For When You’re Done Feeling So Angry (and you don’t want to yell at your kids anymore)
It’s weird how the smallest things can set a mom off.
And by weird I mean normal because oh our sinful hearts.
The other day I got so mad at one of my kids. I had asked them if they wanted to do something, they said no, then changed their mind so I gave them an instruction based on that, they changed course, and BOOM, set me off. It was so dumb that I would get mad, but I felt so mad. It didn’t help that I was already in an irritated mood. My child had blocked my goal, unintentionally, and it threw me and my heart came up out of my mouth and I said some unkind things to my child. I also gave them the “mean” look. You know the look. I don’t like wearing that look.
I took a deeeeeeeeep, deep breath, and calmed down.
I hate when my kids see my claws.
I looked at my child and I said, “I’m sorry I sinned against you in my anger. I was wrong. Will you forgive me? Come here, let me hug you. <good cuddles> Also, you need to obey when I tell you something. I need you to do your best to listen to me, okay?”
Hugs, forgiveness, we made it another round. All is well.
There is just something about sharing close spaces with people day in and day that can make you a little crazy. Throw in our sin nature, our bents, personalities, life, and sometimes we are primed for an explosion. We are human. We’re going to blow it, which is why we need Jesus. And it’s why our kids need Jesus. We are all loved but in desperate need of help.
To the moms out there who are reading this and feeling like you’re just so angry sometimes and you don’t want to be, but you think you’ll never change, listen: It can get better.
I used to think I’d always be this hormonal, angry, emotional mess, but I have seen God work in my life and calm my anger and my sinful reactions. And I am already seeing Him do that in my children, as we talk through things and I give them my time, and pray. All of this imperfectly, but with earnest desire to love well.
If you want to see change, if you don’t want to blow up so easily, if you want a good relationship with your kids that isn’t clouded by anger, read on. I have some hard-earned, God-is-so-kind-to-help-us, wisdom to offer you.
Check Your Heart
“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45 (NIV)
“…what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing.” Matthew 15:19 (Message)
Anger is an awful feeling when it lets itself loose and does damage. Anger, in and of itself isn’t bad, but what can come from it if not checked is. Lashing out in anger makes you feel out-of-control. It makes you feel ugly and dirty and self-righteous and so many mixed-up things. But the worst is the aftermath, after you’ve let loose and you wish you could take back what in the moment seemed so justified. I had a mentor in college say, “99% of anger isn’t righteous anger.” I don’t know where he got that stat but I find it to be true in my own life. Most of the time our anger is wrapped up in the lies we believe about ourselves, the world, and God. There is also our histories and wounds and sinfulness and self-protection and just plain selfishness there too. It’s hard to lay down our anger when our blood is pumping and our senses are heightened and the dark feels stronger than the light.
If you get what I’m saying, and you overcome by your anger, if you find your kids setting you off more and more and you’re not sure how to control it but it’s eating you up, there is a solution. Just like the check engine light in your car goes off if there’s a problem, your anger is alerting you that there is a problem. Ask God why. Ask God what is going on in your heart. Ask Him about your anger, and ask Him to lead you in the right way. He will answer you, but that doesn’t mean a quick fix. Often He’ll reveal something to you and you’ll have to go through a time of uncovering, healing, and suffering to get to the other side (soul work is often gutting). But He hears you, and if you’re willing to let Him lead you, your anger and angry reactions will lessen. You will become a calmer person; you’ll have more peace in your heart, and you’ll know how to slow down the anger train.
I know because I’ve seen God work in me. Do I still get angry sometimes? Yes! Do I still blow it? Yes! But not as much, not as quick, and not as harmful.
There is hope for you and your anger.
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
Whenever I’m talking with someone who is depressed or anxious or angry and they are trying to figure out what’s going on, I tell them to write down every time they are triggered. What happens right before the explosion or the anxiety or the depressed feelings (not talking chemical depression). Often, especially in regards to anger, something has hit on a button that is unique to that person. For example, when I was fresh out of college I began to meet with a group of college girls to read the Bible with them and mentor them. Another woman, who was older than I was, talked to these girls about doing something with her as well, a leadership type thing to train them. When I found out, I was so mad! How could she go behind my back to “take my girls”? I called up someone who oversaw our ministry and I told him what she was doing. That is when he said to me what I mentioned earlier in my post, “99% of anger isn’t righteous. Let’s talk about this.” At first I was taken back. What is he talking about, she is clearly wrong and I have every right to be angry! I realized later that my issue with her was really my issue with me. I struggle with the lie that I am not good enough, and when she approached the girls about doing something with her, my lie triggered like a heart punch. My heart was screaming, “See, you’re not good enough! She is doing this because you really are no good.” She was blocking my goal of me feeling good enough, smart enough, capable enough. But she really wasn’t. She was just offering these girls an opportunity to also learn how to become leaders. It had nothing to do with me.
All this I shared might not make any sense because it isn’t rational. It’s a heart thing. I guarantee you have triggers that make you snap, and you don’t even know why you are so angry, but your heart knows, and it’s trying to protect you. You have decided that you will be a good mom, or a smart mom, or a perfect mom, or something, and when that goal is blocked, the claws come out because your heart will do anything to protect you from pain.
A good start to figuring out why you’re so angry is to pay attention to the triggers. Get curious. See if there’s a pattern. Write it down. What can you can learn? What questions can you answer? God will be working with you on this, so just pay attention.
The more you deal with your junk, the less damage you’ll do to your kids. (Tweet that.)
Every few weeks I turn into a crazy lady. I am crying one minute and wanting to stab someone the next. My friends in college used to joke that I could never be President because I would bomb someone every month.
It’s probably true.
I am a VERY hormonal woman. So was my mother. She used to put on the calendar when to stay away from her lest you be in her path of destruction.
I’m not making excuses for anger, but I am saying hormones are the real deal and can seriously mess with your steady-ness. Know your rhythms, take care of yourself, warn your people, and walk away.
Know Your Tipping Points
That is my tipping point. If my kids get out of bed after I’ve put them in bed, I LOSE MY MIND.
If I hear them talking after I’ve put them in bed, I LOSE MY MIND.
Bedtime is my tipping point, so I have to be wise and kind with my kids and myself around bedtime, making sure everyone has their water, is tucked in, prayed for, and set for a good night sleep. If I take the time to prepare for bedtime and give my kids what they need, I have reduced the bedtime angst.
It’s worth the time.
Speaking of time…
Take the Time
Speaking of time, the truth is, if you don’t want to be so angry at your kids, you’re going to need to teach them, discipline them, nurture them, and see them as the precious, eternal souls that they are and that mothering is Kingdom work.
There is no shortcut here. The more you spend time with your kids, loving them the way they feel loved, correcting them, and guiding them, the more delight they will bring you. More delight, less anger. And yes, it’s hard and you will do this so wildly imperfectly, but don’t give up. God made you a mother and your work is eternal and good and planned before time!
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10
“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” Proverbs 29:17
Ask Forgiveness Over and Over
Take that deep breath, grab your kiddo, and ask for forgiveness. Every time you sin in your anger, ask forgiveness. Tell them it grieves God’s heart when you sin against them in your anger. Be honest. Tell them when they’ve done something wrong, but also apologize for your part.
Kids are so gracious and willing to forgive with such genuineness, but you must acknowledge your sin and ask. I am so grateful for the sweetness that comes from forgiveness.
Here’s to more peace, less anger, and genuine delight in our mothering!