Monday, October 8, 2012

Lessons Angry Children Need to Learn

This is a classified add posted several years ago, illustrating how anger begins with hurt:
                Wedding dress for sale, never worn.
                Will trade for .38 caliber pistol.1
Valid or not, hurt feelings pave the road toward anger. The child who feels offended will simmer in bitterness, react with anger, and eventually, if not corrected, turn rebellious. No parent wants their child to walk the path to rebellion, and dealing with the outbursts of anger can be exasperating enough. As parents, we must carefully detect signs of anger in our children. Not all anger manifests itself through overt or violent outbursts. Secrecy, withdrawal, sulking, and cynicism indicate deep seated anger problems. So how do we handle children who deal with anger issues? The parent’s task is two-fold: Teach them lessons that will help their attitude, and confront their anger in a proper way. Consider the following lessons that need to be taught:
1.  The world is not a perfect place. We don’t always get what we want. Our kids need to learn this lesson as well, but they’ll never learn if their anger manipulates adults into giving them what they want. Sometimes people mistreat us. Sometimes it’s not that we are mistreated; we just don’t get our way. Throwing a temper tantrum because she was not permitted to go to a friend’s house or because he did not get the birthday present he wanted may seem trivial in the total scheme of life, but how mom and dad react to this behavior will teach the child a life-long lesson. Children should learn to handle disappointment in life without lashing out in anger.
2.  Happiness should not depend upon me getting my way. How will kids learn that their joy should be in the Lord if their entire childhood has revolved around themselves? Good parents want to provide an enjoyable childhood for their kids, but the tendency can be to give too much. Kids need to learn that life is enjoyable while preferring others before themselves and while giving, not just receiving. How will children learn to enjoy a life of preferring others? When they are required.  Privileges should be held until a child earns them by having the right attitude. Associate good attitudes with privileges. This will help children learn the true source of happiness – godly living. Teaching this lesson can be more of a deterrent of anger than a way to handle angry behavior. Children who are less prone to have a self-centered attitude will naturally enjoy life better and be less prone to anger problems.    
3.  Authorities must be treated with respect.  Children must learn to address their grievances and disagreements in a respectful manner. A respectful tone and respectful word choice should be required. The absence of yelling and cursing does not suffice; sarcasm, scorning, and the silent treatment should not be permitted. Parents can help in two ways. First, always be willing to listen when children approach you with the right attitude at an appropriate time. Secondly, refuse to listen to a disrespectful rant. Consider the example of the Hebrew children. When they murmured and complained to God, he punished them. When Moses humbly took his frustration to God, he received instructions from God that met their needs.
4.  Anger cannot be used to gain control over people.  Don’t argue. Don’t give undue attention to anger. Don’t engage until the anger has subsided. Never yell – it’s a sign that you have lost control. Even when there needs to be consequences for a child’s angry, inappropriate behavior, shelve that conversation for a time when tempers have cooled. When angry children draw their parents into arguing, the child has gained control of the conversation. At that point, the parent’s initial instructions are no longer the focus of the conversation. Firm does not have to be loud. Calmly but firmly, instruct children to obey, reminding them that disrespectful responses has consequences.  
Dealing with angry children can be exasperating for parents, but prevention can be effective. Help children acquire the right attitudes about handling defeat, disappointment, and mistreatment. Steer their thinking toward a sovereign God who watches over His children. Help them focus on the biblical way to handle letdowns and frustrations. Life will present many opportunities to be angry; let’s teach our kids to handle themselves with discipline.

1Taken from Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes

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