Understanding Your Angry Child

If you are a parent, you’ve probably seen your child get angry at least once. Okay, let’s be brutally honest. Your child gets angry periodically. Or frequently. Or seems angry all of the time. While the Bible makes it clear anger is not a sin, it also counsels Christians to “not sin in our anger” and to “not let the sun go down on our anger”.

The problem is that anger can have many causes. In fact anger itself is a secondary emotion. There are many reasons your child could be getting angry. While I am not a therapist, spiritually speaking helping a child learn to manage his or her anger in godly ways is a bit easier if you can teach them to look for the root cause of their anger.

Root causes are important, because those are the real issues that must be addressed somehow. If your child is getting angry because he is overtired, for example, teaching him to get plenty of rest and to be more vigilant when tired can help. If she is angry every time her hormones fluctuate, helping her find godly coping habits to replace lashing out in anger can make it easier for her to recognize critical time periods and prepare accordingly to avoid angry outbursts.

Since each angry episode can have a different root cause, it’s important to teach your kids to stop the second they feel their tempers beginning to rise and attempt to identify the root cause. Are there patterns that indicate reoccurring issues? Is it something they can address immediately? Will they need your help over a period of time to tackle the real issue? What are some healthy, godly things they can do right then to address the core problem and avoid getting truly angry?

So what are some of the real emotions and issues underlying an angry outburst? Here’s a partial list: anxiety, frustrated, shock, abandoned, shame, betrayal, manipulated, nervous, lonely, tired, hungry, hormones, confused, embarrassed, violated, foolish, defeated, rejected, excluded, disrespected, overwhelmed, disappointed, entitled, deceived, pressured, trapped, sad, offended, unappreciated, unloved, guilty, discontented, unheard, misunderstood.

It’s not always easy identifying the root cause of an angry outburst – especially for children with limited vocabularies or poor metacognition skills (being aware of one’s own thought processes). It’s an important skill to teach your kids. Then help them learn ways to handle those root emotions and issues before they even become angry. If you can succeed, it will be a lot easier for them to avoid sinning in their anger and to resolve their anger in a timely and godly way.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #11

School starts soon. It’s a great time to make any changes you’ve been wanting to make in your family. Here are this week’s social media challenges to help.

Monday: Fashion, and what is considered modest, changes from generation to generation and culture to culture. Your kids – both boys and girls – should think about what their clothing (or lack thereof) says to others. Is it sending a sexualized message? We all know people who would have lustful thoughts regardless of what someone is wearing, but those are the extremes and should not be used to excuse wearing clothing meant to provoke a sexual response in others. (As in, “Lust is that person’s issue, I have no responsibility to dress modestly.) Teach your kids how to be attractive without being sexual. Help them understand modesty is about an attitude as well as clothing.

Tuesday: School starts soon. For many families, it’s going to look different than in previous years. Even if everything were the same though, the beginning of a school year is a good time to reset your family schedule. Carve out time for daily family devotionals. Make time for good old fashioned family fun. Make sure everyone gets more sleep and exercise. Don’t fritter away another year of time. Use it wisely and you may be surprised what happens.

Wednesday: This area was supposed to be full of wildflowers, but the seeds planted there never reached their potential. God has given each of your kids potential. Not just potential to do well in school or become athletes or artists. Potential to be mighty women and men of God. To do the good works He has prepared for them in advance, serving others and sharing their faith. That is the potential that is most important that you help your kids fulfill.

Thursday: A huge part of childhood used to be time spent quietly playing in a playhouse, sitting in a tree or plopped on the grass watching the clouds go by. It gave you time to think, ponder the things you were learning, figure out who you were and who God wanted you to be. You were able to soak in God’s creation and realize He was out there, bigger and wiser than you would ever be. You had time to reflect on scripture and dream godly dreams. Your kids need that device free, unplanned quiet time. Teach them how to use it since it’s a lost art. Give their brains the processing time most young people don’t have today. It could make a huge positive difference in their lives.

Friday: Your kids have experienced church over the last few months like no other generation before them. We have no idea of the long term impact it may have on them spiritually. It’s crucial to have regular conversations about the reasons God wants Christians to worship and fellowship together. Make sure worship services and connecting with fellow Christians is still a high priority – even if you must do it virtually to stay safe.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #10

Many school systems changed their minds this week and reinstated remote learning for the fall semester. Did this impact your family? While distance learning can add new challenges, it can also offer some valuable benefits. Here are this week’s social media challenges to help you make the best use of your time together.

Monday: Having a hard time discussing something with one of your kids? Sometimes they will avoid a conversation, but read a good book on the topic. Try to find one that’s interesting and doesn’t come across like a lecture. Even better is if you can find Bible stories or verses that discuss the issue. If they have a book they want you to read, it’s a good idea to do it. Chances are the author has influenced them and you need to understand exactly what they have read in order to interact with them from an informed place.

Tuesday: It takes self control to wear a mask, practice social distancing, not say the first thing that comes into your head….avoid sinning. Self control (or controlling ourselves)isn’t fun a lot of the time. It goes against our selfish nature. Self control is one way to live out the two greatest commands. Why? Because the Bible tells us loving God means we obey God – even when disobedience sounds more fun to us. And loving others means we can’t be selfish – by the Bible’s detailed definition of loving others. Working with your kids on self control can be difficult – especially if you struggle with it yourself – but self control is crucial for living a productive Christian life.

