My twin sons scooted close to one another at the breakfast table as I poured milk over their cereal. Bouncing off of each other, they bumped arms and laughed. My toddler banged her hands on the table, screaming for her sippy cup, while my older son demanded I locate his drawing from yesterday. One of my twins erupted, “Hey! Stop touching me! Stop sitting close to me! Mooomm!” At that moment, I could have asked myself, “Is yelling a sin?”
But, instead, my anger boiled over into a yell before we’d even finished the first bites of breakfast: “Guys, knock it off!” Guilt set in immediately. I’d done it again.
Is yelling a sin? I want to fight anger in motherhood.
My voice calmed as I tried to sort out the issues at hand. I felt exasperated with everyone’s behavior — especially my own. I wanted to enjoy a nice, conversational breakfast with my children. I wanted them to be considerate, reasonable, and self-sufficient. Was that too much to ask? (Yes. It was.)
While I wish it wasn’t the case, scenes like this play out at our house more often than I’d like. When we leave for school, when we clean up the house, when it’s bedtime, when it’s mealtime. Perhaps you can relate?
Here are a few principles that help me navigate anger in the little years.
Call It What It Is
Not all anger becomes sin (Eph. 4:26). When our hearts rise up against things that God hates — wicked, disobedient, unloving behavior — we model our righteous and just God. When our children complain about their circumstances or inflict pain on others, we are right to be upset. Anger over the right things for the right reasons can remind us of our vital job to teach our kids to hate wickedness, too. But this righteous anger is never an excuse to treat our children harshly.
Also, not all yelling is a sin. If our children run into a busy street, I’m going to yell their names as loudly and forcefully as I can. Screaming their names might save their lives. In this, we also reflect God, who gives us strong warnings when our lives hang in the balance (Rom. 6:23).
But on a daily basis, when we just haven’t had enough coffee and our kids are wrestling again, yelling as a parenting technique isn’t righteous (James 1:20). Allowing anger to burst forth without self-control, moving straight from offense to wrath, doesn’t reflect God’s character. Our Lord is “slow to anger and great in lovingkindness” (Ps. 145:8) showing perfect patience in Christ (1 Tim. 1:16).
When I seek to punish or control my kids with harsh words just because they aren’t behaving exactly the way I want, I need to call my response what it is. It’s not a bad day. It’s not a mom fail. It’s not a joke. It’s a sin.
I need to call my response what it is. It’s not a bad day. It’s not a mom fail. It’s not a joke. It’s sin.
And, like all sin, I need to confess it, apologize to my kids, hope in Christ, turn from it, walk forward in freedom from guilt, and enjoy a renewed desire for obedience (1 John 1:9).