Many have assumed that anger is wrong, even sinful, therefore one should never become angry. This is an error. Anger is a natural emotion and occurs in every human being, John 2:15 / Acts.23:3 / Ephesians 4:26. Anger is something we all experience but Paul warns us all to let it cease by night-time.
In other words, it should be short-lived and not harboured in the heart indefinitely. It should only be a temporary thing. Thus it is not the anger itself that is wrong but the way we handle our anger.
We should not be surprised to see anger in our children. It is there from birth, it is up to us to help them learn how to control their anger.
How do you help young children, even teens to learn how to control their temper?
Obviously a baby is incapable of comprehending any wrongdoing. They need to be held, loved and to hear a soothing human voice. On the other hand, it is possible to create a demanding baby by rushing to pick them up every time they utter a whimper.
Infants learn to manipulate their parents, so don’t be afraid to let them cry for a reasonable period of time. By their first year, you discipline them by firm persistence and not by punishment.
Again don’t be afraid of their cry, which can be a very potent weapon. Punishing a child must always be for disobedience and a defiant attitude. Punishment should not be for childish blunders and mistakes.
A defiant toddler can become so angry that they are capable of holding their breath until they lose consciousness. Their defiance may be so strong that their shocked parents will back off of any kind of discipline.
Some have been known to refuse to eat for two or three days. Many parents are unable to cope with this surrender of their parental authority. The child becomes the boss.
How many times have we seen children give their parents fits in a grocery store? They make demands for sweets, gum, cupcakes, etc. When the parent refuses they scream, cry and throw the most embarrassing temper tantrums. They may even shout such things as, ‘I hate you’, hit the parent or throw something.
Assuming nothing has ever been done previously to curb these tantrums the following conversation ought to take place. Just as soon as his anger has subsided get him alone and talk to him in the following manner.
‘Johnny I know you were upset today at the store. I think we should talk about what you were feeling. All children get angry at their parents now and then. I’m very sorry we got into an argument but that does not excuse the way you acted today by saying, ‘I hate you’.
You’ll learn that no matter how upset I may become I will never yell at you or tell you I hate you. I cannot permit you to talk that way to me. When people love each other as you and I do they don’t want to hurt one another.
It hurt me the way you acted and what you said just as it would have hurt you if I said something like that to you. I want you to know you can always tell me what angers you and I will listen. If it is something I can change that you dislike and it is best for you I will.
But you will never be permitted to scream and call names and throw temper tantrums again. If you behave in childish ways, I will have to punish you as I would a little child.
On our next trip to the store if you act this way again I will certainly punish you. Is there anything you need to say to me now? If not put your arms around my neck because I love you.’
Here you have let him know exactly where he stands and what to expect. At the same time, you have given him an opportunity appropriately express any anger he may have.
You are permitting the ventilation of negative feelings without encouraging violent, disrespectful and manipulative behaviour. If the same behaviour occurs on the next trip to the store take him behind the building and do what you have done at home.
When a toddler begins to defy a parent when the parent has made a request the following conversation would be well to follow.
‘Johnny I love you more than you can possibly understand. You are precious to me and I thank God He gave you to me to raise. But because I love you, I must teach you to obey me. That is the only way I can take care of you and protect you from things that might hurt you.’
The Bible says, ‘Children obey your parents’, for this is what God wants you to do’. Ephesians 6:1. Do you understand that you must obey me? Then lay down the rules and make sure they understand exactly what they must do. Be firm but also be loving.
But let us suppose Johnny has not been taking your commands very good. Take for example putting him to bed but he keeps popping out. The following little speech will be helpful.
‘Johnny, this time Mummy means business. Are you listening to me? Do not get out of this bed. Do you understand me?’ Then when Johnny pops out, give him a tap on the legs, with a small switch. Put the switch on the dresser where he can see it.
Walk confidently out with a further comment. If he comes out again, fulfil your promise. Repeat until he acknowledges you are the boss. Then hug him, tell him you love him and how important it is for him to get his rest. It is important that you confirm your leadership. Many parents lack the courage to win this kind of confrontation.
When your teenager expresses anger don’t resent it and by all means, don’t respond with anger by yelling or screaming. The more they can verbalise their anger the better off they will be. Your responsibility is to determine if they are expressing it appropriately or inappropriately.
The ideal situation, of course, is that they are in control. After both of you are calm, commend them for the appropriate ways they expressed their anger and then talk to them about any of the inappropriate ways they used such as name-calling, yelling, throwing something, etc.
You may want to work on one thing at a time. All of this is ‘training up a child in the way he should go.’ Proverbs 22:6.
A child may express strong feelings without being irritating or disrespectful. Maybe a tearful charge, ‘you were not fair with me and you embarrassed me in front of my friends.’ Such can be dealt with quietly and even an apology might be in order on the part of the parent.
But if a child says something like ‘you are stupid and you never do anything right’. Then this is an attack on the dignity and authority of the parent. Sometimes a statement may seem borderline and you’re not sure exactly what was meant. You might respond as follows.
‘Johnny, your answer to me just now sounded easy. I’m not sure how you intended it. But just so we will understand each other don’t talk to me like that again. If you do I will have to punish you for I cannot allow you to speak disrespectfully to me or anyone else.’