Work-in-Progress Parenting: The Angry Child

Last night, our second-born, strong-willed, ball-of-energy-and-strength-and-passion son was showing me a few of his latest “tricks.” I watched somewhat half-heartedly and made the typical distracted mom comments.


“That’s crazy!”

“How do you DO that?”

When suddenly he made this horrible grimace.

He effectively described it as “putting pressure” on his face. To me it looked an awful lot like his angry child face.

Curious, I asked him why he would put pressure on his face. He matter-of-factly explained that it helps him get his anger out when he’s frustrated or feeling angry.

Then he showed me another of his typical angry child poses (fisted hands clenched tightly at his sides) and told me that putting pressure on his body helps him get anger out, too.

Once he was done with the demonstration, he sauntered away, like it was no big deal for a seven-year-old to have such knowledge of his own emotions and body.

I sat there stunned.

If you have a child with BIG emotions, you probably struggle with some parenting discouragement. What I learned from my angry child changed my perspective and helped me focus on the work in progress!  Work-in-progress Parenting: The Angry Child

Not because our son is so intelligent, although he truly is, but because a posture that I tend to “read” as angry disrespect  or rebellion was, in fact, the complete opposite.

His tense posture was actually an attempt at self-control!  And here I had been scolding him to “have a better attitude” whenever the “pressure” face and those “pressure” hands appeared, whenever I saw evidence of an angry child.

Hope for the Angry Child

It turns out my angry child understood his own emotions (and boy, does he have b-i-g ones) better than I sometimes understand my own.In fact, he was learning self-control methods that work for him, without any help from me!

Our conversation reminded me that even though I have now logged over thirteen years of parenting experience, I don’t know it all.  In fact, I never will!

Each child is created uniquely and requires unique parenting, a truth I tend to forget.

What I perceived as defiance or disrespect was actually the most self-controlled, respectful act my son was capable of in his angry moments.

If you have a child with BIG emotions, you probably struggle with some parenting discouragement. What I learned from my angry child changed my perspective and helped me focus on the work in progress.!

I hope I remember to exercise caution when I see the angry child come out.  I hope I remember that he’s making a greater effort than I ever realized and applaud him for maintaining a measure of self-control in the face of anger.

He has come so far in the area of emotions and self-control in the last few years, and I’m so quick to forget that in a heated moment!

I’m so quick to forget that my child is a work-in-progress, too, just like his siblings, just like his parents, just like every other sinful human on the face of the earth.

It wasn’t a proud moment for me, rather it was a thank-you-Lord moment.  I couldn’t take credit for my angry child’s heart changes; in fact, I was unintentionally discouraging some of the progress he was making.

Only God can take credit.

Because our little boy who is so quickly growing into a young man accepted the free gift of salvation a year or so ago.  And in a week, he’ll publicly proclaim his son-ship in Christ before family and friends as he wades into the baptismal waters.

I see the work the Lord is doing in his young heart and mind already.

Even though our son’s passion and energy often cause trouble for him, I have faith that someday he will use those gifts to be a great leader and a bold truth-teller.

What faithfulness on the Lord’s behalf!

My friends, when you’re parenting progress seems to have stalled, take heart.  

Continue to follow the Lord in your parenting, and wait to see what happens. Pray for their little hearts and minds to open to the Father’s touch.

If your emotional, angry child is old enough, ask about his or her actions during a low-stress time rather than in the heat of the moment. You’ll likely gain some surprising insights!

Look for progress in the little things, the still, small moments.

If you have a child with BIG emotions, you probably struggle with some parenting discouragement. What I learned from my angry child changed my perspective and helped me focus on the work in progress.!

Remember who your child has been created to be.  He’s created to be different than your other children and different even than you.

Take every opportunity to rejoice over the slightest step forward.

Because God knows what He’s doing.

He created these children, these gifts, purposefully just as he created you and me purposefully.

Only He can see where that purpose might lead them.

Jen :)

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  1. says

    I’m so guilty of assuming based on something that happened before. Then I feel guilty that I’m putting my kids in a figurative box and not believing they can change. That’s just plain silly because I’m an example of how God works even we try too hard and mess it up. Thanks for this reminder that we are all indeed works in progress.

