Do you ever feel so angry that you do something you later regret? Yeah. Me too.
Ever with your kids? Yeah. Me too.
Actually, most people who know me probably don’t think I ever get angry. That’s because if I’m ever angry I’m probably the only adult around. I’m probably standing right over my kids wondering why they are still fighting, still yelling at each other, still pinching and pushing and taking things from each other. It makes me angry when my kids are mean and when they’re disobedient. I know they need correction, but sometimes I feel like they should already know they need to be nice and they need to follow directions. But that doesn’t matter. For me, anger is often a result of impatience.
Training kids takes patience. And patience isn’t always just about waiting an extra ten minutes in line at the grocery store. Patience sometimes means getting up every morning for several years before a bad attitude stops and a “yes mom” is spoken without reminder.
Anger and impatience are daily battles for me. Battles that begin in my spirit and that I have not been able to shake off.
When we allow anger, it takes over. It’s easy to allow anger in because we want to be heard. We want to be right. We want to be the boss. Anger makes us feel like we’re the boss, but really we’re out of control. When anger is allowed in, it only breeds confusion.
But I feel anger rise when my kids wake up whiny. When they tell me for the fifth time, “I don’t like (whatever amazing, delicious thing we’re eating that day).” When they throw an attitude because I asked them to please put on their shoes, we’re going to the children’s museum.
Who throws a fit about going to the children’s museum? It’s the most amazing place in the world, where you can touch and climb and build and explore everything. But sometimes I think my kids just want to be contrary. I could offer a bowl of ice cream topped with a whole bottle of chocolate fudge and they’d say, “I wanted a popsicle.”
In her book Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic offers the idea of “Cranksters and Thanksters.” She says that she asks her kids, “Do you want to be a thankster or a crankster?” I tried this with my kids and they didn’t get it. They just kind of laughed at the silly words. But the idea is great: look at what you do have, not what you don’t. What can you be thankful for right now?
Maybe it’s that my children are in their own worlds. They are small. They don’t see things the way I do.
Or do I not see things the way they do?
When I am standing, I see everything. I see the inside of the toaster. I see the pile of papers stacked on top of a shelf. I see the dust that has settled on the fan blades. I see that I am bigger than my running, jumping children.
But they see something too. They see something to be excited about. Why else would they be running and jumping and loud-laughing? When I sit down, the room gets bigger. What would I do if I couldn’t reach the top of the fridge? I would have to climb.
Sometimes our kids need to be corrected. Bad attitudes are unacceptable. Yelling and throwing fits need to be monitored. It’s not okay when one of my children hurts another. Selfishness is not permitted.
But sometimes, I think, I need to slow down and look at the world from a small point of view because my selfishness is not permitted either. Sometimes my children are angry because they are actually sad. They don’t want to stop playing with their cars. They only see what is right now. They don’t understand what is coming.
But let’s talk about King Nebuchadnezzar, who commanded that everyone bow down and worship a gold statue and when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t, he got angry.
“Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in.” DANIEL 3:19-22
So basically, King Nebuchadnezzar was so angry that he was distorted. He was overcome with rage. He let his rage shield him from truth. He didn’t even take the time to understand why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t want to bow down to a pile of gold. Maybe if he had stopped and listened. Maybe if he had been seeking truth above obedience. Maybe if he had had the interest of his people in mind rather than the interest of his own thoughts and pride. Maybe if he had taken a deep breath instead of allowing his emotions to kill his soldiers.
The soldiers were on his side. They were willing to do his work. But he killed them while the men he hated lived on. But it’s not about hate and it’s not about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It’s about the truth they lived for. It’s about what they saw.
My kids always see the fun in things, whereas I usually see the work in things.
My kids want to go outside and ride their bikes and scooters, but I see that I will have to monitor their impulses to ride too far. My kids want to play checkers, but I see that their little sister will want to grab and throw all the pieces and everyone will start crying.
Truth is that parenting is work. But it’s also fun. If I only see the work, then truth is not upheld. If I only see the fun, truth is not upheld either. Training children to be functional adults requires both work and fun. Requiring that my children bow down to statues that I have built from pride and blindness is not the answer. Getting down on the floor and trying to see what my children see is probably the only way I will be able to help them in their own battles against selfishness and impatience and anger. And it’s probably also the only way to conquer my own battles against the very same things.