Every parent knows the experience. You’re tired and your children ignore your every word. You told them over and over, but they persevere in their obstinacy. Then you do what seems like the only option– you lose your temper. You lose control and give full vent to everything you have been thinking.
A lot of times, this makes them get back in line, so it feels like you have accomplished your mission. They got the message that you had enough and they are now scared enough to stop what they were doing, for a while. Over the long haul, this tactic loses its effectiveness and carries drastic consequences.
When we think about the goal of parenting–to discipline, teach, and train our children for the glory of God and the good of their own souls–we realize that anger, frustration, venting, and temper tantrums are not effective tools in our arsenal. In fact, they are Satan’s tools. Even when we speak true words in anger, our foolish behavior betrays the words coming from our mouths.
Every parent should write James 1:19-20 over all of their parenting efforts. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Verse 20 is especially important for us. Our anger cannot produce righteousness in our children. It doesn’t lead them to Christ and it models the ways of the foolish.
So, what do we do then? What do we do when we lose our temper with our children and how can we grow so that we don’t?
First, you must own that losing your temper with your children is a sin. Look at Scripture and you will see this in many places. King Solomon, Jesus, James, and Paul all talked about the foolishness and sinfulness of losing self-control and giving full vent to our anger. Recognize that you sinned against God and your kids, then repent before the Lord.
You don’t stop with repenting to the Lord, though. You must also repent to your children. I initially recoiled against the idea of apologizing to my children when I was wrong because it felt like I was giving them the upper hand, but Scripture convinced me that if I must reconcile with people I have sinned again, that includes my children.
When you go to your kids to apologize, don’t try to play the “we were both wrong” card. Own your sins before your kids. “It was wrong of me to lose my temper at you. Please forgive me.” It is that simple and that humbling, but when you do this, you reconcile with your children and offer them the chance to learn how to forgive so they don’t let the root of bitterness take hold of their lives. Also, it models for them how they should repent to other people when they have sinned against them.
Embrace God’s Forgiveness
I tend to feel like a thorough and complete failure as a follower of Jesus when I lose my temper at all, but this is especially true if it happens with my kids. )I’m sure most of you know this feeling too.) Then, add to this how completely over our heads most of us feel when it comes to raising our children and it gets exponentially worse. We know that our parenting will affect them for the rest of their lives and this drives us to despair about our ability to raise our children in a God-honoring way. We become convinced that we have ruined them and sense an incredible amount of shame.
Your feelings of despair and shame should drive you to remember why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is such good news. When Jesus died on the cross, he bore every one of your sins, including the ones you commit against your children. The wrath of God towards you has been fully and completely satisfied because of Christ. Through faith in him, you are no longer condemned and your shame is covered.
When you trust in Christ, you aren’t only forgiven, but you also stand fully and completely righteous before God because of the perfect life of Christ. You don’t have to make the grade as a parent to be accepted by God because Jesus already obeyed fully in your place. Since God fully accepts you in Christ and not because of your perfect parenting record, embrace your identity in him and don’t walk in guilt and shame any longer.
Pray and Grow
I’ve got bad news now that you have repented and embraced who you are in Christ– your kids are going to push your buttons again. They will get you into more standoffs and do more things that you keep telling them not to do. What are you going to do then?
First, and I don’t mean this to be trite, you need to pray about how you respond to your children. Jesus said that he will do anything you ask in his name and he invites you to lay your burdens on him. Exercising self-control when you are tired and frustrated is often more than you can do on your own, so you must look to the strength that God supplies. Pray, expect God to be at work in your heart, and pray some more.
Also, we must actively work to grow in maturity so that our overall self-control grows. Here is where Peter’s command to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ comes in. Since all sin, including anger, comes from the heart, we focus on our walk with the Lord, seeking to grow in holiness and putting sin to death. Growing in maturity will cultivate spiritual fruit in your life and self-control springs from that growth. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Finally, trusting in the work of God’s Spirit, fight against your tendency to lose your temper with all your might. (Colossians 1:11) If you get in a situation where you feel like your kids are about to make you blow a gasket, walk away from the situation, calm down, and get some perspective before you go back in to talk with them. It is better for you to “lose” than to lose it.
“How to Stop Losing Your Temper“
For Further Reading:
Parenting by Paul Tripp
Don’t Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard