Becoming a Parent Who Is Slow to Anger
How often do you find yourself feeling angry toward your children? This is hard question to ask myself. I make significant effort to be gentle, but truthfully, it is quite often that I notice myself raging inside as my eldest, almost 4 years old, is becoming more familiar with right and wrong.
My moment of internal strife might play out in this way:
Why won’t she just listen and obey? What if someone gets hurt? What if she behaves like this in Bible Class?
I can’t let her act like this! I have to show her who’s boss!
In my anger, I lash out. The power struggle begins.
I make irrational statements in awful tones. I give ineffective punishments.
I feel horrible. She feels horrible.
Later on I hear her talking in the same ugly tone. Hmm… where did she learn to speak in that way?
Why is it that anger is the first instinct for so many of us, especially in regards to parenting? I believe most parents have good intentions. We want our children to act respectfully and we burn inside when we can’t convince them to cooperate. We are desperate. I believe that James, the brother of Jesus, and servant of God, speaks to the heart of this issue.
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:19-20
Anger Won’t Bring about Righteousness Living
In our Bible Class we recently studied this passage, and though James doesn’t specifically mention parenting, my heart couldn’t help but hear these words from a parent’s perspective. How often am I angry with my daughter because I want her to live righteously. Yet anger won’t bring about this righteousness- in myself or in my daughter. It is my experience that hasty anger often only brings about shame.
Let’s read on to hear the solutions that James offers.
“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:21-22
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:26-27
Righteous living is something that our children will learn through a lifetime of observation and loving instruction. James makes it very clear that being religious is about guarding our hearts and humble service.
Do our children see that in us?
Do our children see that we are humble and compassionate, ready to listen, and slow to become angry?
Do we have a tight rein on our tongue when we speak to our children?
There are many different styles of parenting, and I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. Often parenting requires direct and assertive responses, but I believe this can be done gently and in love. It is my conviction that the instruction to be slow to anger also applies to our interactions with our children. Does this mean that we will never be angry? No, of course not!
It means that our instinct will be patience, kindness, and gentleness rather than anger.
We will have open arms and listening ears.
When it is time to be direct, we will try to stay calm. We will be our children’s “safe space.”
This type of parenting does not come naturally for me. I pray multiple times each day for the Lord to help me. I boldly pray for the fruit of the Spirit to be displayed as I interact with my daughters. This passage in James was a strong reminder that I need to make a conscious effort to tame my tongue and be slow to anger in my responses to my children. I absolutely can’t do this on my own. I need Jesus to work through me as I train up my children in the way they should go. We all need him to!
Praying Over Our Hearts
I’d like to end this thought with a prayer.
You are our Heavenly Father and we praise you and thank you for wonderfully making our children. Work through us as we train them in the way they should go. In us, express your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Help us to be slow to anger, with tongues that are tamed through faithful dependence on you. May our children see glimpses of you in our interactions with them. Forgive us for our selfish ways and for the times we respond poorly to our children. Give us strength and help when we need it. Soften our hearts and help us to find your joy every day.
In the name of Jesus, Amen