Sometimes we blame our anger on circumstances (“it annoyed me that he kept doing x”), people (“she just gets under my skin,” or “our personalities just clash”), and sometimes–perhaps more rare– we own it all ourselves (“I’ve got an anger problem.”)
However, I think there’s one thing that is nearly universal in the way it consistently produces an angry, pushed-to-the-edge mama.
The thing I’ve observed in myself in and others is this:
The LONGER I wait to discipline my children, the ANGRIER and MORE out of control I am.
This seems paradoxical at first. We can think we’re being kind or gracious to wait to discipline.
Aren’t I being *MERCIFUL* to overlook it the first 3 times, before finally dealing with it the 4th time?
No, what’s actually happening is this: I am being inconsistent (letting my child get away with something 3 times without correction, before it is no longer OK), and my frustration amps up each time I allow it to occur. God has built this into us– we know we should not allow a behavior, and so it makes us mildly annoyed… as it is repeated, we get more and more frustrated, to the point where our anger explodes because we “can’t take it anymore!”
WHY NOT IGNORE IT?
If we tune in and listen, we often hear it inside our heads the very first time something occurs. But too often, instead of listening to that pricking of the Holy Spirit, we overlook it, “let it slide” or even (due to bad advice) think we’d be wrong to correct it the first time and expect obedience from our child. We ignore the “mommy radar” God has built into our hearts.
WHY NOT CODDLING OR COERCION?
Some so-called Christian parenting gurus champion ideas that essentially praise overlooking sin and disobedience. They downplay the idea of a child learning to obey the first time (sometimes outright criticizing it, sneering about “first time obedience”), and instead, they:
- encourage being “playful” when your child disobeys
- tell you the child may not be mature enough to understand (even though the defiant gleam in the eyes says the child understands just fine)
- prescribe more hugs and encouraging words because when a child acts out, they’re simply a “little person” having “big feelings.”
I want to warn you. These ideas are poisonous and unbiblical. They produce angrier children and will ultimately delay your child’s ability to develop self-control.
GIVING BIBLICAL DISCIPLINE IS PART OF LOVING YOUR CHILDREN
Yes, we need to make sure that our children understand (and they do so very early!), and yes, we need to give them heaps and heaps of encouragement and praise (and snuggles and smiles and reading times and cuddles and silly faces, etc.). We should ABSOLUTELY be affectionate mothers who reach and seek to understand our children’s hearts. Our children should be raised in a very affectionate, encouraging, and loving environment; no doubt about that! (Click here for 35 Ways to Love Your Children.)
But the biblical response to disobedient, wayward sin is discipline (both from God toward us, and from us toward our children). I love the way the NKJV translates Proverbs 13:24:
“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”
Three pieces of wisdom are found here:
- Withholding discipline is hateful.
- Whatever anyone may say (even if they have the title “Christian” in their website or book), it is loving to discipline your child.
- The wise & loving parent disciplines PROMPTLY.
It’s that THIRD point I’m honing in on today.
REDUCE YELLING & ANGER BY DISCIPLINING PROMPTLY
First, have you read my articles about yelling, anger, & sin? <—- In those articles, I’ve shared personal confession about my struggle with anger, & the truths that have helped to me to fight it and finally have victory in my battle against angry yelling.
One of the keys I’ve found to combatting anger in my life is to diligently watch my children and to, as that verse says, discipline them promptly.
By disciplining promptly:
- I’m parenting proactively… dealing with things in a self-controlled way, before anger has a chance to rise up and “master” me.
- I’m parenting consistently… helping my children to recognize that I say what I mean and mean what I say. Their lives are much simpler, and their attitudes much better, when they know what to expect and which things are acceptable and which things are not.
This is actually the most loving thing we could do.
Could you imagine working a job where the standard changed each day, and sometimes you could get away with something just fine, and even think you’re doing well, and then three or four times later, get written up for that same action? That would be incredibly discouraging.
THAT is what you are doing when you let your child:
- repeatedly disregard your instructions
- repeatedly do something that irritates and frustrates
- disrespect you multiple times
BEFORE you blow up and rain down on him like a ball of fury.
Or perhaps your style isn’t to pour out your wrath all at once. Perhaps, instead of being the volcano of anger, you are the clam-like mom who seethes with a boiling anger, ready to spill over at any moment. Maybe your fury bubbles under the surface and is felt through clenched teeth, withheld affection, and stoic responses.
FIGHT ANGER. DISCIPLINE PROMPTLY.
However it presents itself in your life, one way you can combat your anger is by honing your mommy radar and disciplining PROMPTLY.
Christian mom, it is LOVING to discipline your children promptly and consistently.
And… it will make for a far less angry mom, because you’ll be dealing with things BEFORE they are driving you up the wall.
IN THE COMMENTS:
Is this something you need to work on doing more consistently?
14 thoughts on “Is This One Reason You’re An Angry Mom?”
