How to Discipline When You're Angry
- Megs Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2016 13 May
My husband and I sat across the table, aggravated as our picky daughter's kids’ meal sat idle. The loss of us catering to her taste was starving my patience. As my volume increased, and my husband's face turned red, God said, “Be compassionate."
How does a disciple of Christ discipline in the face of unreasonable behavior? Prevent the angry parent fail by inserting compassion into your gut reaction. Here's a five-step method to master those burn-a-hole-right-through-you moments of madness.
1. Be quiet.
God is powerful to slow His anger. Not because we deserve it, but because He is who He is. My natural tendency to seethe and explode reminds me to lean on a powerful and merciful God to supply the strength to be silent.
Children condition their reactions to their parents’ inclinations. From birth on, they know how to push our buttons. Kids cannot capture the amount of trouble they're in by your tone if you simply don't say anything at all. Let them poke. Let the prod. Let them know, "I need some time to think about it."
Take a moment to pray, seek a quiet space, and regroup by repeating this truth: "Slow to anger." Discipline doesn't have to be ugly and loud. Sometimes just the thought of what we're thinking is punishment enough. Surrendering to our anger in silence allows us time to make clear and merciful decisions that align with God's compassionate standards.
2. Rehearse reaction.
"In your anger do not sin." (Ephesians 4:26a)
"Shut up" is my favorite phrase in the face of pandemonium. Somehow I slip into the mentality that, if yelled loud enough, the fight in the backseat of the car will come to a screeching halt as my kids realize how much they love each other and embrace in happy accord. When I'm tired, running late, hungry, and over stretched, I am wound-up and bound to snap.
To insert compassion into a gut reaction, a rehearsed mentality must be set in place. All great goals are accomplished in advance. Athletes use visualization. I think it's brilliantly applicable to parenting.
Kids happily jumping on the trampoline, the refrigerator covered in straight-A report cards, morning cuddles, the last trip to Disney World... Play back a clip and force a smile in a moment that's about to explode. Consciously replacing angry feelings with sentiments of gratitude rights the perspective ship, readily followed-up with focused discipline.
3. Speak firm, not stern.
"Because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (James 1:20)
To speak firm, not overly stern, my hurt feelings must be detached from the situation to deactivate the defensive nature we all possess. By focusing on the heart of the issue compassionate discipline can be successfully applied.
"I'm sorry you're hungry, but we bought you dinner. I'm sorry you made a bad choice not to eat it, but it was your choice."
I wish I had a picture of that face.
"I love you, I forgive you, and I hope you make a better choice next time."
Instead of letting points of pressure compromise your character and undeservedly attack your child's, focus on breaking down the issue of heart at hand.
4. Crown His consistency king.
Once a successful strategy has been deployed, keep repeating it. Add hugs and implore sympathy... But don't give in beyond the discipline you've set.
"I'm sorry you made a bad choice... I love you."
It requires an everyday effort to execute this kind of an effort. Though I am ashamed to admit it, circumstances collide in catastrophe beyond my strength to remain self-controlled sometimes. But it happens less as I seek Christ more. Have faith that He will show you what to do, and give you the strength to do it.
"...anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
"...whose weakness was turned to strength..." (Hebrews 11:34)
Though the process of taming parental anger is tough, it's well worth the reward.
“Have faith in He who will not give you more than He built you to handle. Be confident that through Christ, all things are possible.” (Phil 4:13)
Set the precedent for compassion in your home. It ensures children that we will still hug them through the punishment their mistakes put them through. Just as our Father does for us.
Megs is a stay-at-home mom and blogger at http://sunnyand80.org, where she writes about everyday life within the love of Christ.
Publication date: May 13, 2016