Wednesday: Even though the people in this museum exhibit look real, they are merely holograms. They can be made to do whatever their creator wants them to do. They have no feelings, thoughts or opinions. Your kids aren’t holograms. You will have to work hard to mold their hearts and minds towards God, because they do have feelings, thoughts and opinions. It may not be easy, but if you don’t put in the work, it’s highly unlikely they will grow to become productive Christians.

Thursday: Your kids may be feeling extra stress and anxiety with a return to remote learning. Or they may be bored because their activities have been cancelled. Now is a great time to teach them healthy ways to cope and feel free time. Art, crafts, music, cooking, exercise and more are great ways for kids and teens to spend time. They may even discover some of their gifts from God in the process.

Friday: Have you ever noticed that God has a sense of humor? There are some passages in the Bible that are just full of humor. Humor can make a bad day easier. Humor can add joy to a good day. The wrong kind of humor, however, can destroy your child over time. “Teasing” humor often involves making fun of some attribute of a person. It is not kind or loving. It whittles away a child’s self esteem. Often it is not even true…like teasing a thin child about her “fat” thighs, but then she believes it no matter what she sees in the mirror. Sarcastic humor can also be cruel or disrespectful. Make the humor in your home the kind that builds up – not those kinds that tear down.

Weekly Christian Parenting Challenges #8

Need some encouragement or ideas? Here are weekly social media challenges to help!

Monday: A storm split this tree. The part separated from the main tree looks fine a few hours later. In a few days though, the story will be different. Your family needs strong bonds to keep Satan from destroying one or more of you. Strong bonds to each other. Strong bonds to your church family. Strong bonds to God. Keeping your family spiritually healthy means taking the time and effort to build these strong bonds.

Tuesday: If your kids seem to be struggling with their emotions and aren’t ready to talk about it, music and art can help. Encourage them to sing, play an instrument, draw, paint – anything that can help them release their emotions in healthy ways. Teach them about the importance of praying their feelings to God. Show them Psalms if they’re scared to pray about what they are feeling and asking God to help them. Work on your relationship, so they will feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts with you. Young people often turn to sinful behaviors thinking they will ease strong negative emotions. Give them a better, more godly way to cope.

Wednesday: This flower has different shading than most. Shading in nature is beautiful, but shading the truth is lying. The Bible tells us multiple times that God hates lies. Have you taught your kids lying is sinful? Do they shade the truth? Tell half truths? Omit the truth? Tell little white lies? Tell lies to “save someone’s feelings”? All of those are lies that are hated by God. Yet most Christian kids think many of those lies are perfectly acceptable. Lying makes life more complicated and unpleasant. Lying has tons of negative consequences. Most importantly God hates lies. Make sure you are raising truth tellers.

Thursday: Are your kids anxious, frustrated or upset? Nothing relaxes kids like a walk in nature. If you live in an urban area and are allowed outside, a park or even the wholesale outdoor flower mart will do. It’s okay to walk in silence until they relax and start talking. Or talk about what you are seeing or something non threatening until they open up. When they start talking really pay attention – even if you secretly think they are”over reacting”. Their emotions are very real to them and if you downplay their importance, they will be less likely to share with you again. Try to end your time in prayer and let them know you will continue praying about it. You don’t always have to solve their problems for them. Sometimes just active listening and prayer are enough.

Friday: These houses all look alike on the outside except for their doors. The doors and interiors of the homes reflect the personalities and experiences of their owners. Even if you are raising identical triplets, they are different. The basics of Christian parenting are the same, but recognizing and adjusting for those differences can make you more effective.

Christian Parenting Challenges Week 4

How has your week been? Have you struggled with your Christian parenting? Here are some challenges that we posted on social media this week, that can help you on your journey.

Monday: What will your kids remember from growing up in your home? It may not be what you think. The big expensive vacation may boil down to a conversation at a cafe or a day in the mountains to playing I Spy in the car on the way there. They will remember the way you lived your life as a Christian, how you treated them and others, your values and whether or not you lived them, the things you consistently said about God and others. Give them daily memories that will always point them to God. Those are the memories that really matter.

Tuesday: This man is very important in this city’s history. Yet even though someone told me his name and his story, I really couldn’t tell you much about him. Why? Because I haven’t spent a lot of time reading and learning about him. To me, he’s just a name. Jesus can be like that to your kids, too. They need to spend a lot of time learning about Jesus, what he said and did and what his father, God said and did. Otherwise it won’t transform their lives. Jesus will just be a name and a vague story or quote.

Wednesday: Sin is like poison and you should warn your kids and protect them from sin just like you would poison. They need to be taught what sinful thoughts, attitudes and behaviors are. They need to know the difference between a sin and a mistake – like missing an answer on a test. They need to be taught to guard their hearts against the temptation to rebel against God. Yes, grace is amazing, but it’s practically meaningless to your kids unless they understand sin.

Thursday: Food can be a great way to develop empathy in your kids. Part of empathy is understanding we have things in common with people who seem very different from us in some way. These foods are enjoyed by people in different parts of the U.S., but I enjoy them all and can create an instant point of connection with someone else who enjoys them. Breads are a great empathy builder. Bake or buy breads originally from other places. As you enjoy them, point out that in spite of the differences, they are all breads. Find other things your family has in common with people in those areas. Teaching empathy is the first step in loving others as we love ourselves…so have some fun working on empathy with your kids.

Friday: Smells are a strong memory trigger. Specific objects can have a similar effect on memory. It’s one of the reasons God gave the rainbow as a sign or memory trigger of His promise to Noah. Want your kids to remember important things from the Bible? Attach them to smells or specific objects and repeat the connection to your kids repeatedly over the years. Then when they encounter that smell or object, the memory of that concept or scripture will come flooding back.