Whew! This comes at a timely moment. Yesterday was just plain hard, hard, hard…..HARD. But I was very convicted that with the past season of sickness I went through I’d let the discipline standards slide because I was laying down so much and feeling awful and that I was paying dearly for this and it was so bad! So I was really clear yesterday and this morning after those reminders that the rules are no disrespect, we honor our parents, obey promptly and are loving to each other do not speak negative complaining words and the like. I was really clear what the consequences would be and need to remember to every morning have a conversation like this with my kids so they KNOW what the expectations are. Jess, how do you handle those times when your routine has been really off kids haven’t slept much and are SUPER tired and cranky and not listening well? I have a daughter with health issues and she easily gets over tired from even church and a wedding in one weekend and then the following week can be so difficult for both of us because she is so emotionally upset from being tired and doesn’t listen well. I really would like to know how to handle it in a godly manner. I know having good expecations are good of her. However at times she gets very down because she says I expect her to never make mistakes. She is almost 7 and I find spanking not to be as helpful with her as it is with her younger brothers. I take away privileges mainly but she has a total melt down when I take away privileges.
A couple thoughts.
(1) I would make sure that you’re not overcommitting. Especially with our more easily-affected kiddos (which– for me– includes those 2 & under, kids of any age with a special season of busyness, as well as kiddos with health problems), I fear we tend to take on more commitments and goings-on than we should. So my first thought would be to cut out any non-essentials. Normally, you might attend the birthday party or whatever, but during this year/season, you may need to say “no.” Etc.
(2) Build in more sleep. To bed 1/2 hour sooner. Room-darkening curtains to let her sleep a little longer. Add in a nap mid-day if need be. Etc. See to it that you’re giving her as much rest as possible.
(3) Talk to her about how tiredness doesn’t absolve us of kindness, obedience, listening to the rules, honoring our authorities, etc. Even when we’re tired we have to do these things, though it may take more “grit” and determination on our parts to do these things well when we are over-tired.
(4) You may consider, as the mom who recognizes a unique season/short week of extra commitments, if there are ways you can help her and serve her. We don’t want to mollify or coddle weakness, and yet, there may be ways you can bless her or help her to learn how to get through difficult seasons. For example, “why don’t you take a bag of books to the corner chair and read quietly while I work on dinner?” (Introverts in particular can get over-stimulated in busy seasons & taking anywhere from a half hour to two hours alone can sometimes work wonders on their little souls.) (Or coloring, or build with magnets, or work on embroidery, or whatever… something quiet and solitary). Sometimes extra time with you can be good, too. “Come sit up here on the counter while I stir the chili and we can visit for a minute.” (etc.)
The point of this last one is to look for ways to feed her soul and care for her as a person, while still training for obedience and pleasant interactions as a family. We don’t justify sin, and yet we recognize genuine times of weakness and help our children learn self-control even amidst weakness. That’s my approach, anyway.
(5) One final thought: breaking up your norm can be helpful. Turn on some fun dance music and liven up your home for an afternoon… or pull out the playdoh (if that’s a more rare treat in your home)… or turn on the sprinklers… or go for a walk.
These things shouldn’t be used to distract a child OUT of a bad attitude, but to assist a child in fighting a bad attitude. I hope that distinction is clear. We don’t want to bribe our children out of grumpiness… we want self-control to be learned, but then once we see them actually, truly entering the battle for self-control, we may choose to use something like this to assist them through a tough patch.
Hope this helps.
That does help and those are great ideas! Thank you. We don’t get out much at all so I know that overbooking isn’t the issue. In fact a lot of weeks we are home all week long. But my husband insists on some things like weddings and church and although it’s hard on myself and the kids we just have to make the best of it. I’ve def. learned to say no to almost everything else. I was invited to a book study of Jean Flemings book on motherhood by a wonderful godly lady and want to go so badly but realized this week it’s not going to happen because of our situation right now. I had to choose to remember that God knows and sees and what He’s given me in this season of hiddenness and less friendships is His best and not a lack in my life. He’s teaching me a lot about stillness and quietness in my heart and how to slow down and love my kids instead of just staying busy all the time like the world shouts we should. I know in this world things will be challenging but that we do have so much hope as we trust Him and His allowances of trials in our lives. This post was a good reminder to focus on the important things at home like heart attitudes and obedience. These things will bear far more fruit than simply entertaining our kids and keeping them busy with endless fun activities outside the house.
Yes!! I love love love what you said. Totally right on.
Oh and one more thing. I think you hit the nail on the head about the relationship between mom anger and waiting too long to discipline. Because it’s like the kids become in control of the situation instead of us and that’s really not good and we sense it. This is SO right on and it’s encouraging.
I agree Jessica – I have a 3 year old and I feel like in the moment (when I really need him to obey), it is like nothing I say means anything to him. Like he is running the show, and I’m left panicking because I’m in a public situation and there is no obedience. But because I may not have been consistent at home, it just SEEMS to get “worse” when we’re out, and I’m left wondering “why is he not obeying!?” (because I too often try to train him on the fly, instead of at home when it isn’t as crucial).
