We need to work at modeling appropriate expressions of anger.
By Dennis and Barbara Rainey
Since most of us adults are still learning how to properly handle our own anger, we often end up getting angry inappropriately with our equally inappropriately angry child. So an incident that probably started out as a child sinning ends up with two “children” sinning—one of them an adult.
Correcting wrong ideas and habits related to the expression of anger takes time, humility, and the work of the Holy Spirit. In some of us the saved-up anger is buried so deep that we may have to dig a while to uncover the source. Or we may have labeled our rotting anger with words like frustration or stressed out.
We need to work at modeling appropriate expressions of anger:
Remember: Children are like little radar units watching how we will react.
The apostle Paul highlighted the role we parents play in training our children to stay out of the unresolved anger trap. Speaking straightforwardly to dads, he said: “And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). In another letter Paul wrote, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart” (Colossians 3:21).
Often during the preadolescent and teenage years, dads have a tendency to be a bit harsh and clumsy, especially with sons. Perhaps we dads are not as well-equipped to handle the nuances of communication and relational maintenance so critical with adolescents. Or perhaps their independent thinking and behavior catches us off guard or feels a bit threatening.
From our experience with teens and work with families, we’ve established a list of the things parents do to provoke anger in their children. Many more could be listed, but here are our top five:
The emotional tone of your family is important. Crawl inside your child’s perspective. As you look at yourself as a parent, are there areas where you are provoking your child’s anger?
Mom, Dad, brace yourself. Dealing with this trap of unresolved anger in your home is one of the most challenging assignments you’ll ever take on as an adult. It demands that you be above the fray and know what’s going on in your child and yourself and not lose sight of your objective—what it is you are trying to build into the character of your child.
It will take most of us years and many angry incidents to train our children to stay out of the trap and learn how to resolve anger. There’s hope, though. We have found that a more peaceful period will arrive in your relationship with your child in his late teens. But in the meantime, you must steel yourself to endure considerable emotional intensity, hurt, disappointment, discouragement, and even feelings of failure as a parent. Never give up. Continue to model godly expressions of your anger for your child and watch God work in his life.
For the Single Parent
One thing that makes children really angry is hearing their parents cut each other down. Single parents who find themselves raising preteens and teens because of a divorce will be tempted to express plenty of inappropriate anger aimed at the ex-spouse.
May we encourage you to resist that temptation, regardless of who made what mistakes in the past? Remember that you are a family and must set the tone for your family by not allowing anger to gain a foothold in your life.
Commit from this day forward to:
Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright 1998 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.