REST FOR FRUSTRATED, ANGRY PARENTS
control your children with your voice?
by Wendell E. Miller
Q. I love my children very much; but often I lose my temper, yell and scream at them, and become so frustrated and angry at their disobedience that I am afraid that I might harm them. What can I do to control my anger?
A. There may be some very simple things that you can do to increase your ability to cope with stress, and it is worthwhile to consider them.
First, are you getting enough rest? You are responsible for the way you act no matter how tired you are, but it is easier to behave in a godly manner if you are not unduly fatigued.
Mothers of small children tend to work long hours and seven days a week, lose some sleep during the night when one of the children is awake, and then think that they have to do their housework while the children nap.
To get more adequate rest a mother should 1) take a nap while the children nap, 2) teach the children to entertain themselves part of the time so that she can do the housework, 3) teach them to keep their own things in order, 4) teach them to be helpers with household chores, and 5) be content with a house that is reasonably well-kept, rather than striving for one that is immaculate.
The financial situation of some two-parent families (and nearly all one-parent families) is such that, at least for a short time, the mother must work outside of the home.
However, some mothers are excessively tired because the family has been made a slave to things that they "must" have as one or more of the family members have been taken captive by the lures of advertisers.
Consider your attitude toward people who are presently in your life and those who were in your life in the past. If there is resentment and unforgiveness, then this stress needs to be removed from your life (see "How Should I Deal With Anger?" and "Is Forgiving Forgetting?"). Pray and forgive-- release the penalty of all offenses to God.
Resentment and unforgiveness can cause fatigue and thereby make it harder to react biblically to irritations. Also, it is quite common for bad feelings toward one person to be vented against another person. For instance, a woman who must work outside the home may resent her husband because she must work outside the home--and she acts these feelings out as an irritable and angry mother.
With regard to parental anger, you must not yell or scream at your children, and you must not punish them while you are angry.
An obvious way to avoid yelling and screaming at your children and punishing them while angry is to avoid becoming frustrated and angry.
Winners do not become frustrated and angry. Winners do not "tip over the checkerboard." It is losers that become angry and frustrated. So, to avoid frustration and anger, become a winner at being a parent.
To become a winner at parenting, you must have a plan (God's plan), you must be confident in your plan, you must be determined to follow through on your plan, and you must be disciplined in following through on your plan. You may lose a few battles, but you will be confident that you are going to win the war.
God's plan for child rearing is "nurture and admonition." Biblical "nurture" means structuring your children's minds and actions (see "Child Rearing--Don't Just Take Anyone's Advice" and "Bringing About Biblical Child Rearing").
One way to be a winner and to avoid parental frustration and anger is to use positive as well as negative incentives to structure your children 's actions (see "Dare I Spank My Child?").
One positive incentive is to structure your children's actions in life's daily duties.
You can do this by establishing a chart of personal-care and/or household-help duties, and then giving a weekly reward based upon faithfulness in doing the assigned duties. For small children, stars or stickers on the chart serve as an effective daily incentive without money; but, even at as young an age as five years, stars plus pennies may be more effective than stars alone.
The use of a duty chart with rewards can change morning chaos to peaceful order and reduce the workload of the mother throughout the day.
In order to obtain the maximum benefits from the duty chart, 1) make the child responsible for reminding himself to fulfill the duty, rather than your reminding him and nagging him; and 2) train the child in good stewardship of his finances by training him to give to God's work and to save for larger purchases.
Warning! Do not condition him for credit buying by agreeing to buy things for him and letting him pay you back out of his future earnings.
There is another way to avoid parental frustration and anger and to avoid punishing while angry: Punish before you become frustrated and angry.
If you are a parent who knows of no other way to structure your children's behavior than spanking, it is quite likely that you will not punish them until you are frustrated and angry.
The solution to the problem is to be creative in using some punishments and in punishing consistently.
For instance, you may determine that a certain behavior is punishable by the child standing or sitting with his nose in the corner (five minutes for a smaller child, ten minutes for a larger child). Then, if by his disobedience he chooses to spend time in the corner ten times each day, it is his choice. Why should you get upset?
Instead of being upset, you should be calmly confident that you can and will punish him consistently until the unbiblical habit pattern is corrected. You are winning! Winners don't get frustrated and angry.
However, a word of warning after the bad behavior habit is broken, he will come back and try you in a week or two to see if the rule is still in effect. Apply the small punishment immediately, and you will reassure him that it is.
But if you are a parent who knows no other way to punish the child except spanking, then, when he misbehaves, you will try to evaluate the severity of his misbehaviour to determine if it is bad enough to require spanking this time. Quite likely, you will decide that it is not bad enough to spank this time. You will be somewhat irritated that he has misbehaved, and you will be somewhat frustrated that you have not corrected his misbehavior.
It is quite likely that your child is testing the rule to see just how bad he can be and still avoid being spanked. So having established that he can get by with a certain level of misbehaviour, he will try it again.
Each time he misbehaves below the misbehaviour level that has been established as meriting a spanking, you will become more frustrated, become more angry, and perhaps yell at him in a louder and more angry voice.
Perhaps he will learn just how angry you have to be before there is danger of being spanked. If so, after you have thoroughly lost your patience, after you have yelled or screamed at him in a voice that discredits Christianity among your neighbors, and after you have a splitting headache, then he will obey you.
Or, you will go through a cycle of increasing frustration and anger, spanking out of anger, feeling guilty for spanking out of anger, perhaps being plagued with fear that someday you will harm the child when you are angry, and then starting the cycle of frustration and anger again.
Use positive incentives and small and consistent punishments, as taught above, to avoid becoming angry. But, if you do become angry, exert self-control and avoid acting angrily. The anger is not a sin, but actions that result from anger can be sinful.
Also, avoid errors that are being taught by the world--and even by some Christians. For instance, venting your frustration and anger by attacking, and perhaps damaging, an inanimate object (beating a pillow or even breaking an object) 1) is an exercise in losing self-control; 2) may include thoughts of physical harm toward a person; 3) may result in violence against a person sometime in the future as a habit pattern of reacting violently is established; and 4) is nothing more than an adult "temper tantrum."
Another error of the world to avoid is "scream therapy." Temporary relief from frustration and anger by uncontrolled and irresponsible behavior can only result in having poorer self-control in the future. God's answers to anger do not include sessions in which the frustrated and angry person practices a lack of self-control.
When you have a problem of becoming angry with a child that has disobeyed you, remember that it would not make "two cents' worth" of difference whether the child obeys you or not--except that God has told him to obey you.
So who is the child really disobeying? God, of course. Then why are you angry rather than being saddened that your child is rebelling against God and (figuratively) shaking his fist at God? Is it not that old sinful pride that we all have in such abundance? To quench parental anger, confess the root sin of your anger to God.
Consider this prayer, "Lord, I am angry at my child because he didn't obey me. But, Lord, my child's sin is really against You. In comparison to my child's sin of rebelling against Your commandment, his offense of disobeying me is nothing. If it weren't for my sinful pride, l would be sorrowful instead of being angry; and if it weren't for my sinful selfishness I would be more concerned for my child's relationship with You than for my feelings. So please forgive me for my sinful pride and my sinful selfishness, and cleanse me from being so prideful and selfish."
You can "bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," if you make it a priority in your life and if you devote sufficient time, thought, energy and prayer to it. And you can have a home in which there is love, honor, obedience and peace; but it will take work and diligence.
Copyright 1986 by Wendell E. Miller
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