All I wanted was five uninterrupted minutes on the phone with my friend Nancy. Instead, I could hardly get a word out without one of my children demanding something of me. My boys were old enough to know better, but their focus on their own needs was overpowering. This resulted in the tugging on my shirt, the pleading eyes and the elongated Mommy whines. I finally lost it, snapped at my children — and then immediately regretted my lack of patience.
Being badgered on the phone is one of my triggers that lead to frustration and anger. And just when I seem to get one trigger under control, another takes its place. I've discovered that instead of imagining I live in a world where triggers don't exist, the game changer is learning to manage my frustrations and anger in a biblical way.
Here are three ways that I've discovered to manage Mommy anger. Perhaps they can help you honor God in your responses to kids and help you enjoy your kids more, too.
Choose a better time
Not long ago, my son began to tell me I was "mean" whenever I corrected his behavior or said no to his requests. My first reaction was to feel indignant over his disrespect. Then I remembered this gem of a verse: "Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult" (Proverbs 12:16, NIV).
The next time my son accused me of being mean for saying no, I ignored the insult in that moment, realizing that becoming embroiled in an argument then wouldn't help either of us. Later that day, when we were both calm and open to a heart-to-heart conversation, I lovingly shared how God placed me in charge over him to protect him and love him.
We discussed how "no" is often a blessing in disguise. I didn't throw a pity party about my feelings; I simply spoke to my son in a way he could understand and helped him brainstorm other, more appropriate, words to use when he was frustrated. Overlooking the insult in the moment it's given allowed our relationship to grow and made him more receptive to changing his behavior.
Control myself first
When my kids were younger, my feelings were out of control as I attempted to discipline my children. I could feel the heat climbing up my neck and my eyes narrowing whenever an altercation occurred. I now realize that in that moment I should have stepped away to get control of myself before I tried to get control of my son.
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that the fruit of the spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." I realized that in my parenting, I was struggling to exhibit these qualities. In order to do that, I was going to have to be intentional.
So I took an entire month to focus on this passage and others about self-control. When conflict occurred, I practiced taking deep breaths and stepping away for a few minutes (or more) until I could respond to my children with gentleness instead of anger. I knew I needed time to practice a new God-honoring habit of controlling myself before I could teach my children how to control themselves. I trusted God, prayerfully, to grow this fruit of the Spirit in me, and He did!
Exchange shaming accusations with empathetic questions
I used to feel like a horse that kept trying to swish away incessant flies with its tail — and I had just about as much success keeping my kids from constantly interrupting. Too often I said things like, "How could you be so … " or "When will you ever learn … " in an attempt to get through to a child. Unfortunately, shaming him or angrily shooing him away didn't reflect the love of Christ, and it didn't reach my child's heart in a way that motivates him to do better.
Proverbs 18:21 says, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." When we watch our tone and rephrase our words, we can bring healing to our children with our mouths. Asking questions can address the heart of the matter and open up conversation. Consider the power of phrases like these:
It looks like you made a bad choice, but I'd like to hear what's going on in your heart right now. Can we talk about it?
It's not like you to be rude to me, so there must be something bothering you. Would you like to tell me about what's going on?
Try switching out your statements for a full day. Even if your responses aren't necessarily shaming, resolve to use empathetic questions instead. Compassionate language will transform the way you view your kids and allow you to model the love of Christ to them, even in their worst moments — just like Jesus does for us.
On my journey toward gentleness, I'm not where I want to be just yet, but I have come a long way from the frustrated and angry mom I used to be. Learning to control my anger — exchanging angry reactions for more biblical, Spirit-filled responses — allows me to enjoy my children and see them as the gifts that God meant for them to be.A former high school English teacher, Amber is the best-selling coauthor of Triggers: Exchanging parents' angry reactions for gentle biblical responses and Parenting Scripts: When what you're saying isn't working, say something new. She and her husband, Guy, own Storehouse Media Group, a faith-friendly and family-friendly TV and Film production company in Los Angeles.