My husband suggested that my last post was somewhat confusing. Since he already knows what’s percolating in my mind and should be able to fill in the gaps others might find, that’s not good! This has been a busy week, so keeping my thoughts in a linear organization has been especially challenging.
Maybe I was unclear because I’m evaluating my approach to anger and ending up with more questions. Particularly I’m wondering whether my approach to anger with my baby deals too much with the externals and not enough on the inward motivation.
I’ve been considering this passage on anger:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. Ephesians 2:3
Anger is a part of our heritage as unregenerate sinners, before Christ saved us. Anger is predictable and even expected to some degree for a young child. For an unsaved person, including a child, responding to anger is anger management, not anger eradication. I can help my children manage the symptoms of anger, and I can teach them that they need Christ and salvation before they will see the fruit of the spirit in their lives instead of that anger.
I have found that taking the early manifestations of anger seriously, before they’re disturbing to others seems to limit the manifestation when our children are older. I’m certain personality makes a difference, but all children are born children of wrath, not just those with a fiery personality.
Should I be happy then, if Laurel no longer throws things when she’s anger? If she doesn’t yell hateful things to mother when she’s older? Am I forgetting about the inward man when I stop the outward manifestation of anger?
And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
I’m also considering this verse. How I give commands is relevant and worthy of consideration. In our circles, we tend to emphasize obedience (and rightly so), but we sometimes do so at the expense of graciousness. It is not inappropriate to consider how I give commands, and how a change of wording might make a difference in my children’s responses.
Back the the put off and put on. It’s helpful if I consider my older children along with my baby. For some reason it’s easier when I see a more mature form of anger and rebellion!
- I want them to put off rebellion (“my” way, not your way), hatefulness, impatience, appealing disrespectfully (demanding)
- I want them to put on obedience (submission to authority), using a godly appeal if desired, love, patience, and all the other fruit of the spirit.
I’m not suggesting that we quash any attempts at independence. When my baby wants to do it herself, I don’t consider that rebellion in itself. It’s a God-given developmental milestone that I want to encourage. I do want her to ask nicely. (I say I do it please, using her language with a sweet voice and a please.)
By making sure that I win the challenges to my authority, I’m teaching about the heart without a word, I think. I’m practically defining authority, something I see is a prerequisite for the other characteristics I want my infant to put on eventually. Maybe I’m not as far off as I thought.
I see I’m still not being very linear. Perhaps in a week or two I’ll be better able to think straight!
Diane Heeney says
Ever taken a peek at “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Ted Tripp? It is an excellent resource. I have used it in counseling with a mother whose own significant anger issues were taking root in a big way in her daughter as well. It is right on the money. The issue is the heart…out of it flow the issues of life.
Hi Diane, Thanks for stopping by!
Yes, I’ve read this book and found it helpful in this area. Perhaps I should pull it out and reread it again. The only trouble is that Tripp seems weakest when dealing with very young children (zero to three years old). In the chapter dealing with this age group, his examples are mostly school aged children! I see an enormous difference in instruction with my toddler and preschoolers and children just a year of two older.
I’m actually trying not to write about how we respond to anger with my three and almost five year olds. David is old enough to understand motivations and desires, and even Bethel finally understands when she wants to please herself more than God or her sister. But baby… she’s still at the “it pleases God and mommy when you obey”stage.
What I’m trying to do is figure out why I’m doing what I’m doing, and then examine my responses in light of biblical principles. My biggest question is knowing when to ignore anger and when to “address the heart” or even just stop it.
Thanks again for your comments (and any more in the future). I appreciate the encouragement and wisdom from God’s Word.
Hi, Michelle –
I’ve missed reading your blog lately, and am especially glad I took the time to visit tonight. I’ve been worn out with the anger shown constantly by my 3yo recently, and very much looking forward to her 4th birthday this summer! lol
I read your posts about Laurel from first to last, and they made sense. Thanks for writing your thoughts out. Toddlers are a completely different developmental phase…very true.
Happening upon your series this week, I’m encouraged to persevere…and upbraided about my own short-temperedness of late. In fact, we’re sitting down with all of the kids tomorrow to talk about conflict and peacemaking again in depth, as well as re-setting ground rules instead of quick reinforcements on the fly! I’ve been stretched extra-thin recently, feeling overwhelmed, but I am edified by many of your cross references, especially James 3:17…from your “Back to Basics” post. I knew I’d be encouraged at your blog tonight!
How did your talk go with your children? Praying for you. Thanks for the encouragement; it came at the right time. 🙂