Twice in the last couple of days I had two boys speak to me in gruff sassy tones that made me raise my eyebrows a bit. They had both been storming about and generally putting off a negative vibe and adversarial spirit.
In days gone by, I might have gotten angry and told them to shape up. I might have even launched into a lecture about respect. Neither reaction would have done anybody any good. In my journey away from angry reactions toward gentle biblical responses to my kids’ behavior, I have learned to have much more empathy for my boys. My desire is to come alongside them and help them problem solve instead of punish at the drop of a dime. So when my boys own angry attitudes and inappropriate words became a pattern recently, the Holy Spirit checked me and prompted me to ask this important question:
“Son, you are really upset and this isn’t like you. What’s REALLY going on? What is the reason you are REALLY feeling so angry?”
Each time, they immediately spilled their guts in a flood of tears and relief.
One said he was sorry—he was just feeling so sad about missing an upcoming birthday party for a friend. He was still processing his disappointment. (I made a mistake in my calendar and told him he could go only to realize later that we had a conflict that couldn’t change. Of course, I felt so badly about this!)
The other told me that he had had a troubling conversation at school with his teacher and was feeling very misunderstood and hurt. He wanted to please his teacher, but felt like he had been a failure. He was desperate for my encouragement.
I could have missed the opportunity to help them work through their emotions and show them empathy. I wonder how often I miss these golden opportunities with my kids because I just want them to cooperate.
When our kids are displaying anger, we need to seek out the root of that and help them work through it, just as we would want someone to do for us.
One of my main goals as a mom is to be so in tune with the Holy Spirit, that I can discern when my children need to experience loving consequences, and when they need my compassion and grace. If you have an angry child, spend some time praying for them and for wisdom in reaching their hearts.
In light of my kids’ angry reactions, I’m keeping these verses in mind both for them, and for me:
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV)