Friday, July 22, 2011

Anger Issues

I have issues. Oddly enough, these issues didn't really surface until I had children.

See, I used to be the most patient person in the world. Honestly. For example, I could end up behind the slowest person in the grocery store checkout, and it wouldn't bother me a bit. Stuck behind a car driving 45 MPH on the freeway? No problem.

But all that changed when I had children. Perhaps it was a lack of sleep. Of course, once they started sleeping through the night, that should have taken care of it. Hmm. Maybe it's because having children creates a hormonal imbalance. Might be true, if I were the mother. But I'm the father, and last I checked, my hormonal contribution to the role of parenting ended around the time of conception.

The truth is, the reason for my anger is sin. No getting around it. I have a sinful, selfish streak that children, frankly, interfered with. Prior to children, I could pretty much do whatever I wanted how I wanted when I wanted (with my wife's blessing, of course). Children, however, don't really care what you want. They just want to be loved.

So, I started getting angry. And the problem is, my anger leads to unnecessary yelling. And yelling, I've learned through the years, does nothing to build up family relationships. It only barely results in obedience. Mostly, in results in something Paul warns about, when he says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children."

It's true that yelling at my kids will get results. (Usually.) If I'm angry that they didn't get the dishes loaded in the dishwasher, so I have no pans to cook with...well, that certainly gets the dishes loaded in the moment. But the end result isn't that I have children who look at me and go, "Oh, Daddy, thank you so much for setting me straight and teaching me how important it is to get a job done right and on time! I'm so much better now for it."

As much as I wish that were the case, instead, I might get the dishes done, but I've also created a bit of fear of me in them. They are obeying not out of love, but out of fear. And worse, this can lead to them sinning. For example, I've found times when my daughter would rather lie to me about something out of fear of me getting angry at her for the truth.

Exasperating my children, indeed.

But what alternative is there?

Well, I had convinced myself for a long time there wasn't any. If only the children would do what they were supposed to, I wouldn't have to yell. But this line of thinking was shifting blame of my own sin (anger/yelling) to my children. I wasn't taking responsibility for the fact that I was the one who had lost control, not my children.

So, one day, I made a decision. The yelling would stop. I would fine alternative ways of disciplining and teaching. And while the decisions hasn't led to an overnight change in my own behavior, I have gradually been discovering that there are other ways to handle my children. Respectful ways. Ways that don't involve exasperating them. Ways that don't involve invoking my own sinful nature. It is an exercise of patience. But it is also an exercise that has strengthened my relationship with my kids, rather than undermined it.

So, what's the point of this post? It is an example of how, when we look at our parenting methods, we need to make sure we aren't using sinful, disrespectful ways to getting the job done. It might be the easy way in the moment, but it isn't the best or right way. Look for where you struggle...what times do you "lose it" with your kids? Once you recognize the triggers, you can talk about it with your spouse and come up with alternatives. Just don't start shifting blame. Your children are not the are. As I've learned, I can't expect them to act like adults when I can't!