I also echo your question about what to do when a child is tired, pushed to his limit for the day, but mommy must run an errand or the routine is out of whack. My son will scream, throw things, fall apart into an emotional puddle, BUT then he’ll pass out in the car on the way… so I know he was exhausted. I don’t want to overlook disobedience but sometimes it’s my fault for not anticipating his needs (such as sleep or hunger) and then we all pay the price. I feel awful at that point for administering discipline when he is about to pass out from tiredness.
Yes– so there are two thoughts there, from what you said:
(1) You need to be putting in the daily work of training at home… so that when you are out & about, his heart is already tuned to listening to you and obeying without questioning/grumping/fussing/anger, etc. There may yet be tantrums and ugly responses (mine always have tried in public) but they will be far less severe and far less frequent when you have done the hard work of teaching them at home, consistently. This may require a season of weeks or even a month or more where you do not much else besides staying home and training.
But it will pay off in the long run, not only with this child, but with any other children God gives you as they watch their oldest sibling and learn from his/her diligently-trained behavior & attitudes, or poorly-trained behavior & attitudes..
(2) See my response to Jessica above… but also, be sure that you are not requiring more of your child than you actually should. Quite often the errands aren’t as critical or immediately necessary as we act like they are. We overstimulate our children and require too much and they are put at a severe disadvantage over non-necessary things. Sometimes there truly are non-avoidable things, but I try to schedule everything in the mornings or evenings and almost never make afternoon commitments (unless it is in my home where someone comes to me while the baby sleeps). We’ve found that there is almost never an event that truly needs to be done mid-afternoon right in the middle of the little guys’ naps.
This is something that, for 13 years of our lives, has been pretty much a non-negotiable, and I think honestly that it’s a choice you can make… to make your children’s attitudes and need for sleep a near non-negotiable in your life… the same way you wouldn’t expect them to skip breakfast. If healthy sleep is a need (and it is), then as moms it is our job to see to it that they have regular, dependable opportunity to get the sleep their bodies need. If that means being at home more, and saying “no” to more commitments, then that’s what it means.
I’m speaking straightforward because in our home this has been a very consistent thing since we had Ethan nearly 13 years ago. That said, if you (or others) choose not to do that, that’s certainly your prerogative, but I’d encourage you to see the direct correlation between not meeting this need and the outbursts that come from it, and do everything you can to somehow meet your child’s need for sleep on a consistent basis. This will also give you the freedom to not question yourself overtime you’re disciplining, “is he acting out because he’s overtired?”… well, if he’s getting regular sleep and naps, then you know the answer to that question. If he’s not, then the answer is, most likely, “yes,” at which point, the answer isn’t to not discipline, but to discipline yourself to be home more often so he can get the sleep his body desperately needs. It may not be convenient, but neither is breastfeeding or using carseats, and yet we do those things because we believe they are necessary and best caring for our children’s needs. To me, this is the same sort of deal.
It is hard isn’t it? Mothering sure does show me daily how I can’t do it myself and how much I need God’s renewal, grace and supernatural love. I think if I didn’t have kids I would think I had it all together. HAHA. Def. don’t. My three kids are three little mirrors to me all day long! 🙂
Hi Jess! Clicked over from Michael Hyatt’s post today 🙂 Your title clicked with me because I struggle so much with anger in mothering… And you’ve got it exactly right – I let things go until I’m livid and that’s not helpful to them nor to me. I hadn’t ever made the connection, so I appreciate the revelation!!
However… now I have to actually discipline RIGHT AWAY! lol… Which takes self-discipline from me… What a journey this mothering thing is. Thanks for sharing this.
🙂 Yes… you’re right… then it’s our self-discipline that has to kick in– we have to work to kick the “just ignore it” habit! It’s helped me to realize that this is part of the “socialization” process God intends for our children– for them to learn what’s right, what’s annoying, what’s healthy, what’s weird, what’s kind, what’s somewhat cruel, etc., from the people who love them best (rather than being teased for it or excluded for it by peers).
Motherhood is work!
Such good thoughts. I’ve seen this in myself at times. I’ve also seen it in some parents as more annoyed than angry, like they don’t even like their kids. I sometimes think it is why people don’t want to have more than 2 kids, because they don’t put the time and energy into disciplining them they don’t enjoy being around their own children. As for the kids that have trouble handling being on the go, I have one child that really struggled with being too busy (and we weren’t nearly as busy as many other people I know). We have sometimes taken turns with one of us parents staying home with littles for naptime while the other takes the bigger kids to do things. We also have slowly worked on flexibility with our child that had more trouble and are seeing some fruit of that work now. It helps him to know when he will have some downtime for the day and then he can handle a schedule change much better.
We are in a season of big change for our family. My husband is leaving one career to start another. In the process, he has to work both places until the end of the summer and will be gone nearly everyday. We have also just moved to a new state for his new career so everything is new. With my six littles at home and two experiencing major health issues, it’s been very tiring. I think a lot of my lack of discipline that leads to anger comes from the exhaustion of being a mom on the job 24-7 with no back-up plus all the stresses of the new changes (house still being put together, finding our way around a new place, having to go to ER with one child for health issues, etc.). Thank you for the reminder to get back to handling the discipline right away so I don’t boil over.