Friday, June 27, 2014

parenting angry children

The ugly began after a morning spent at VBS, learning about the gift of love God poured out in Jesus. It began after Chick Fil A sandwiches and sweet lemonade. Like a quiet volcano it seeped dark heat and smoke from one tired child in the backseat of the car as we drove home.

The smoke began with irritation that we were heading home, and not to some exotic new location. The flame grew and feet began stomping on headrests. Eyes snapped hot, fists curled and lashed out, and soon the blaze engulfed us all.

I sighed in the driver's seat, wishing this wasn't such a familiar tale.

It all just goes to show that a person can sing songs about Jesus, make foam frame that thanks God for His love, have a good meal, and still have a heart full of selfishness.

Mr. Fantastic asked the offending child later if he knew why he had jammed his feet up and slapped a sibling like that?

"No. I don't know why I did it," was the strained response.

They never know. It's a discombobulated brain inside the heads of my children. Fight or flight takes over when they're tired and they're on auto-pilot until the flames die down.

I have learned it's best to keep my own heart from catching ablaze, even if the child is gunning at me with a flame thrower. Because the best thing I can be to that child is a witness. When my children are angry, they need to see Jesus, the great mediator, the King of Peace, and they won't see that if I'm fiery too, yelling at them to be quiet and sit down.

I have ceased to be surprised by anger in my children. I no longer wonder what is wrong with them when they blaze with fierceness at each other or at life in general. Whatever today brings, good or bad, it is simply another day that we all need Jesus more.

And so this episode of burning flame, it is another stop on our journey together.

To be set free from sin and hindrances, Hebrews 12 points to the lives of people of faith as a map to find Christ, our pioneer and perfecter. We can be that kind of witness for our children, if we will choose to hold our tempers. And James 1:19-20 nips our attempts to use anger to make our kids do what is right.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Hebrews 12:1-2
 "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." James 1:19-20 

We are a family. We will all make it through, together, believing the best, hoping for transformation, loving each other more than ourselves. Mercy will win in the end. Love will cover a multitude of sins. I have never once regretted breathing deeply and seeking the path of peace and offering calm responses to blazing words. Then once the anger dies down a bit we do three things:

Say sorry: The offender asks for forgiveness. The offended is given the chance to communicate what they need to change for next time. We pray, we hug, we let go.

Strategize: What can you do, sweet child, the next time you feel like that? What was a recognizable trigger for you to be aware of next time? How can you avoid hurting others when you are angry? What can I do to remind you to choose a better path?

Share: We talk about our own struggles to forgive, to hold our anger, to grow more self-controlled. We are all so similar, and we learn from each other. Plus, it is humbling for those who have been offended to remember that they have often been the offender. Vulnerability heals many wounds best of all.

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