Being aware of some common causes of anger can help us as we learn to deal with those angry feelings in right ways. Before I begin, I just want to point out that anger in itself is not wrong and it isn’t sinful. Anger is a very normal emotion which everyone feels at one time or another. The actions that sometimes follow it are what is sinful. Anger can often prompt us to right some wrong in the world – to do some act of justice, but often we feel like lashing out and hurting someone when we feel mad. That kind of anger is wrong, and that is the kind I’m addressing in this article. Our kids can stand it when we’re crabby once in a while and get a little harsh with them. We cross the line, though, when we get into the habit of yelling at them, ridiculing them, slapping them, hitting, and other similar actions. It’s this kind of anger which we need to get rid of.
That said, let’s look at some typical causes of anger:
· Extreme fatigue, embarrassment, frustration, and rejection (hurt) often lead to feelings of anger. If you can recognize the times when you are feeling very tired, frustrated, etc., many times you can prepare yourself and handle your anger better.
· Taking out our frustrations with work or spouse on our kids because that’s “safer”. Can you relate to this scene? Dad comes home from work grouchy, he grumbles at his wife, Mom gets crabby and yells at the oldest kid, the kid goes over and starts a fight with his little brother, and little brother crawls over and pulls the cat’s tail. You pick on someone smaller than you because it’s easier. Often when a mom is having problems communicating with her husband, the kids suffer for it because she takes out her frustrations on them instead of confronting her husband about the problems they are experiencing.
· Habit – many of our actions and things we say develop into bad habits that are hard to break. When I was going through that angry time with my kids, I got into the habit of roaring “Erin, what are you doing?” from across the room when I would notice her getting into something she wasn’t supposed to touch, or when she was making a mess. It scared her half to death when I would yell like that, and it sounded terrible!
· Discontent – Many times when I find myself in an angry mood, it is because I have let discontent creep into my heart. I start to dwell on too many “what ifs” and “If onlys”. “What if I ran away and never came back?” “If only I hadn’t ever gotten married.” Maybe some of you have allowed your minds to focus on such awful thoughts, too. Thoughts like that poison our minds. Discontent builds and we really become angry as we feel used, unappreciated, and trapped. Discontent can turn to self-pity as we grumble and complain to ourselves (and probably to our families) about the miserable situation we’re in.
· Selfishness – We get angry more easily when we don’t want to set aside our activities to take care of our families. One of my problem areas is reading; when I get into a good book, I don’t want the kids to bug me. When I choose to put my children first, I am able to put the book down and care for them selflessly. If I’m acting selfishly, I get very angry when the kids want my attention, and I chase them away with a scowl and an annoyed attitude. When we start having pity parties and say “Poor me, I never get to do anything I want to do”, we set ourselves up to get angry. We forget that just being a wife and mother calls for lots of sacrifice, putting aside our own wants for the time being. (Please note that I do believe that moms also deserve some time to ourselves regularly. We need to train our kids to give us some time alone and respect that need.)
God created us all as very complex human beings. At times we may be able to see that there is one obvious cause for our anger. (We were up all night with a sick baby, and since we are exhausted we get angry with our toddler more easily the next day.) At other times, there may be a combination of factors contributing to our anger. (We have an argument with our husband, which causes us to start dwelling on thoughts which make us discontent. We feel like we deserve some time to ourselves, so we work on a favorite project and then lose it when the kids want our attention.)
Start learning to deal with the anger you feel toward your kids by attempting to figure out the cause of your anger. It just may help you to act in right ways instead.