making it as easy as possible for your teen to talk to you about anything, including problems with you.
- Evaluate your standards. Are they set too high? Are they set too low?
- Evaluate what you are communicating by facial expressions or comments.
- Remember to affirm work well done or effort made toward doing what is right.
- Teach your teen Proverbs 29:25 and Ephesians 6:1-3. There is a godly reverence for parents, but children must not fear any man inordinately. It is reverence and love for God that should motivate them to honor and obey parents.
Frustrated Teen, Practice the Principles:
Choose an option from the following ideas and use it to help put off anger and arguing and put on patience and love, all for the glory of God.
- Write Proverbs 20:3; 29:11; 14:29; or James 1:19-20 on several 3×5 cards. Keep them in your pockets. (Accomplish the same on your electronic devise only if it calls upon you to pay close attention to the verse and memorize it. Cards tie a physical activity to the reminder.) Read the verse ten times a day and every time you feel like arguing. Follow the counsel of the verse to put off anger and put on patience and right responses.
- Evaluate as explained in this post.
- Ask your parents in what ways you can improve. Do what they suggest. (This application will confront any pride you may have and help you grow in humility.)
- If fear of man is your problem, memorize and meditate on Proverbs 29:25. Remember that true trust in the Lord will lead to patience and a submissive heart, for His glory.
- When tempted to argue, apply the Plan God-pleasing Responses process explained above.
- Write a list: “Twenty Ways I Can Show Love to My Parents.” Do them for the glory of God.
- Write a list: “Fifty Items for About My Dad/Mom for Which to Thank God.” Use this list daily in prayer. Over the course of the next six months, thank that parent for every one of them.
- Write a list: “Ten Items for Which I Can Pray for My Parents.” Do so daily.
- Read through the book of Proverbs and list the many consequences of anger and arguing.
This post is not a thorough treatment of the subject. Seek God’s solutions in His Word and the help of a biblical counselor.