Why did you do that?!! I don’t understand why you would do that!!
You’re four years old. I’ve been telling you your entire life that that is not ok to do! When are you going to get it?!
I remember, with great regret, screaming those words at my daughter.
She was advanced in learning and language. She communicated on a level much higher than your average 4 year old, and she was my first child so I didn’t really “get” how little she was.
But I remember hearing those words echo around my living room: “You’re four years old…”
That’s not very many years at all.
And for the first 2 of those she was a baby.
She’s still very much a baby.
Why am I screaming at her??
My poor first born. My poor first little pancake.
You know how the first pancake never turns out quite right? You have to adjust the temperature on the skillet and maybe thicken or thin the batter a little bit. First kids are like that. They turn out alright, thanks to their own strength and the grace of God, but our parenting adjusts and gets a whole lot better with the next ones.
In my early motherhood, I was arrogant enough to think I was doing it all right by my first kid. I believed I had parenting all figured out. My first pancake was just fine, thankyouverymuch.
When those words rang out around my living room–“You’re four years old!!!”–my heart sank. I knew I was wrong. I was so much more at fault than she was. I don’t even remember what she was in trouble for, but I remember at that moment realizing that *I* was the one with a problem.
Two things really changed my parenting: Scriptures and Strategies
Scriptures that Helped Me Overcome Mom Anger
One verse in particular changed the way I reacted to my children when they were not behaving.
“For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:20 (ESV)
My anger does not produce the results I was looking for in my children. Getting angry at my children will not lead them to righteousness! Looking back, this should have been a logical, easily understood lesson, but it was mind-blowing to me at the time.
Not only was my anger a sin, it wasn’t effective! I was damaging our relationship…and for nothing!
My anger may have spurred my child to react in the short term (hurry up and clean her room, for example), but it wasn’t producing results in the long term (learning to put her things away dilligently).
So, what DOES produce that behavior?
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
Restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
Wait… aren’t those verses talking about other people? Those aren’t parenting verses!
Um, I don’t know how to break it to you…. your children ARE people! Honestly, this was another mind-blowing notion. My children were not reflections of my character. They are not miniature versions of me running around for me to correct and coerce and control. I’m supposed to treat them like people.
I am to have SELF-control, not child control. No, when it comes to kids, my job is not control. It’s training.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
I would bet that all Christian parents have heard this verse and considered it in their parenting. We tend to believe it means that if we raise them right, they’ll live perfect adult ways. I developed a different understanding of this verse at some point.
What if instead of placing the pressure on us to be perfect parents, it’s actually saying we should consider God’s laws as well as the child’s unique bent. Train up a child in the way HE should go. Indeed, I train my daughters differently based on their personalities and gifting. The way each of them should go is slightly different. I want to see them walking with the Lord, but also using their individuality to serve Him.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
God’s word is the ulitmate resource for ME as a mom and for my kids. I can use the Bible to train and reprove my children, and also to gain wisdom myself!
The second thing that really changed my parenting was learning good strategies for training and dealing with wrong behaviors.
Strategies That Helped Me Control My Mom Anger
I struggled with angry outbursts with my kids so many times. After each time, I would feel sooo bad. I looked back at things after a while and realized that there was a pattern. Many times, I would be yelling at the kids in the car on the way to some appointment or activity. I realized that running late, or trying to meet others’ expectations for what we should be when we got there, was a huge stress trigger for me and I passed that stressor on to my kids.
I realized that the stress I was feeling was my own reaction to the situation, and not my children’s fault entirely. If I wanted to be on time and looking perfect, we would need to start getting ready earlier or lower our expectations.
These days, we may run late and our shoes may be on the wrong feet, but we get there in peace.
Any time I noticed my anger rising at a specific trigger, I stopped and asked myself what I was really angry about. I can control my reactions better when I am honest with myself about the source of the stress.
The If-Then Chart maybe the best parenting tool I’ve ever found. You can make one yourself or buy this one from Doorposts. It works like this: on one side, you write down the things your kids are not allowed to do. On the other side, you establish consequences for those behaviors.
The brilliance of the If-Then Chart is this: whenever your child misbehaves, you do not have to raise your voice or offer warnings (in fact, you DO NOT give warnings). You simply say, “Oh, dear, I hear whining. That’s on the If-Then Chart, let’s see, looks like you’ll be losing dessert tonight.” (Or whatever punishment you’ve established). When our kids were little, we had “swats” on there. There is a LOT of controversy about spanking children, and I would not encourage you to do it if you feel like you really have an anger problem…it’s just so hard to control, and spanking in anger is what causes issues.
The essential use of the If-Then Chart is to train your child’s behavior before you reach a point of irritation. Disciplining (training) without irritation is a lot more effective AND prevents you from using elevated emotions like anger to try to control your child.
High Goals, Low Expectations
In our home, we have learned to practice the art of High Goals, Low Expectations. This means, I have very high goals for my children. My goal is for my children to be thriving, contributing, capable adults one day. In the meantime, I have low expectations for them.
For example, one of my High Goals is that my children make their bed and keep their rooms tidy. That means, I put it on their chore list to do every morning. My expectation is that they will forget and that they will only make the bed to the level of experience and maturity they have. Since I have this low expectation, I’m happy to remind them every day and pleased when my littlest girl tugs her quilt up even though it’s crooked and the teddy bear is underneath it.
But… since I have the high goal, I show her the proper way to do it. Do I EXPECT that she will do it right the next time? No, but I’m going to continue to show her how and one day she will.
It takes a lot of faith to maintain high goals and low expectations.
You have to have faith that your children will catch on, and will eventually grasp the lessons you’ve been taught. That reminds me of one other verse that applies to this kind of parenting:
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (ESV)
Mama, you WILL reap the harvest you desire….if you don’t give up. Take heart, and don’t be so hard on yourself or the kids.
If you’re strugging with Mom Anger, I want you to know this:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Sister, I’ve been there. I promise you, I know how bad it can get. If you need to talk to someone, comment, email me at Christina@Gathering-Joy.com, or join our Private Facebook group and let’s talk about it. You can even message me on Facebook if you ever need someone to talk you down in a situation.
We are called to share our stories and encourage one another. I know you love your babies, and I know how frustrating they can be. I’m here for you.
Which of these strategies have you tried?
Hot Baths and Soft Sheets,
P.S. If you found this article helpful, share it with another mom who may be struggling with anger.