Dear Angry Mom,
You must change.
- You must change before your children learn from you that angry outbursts when you don’t get your way are acceptable.
- You must change before your children become fearful of you, and begin to base their value on your approval of them.
- You must change before your children become angry and resentful, and begin to act out of those sinful heart conditions.
- But, most importantly, you must change because your heavenly Father says so (James 1:19-20; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Colossians 3:8; Psalm 37:8-9; Proverbs 16:32; Ephesians 4:31-32).
There are lots of angry moms out there in the Christian world. Our churches are full of them. Some disguise their anger as sarcasm. Some soothe it with chocolate or other comfort measures. Some vent it out on doors, dishes, or even husbands. But they all have one thing in common: They have developed the sinful habit of responding to difficulties with anger, and it is having a devastating impact on their children. The other day, I was talking about anger with a friend who has known me since my children were very young. I mentioned to her that I used to have a pretty significant anger issue, but lately, I’ve noticed I hardly ever become sinfully angry. My dear friend then pointed out that I probably no longer have an anger problem because I no longer have young children in my home. While this truth stung a bit, it is exactly that: Truth. When I was raising my children, I was an angry mom.
I won’t go into the impact I believe my habit of sinful anger has had on my now grown children. But I know for sure that if I had it to do over again, I would want to be a very different kind of mom. The reasons I would want that are the same reasons I listed at the beginning of this post. Let’s look at them again.
You must change before your children learn from you that angry outbursts when you don’t get your way are acceptable.
Much of what our children learn from us, they learn by example. Have you ever noticed that many children exhibit the same body language, tone, and speech habits as their moms? It’s true that the person who spends the most time with the child has the greatest influence on habits, and in most cases that is the mom. Just as they pick up other habits from you, they can easily pick up a habit of sinful anger. By indulging this habit yourself, you are letting them know that angry outbursts are an acceptable way to get what you want. If you blow up at the grocery clerk, the bank teller, or especially at them, your children will begin to see sinful anger as an avenue for satisfaction. I’m not saying they are not born sinners, and couldn’t come by this same habit if left to themselves, but that makes my point: They are not left to themselves. They have you as an example of how to handle conflict. Handle it biblically.
You must change before your children become fearful of you, and begin to base their value on your approval of them.
There is no faster childhood path to fear of man than to have someone whose esteem you value seem to reject you consistently. Young children do not understand that your anger may not always be directed at them (though surely it often is). In their childish minds, they believe everything that happens is somehow related to something they did, so they do tend to take it personally when Mommy and Daddy are fighting, or Mom is slamming cabinets and pans in the kitchen. Most children of divorce wonder, at least at some point, what they may have done to cause their parents to split. If you are a believer in Christ, you want your children to one day find their identity and value in Him. This will come much harder if they have already determined in their minds, before they come to Christ, that they are a nuisance, an inconvenience, or a source of frustration to you, His representative.
You must change before your children become angry and resentful, and begin to act out of those sinful heart conditions.
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. ~Ephesians 6:4
Outbursts of wrath, sarcastic jabs, and clamming up—all forms of sinful anger—are extremely exasperating to children. I checked my Bible dictionary to make sure I understood what is meant by exasperate:
To rouse to wrath, to provoke, exasperate, anger
That’s what I thought. When we habitually become angry at or around our children, we provoke them to anger. It really is that simple. Every time you indulge in sinful anger, you are contributing to your child’s future (or current) anger problem. Just as two plus two always equals four, consistent, habitual anger will always exasperate your children, and you must change.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, you might be an angry mom who wants to change. You agree with me, but the question that is screaming in your head is, “HOW can I change?!” Maybe you’ve been convicted of this sin, and you’ve known for a while now that you need to change but so far, you have been unsuccessful. You’ve memorized Scripture, talked with a friend, and confessed to your children over and over again. Maybe they are sweet and they always forgive you, but you know that if you don’t change, they will develop a habit of sinful anger.
In my next post, I’ll talk about what has to happen in your heart and mind in order for real and lasting change to take place, and I’ll give you some helpful resources. Meanwhile, if you know that you are an angry mom, begin to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you those times when you know you are becoming angry. The biggest forest fire was started with a single spark, but that spark is rarely discovered before it’s too late. The same principle holds true with anger. There is a moment when agitation and frustration catch fire and become an angry outburst. The Spirit of God can help you to recognize that moment. Begin to practice this discipline of awareness, and prepare for big change!
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