    • says

      I think we’re all guilty of trying to put others into boxes and failing to recognize change at some point or another. Several years ago, the Lord really convicted me of this with our strong-willed son. I realized that I was treating him like he was a “bad” kid most of the time. I expected him to misbehave and I was quick to become irritated with him. When I realized my attitude toward him, I felt so terrible. But even though it hurt, seeing my parenting through the Lord’s eyes helped me to make some important changes (some of them are still works-in-progess). I try to praise a lot more than I used to with him, and that seems to help tremendously. I ask the Lord to help me see the good things in him that I sometimes miss. I also determined to try to take my time and remain calm when he does start to get worked up. It changed my whole attitude toward him and I began to appreciate him for who he really is. Usually if I can get to the root of the problem without becoming angry or frustrated myself, then we can successfully resolve situations without a major conflict. It’s all a learning process, for both parent and child, I think!
      Jen :)

  2. says

    This is wonderful advice. With our adult daughter we sometimes struggle with communication. When to call, should we call, are we bugging her, etc. Why hasn’t she called, ha ha. It’s crazy. And we worry a lot, she is far away. Then, are we interfering vs. are we being good parents by speaking up when we think she needs to hear something. The dynamic changes so much when they are older. You will see…smile!

    • says

      Oh, I don’t even want to think of the day! :) I think whenever the Holy Spirit prompts, that’s the perfect time to speak. And even if you are “bothering her,” if it’s something she needs to hear, then in the long-run, I think she’ll be thankful. I know that’s been my experience anyways. Many parenting choices I disliked as a young adult, I now greatly appreciate because I see them in a different light! Thanks for stopping by!
      Jen :)

  3. Karen says

    This is brilliant! I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. We also have a 7 year old strong-willed son who makes a mad face and fists when angry. We also have been taking it as a sign of disrespect. You have opened our eyes! We will now pay better attention to determine if it’s actually disrespect or self control. Thank you!

    • says

      I think our son probably is exhibiting disrespect or defiance on occasion, as well. So, it will be a learning process to determine which is which! :) However, if he ultimately chooses to do right, then we’ll choose to consider that a victory! Thanks for stopping by!
      Jen :)

  4. says

    This is great, Jen. I’m so glad you gave him the opportunity to explain why he did those things. I’m not sure I would’ve taken the time to hear my son’s side of things and I would’ve missed the growth and positive motivations. Thanks for sharing your son’s insightful practice and being vulnerable enough to admit your own mistaken understanding about it.

    • says

      All credit goes to the Lord for providing that quiet moment! I think the key was that he was doing it while playing around. :) Because I’ve seen that posture plenty of times before, but always in the midst of stress or conflict. Now, the real work will be in not taking offense at that face and posture the next time we have a “parenting moment!” Hopefully, I’ll remember the motivation behind it. Thanks for stopping by!
      Jen :)

  5. says

    Jen – I think you have hit on the key in parenting….to ask the Lord to lead you as you raise children. Each child can be so different, it is great that you took the time to explore your individuals sons emotions, in order to find out what he does and why he responds the way he does. Listeners make excellent parents. Thanks for sharing that gift with so many at UNITE Tuesdays, Jen

  6. says

    This has given me so much to think about. My oldest is similar in expression and one of my daughters (well, maybe both) are just giant puddles of big feelings nearly all day! I’m getting big feelings just thinking about it. ;) Featuring you on this week’s Hearts for Home blog hop!

    • says

      Thanks so much for the feature! I’m still working out how this will affect our parenting, as well, but I’m thankful for the insight into our son’s mind and emotions.
      Jen :)

  7. says

    Jen, I appreciate this so very much. It’s easy to jump to conclusions – I do this often myself, tending to think I know what’s in my kids’ hearts. The truth is, it’s much better to give them the benefit of the doubt. Thank you for this wise word! I’m pleased to feature it at A Divine Encounter this week. Thanks for sharing it with us at G&T! :)

  8. says

    Wow, what a beautiful gift God gave you with that little window into your son’s heart! His ability to articulate what he was doing when he felt angry is wonderful. Yes, each kid is so different- and just when we think we’re figuring them out, they often change and move onto a new phase. Parenting is not for the weak. I don’t know how I could do it without God.

    • says

      It really was a gift, Dawn. I think the Lord knew I needed to have that glimpse into my boy’s heart. It’s so easy to feel discouraged in parenting and think that no changes are happening. But sometimes the changes are internal, so I’m thankful for that lesson. It definitely was a God thing.
      Jen :)


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