Have you ever worried that your angry child might never learn patience? Have you lain awake at night wondering how to help refine those strong-willed tendencies into good character?
A while back, 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.
“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.
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.
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 few years ago. And not long after, he publicly proclaimed his son-ship in Christ before family and friends as he waded into the baptismal waters.
I see the work the Lord is doing in his young heart and mind already.
Even now as he enters his teenage years, I see how his heart has softened toward his younger siblings and how they now look up to him.
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. He’s a born leader in the process of becoming.
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.
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.
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