Angry responses from our kids are not unexplainable phenomenons; they’re formulaic and thoroughly addressed by God in His Word. Join AMBrewster as he helps Christian parents work through why their children get mad.
Check out 5 Ways to Support TLP.
Listen to the following episodes on Apple Podcasts by clicking the titles:
“The Four Children” series (starts in episode 55)
“Teach Your Children to Learn” series (starts in episode 207)
"A Parent’s 5 Jobs" series (starts in episode 184)
“How to Know if Your Child is Addicted” (episode 114)
“Your Child's Bungee | the nature of sin and parenting” (episode 199)
Click here for our free Parenting Course!
Like us on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.
Follow AMBrewster on Twitter.
Follow us on Pinterest.
Subscribe on YouTube.
Need some help? Write to us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com.
Click "Read More" for today’s Episode Notes and Transcript.
To download this document, please right-click and select "Save Image As."
Has your child ever gotten angry? How did they handle that anger? Some explode, some implode, some smolder, and some slough it off.
Regardless of why they’re angry and how they deal with said anger, we can know that God expects us to parent them through to a Christ-honoring resolution.
Today begins a multi-part series all about parenting angry children. We’re going to look at the root of anger, the fruit of anger, and the cure for anger.
I’m really looking forward to this personally because I work at Victory Academy for Boys, a boarding school for at-risk teens. Anger is something with which we deal quite regularly. So, I’m excited to see how the Lord will further equip me to parent the guys in my home.
I hope you’re looking forward what the Lord may teach you as well.
But before we do that, I want to take a short moment to thank Lisa for making today’s episode possible. She’s one of our monthly supporters — one of our Patrons. She’s very thankful for how TLP is helping her become a more intentional, premeditated, disciple-making, Ambassador Grandmother.
For the price of only one gas station coffee a month, you too can become a Patron! Your monthly support will help us continue to produce these bible-grounded, free parenting resources.
Not only do we produce two episodes a week, we also create free episode notes and transcripts for each.
We have a free 25 Days to Becoming a Premeditated Parent course, and I’m working to finalize our first free eBook called “Quit: God’s cure for family strife.”
There’s no shortage of things going on here, and — as you can tell — 99% of it is free. So we would love for you to be a part of it! Just click on the “5 Ways to Support TLP" link in the description of this episode to learn more about all the ways to support what we’e doing here.
We utilize PayPal to handle all donations, so you can trust that it will be safe and secure.
Awesome. Let’s dive into this discussion by turning to the book of Ephesians.
I didn’t originally intend for us to spend this much time in Ephesians. We dove hardcore into chapter 4 for our “Change Starts with Me” series, but we’ve touched back into Ephesians on nearly every episode since then. It’s so intensely practical.
For this study, our main foundation text is going to be Ephesians 4:31-32, but — of course — we’re going to consult other passages from the full counsel of God.
So, let’s begin by reading the text: Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
In this passage we’re introduced to the root, the fruit, and the Truth necessary to address the problem. It’s all pretty straightforward, and likely the last half of this passage is already part of our Parenting Bibles.
But we want to make sure that we truly understand why our kids do what they do, otherwise we’ll not be able to help them as we could.
So, let’s start with the root of anger.
Of course, the question is, “How far back do we have to go?”
I say we do a quick review of chapter 4 in order to understand how it’s all tied together.
If you remember, chapter 4 of Ephesians is the hinge chapter that connects the doctrine of chapters 1 and 2 with the super practical application of chapters 5 and 6. And we already spent a number of episodes studying how chapter 4 puts a huge emphasis on the personal nature of change and the fact that we can only really change ourselves.
Chapter 4 outlines the goal, the source, and fruit of our change. But I want to zero in on the goal for a moment: The goal is increased Christ-likeness.
Truth.Love.Parent.’s theme verse exemplifies this beautifully. Ephesians 4:15, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
And then verses 21-24 explain that this conformity to Christ will be practically worked out through a process of renewing our minds, putting off sinful character, and putting on righteous character.
Then verses 25-32 give us practical examples of what that looks like. Instead of lying, we are to speak Truth. Instead of stealing, we’re to work and give. Instead of corrupting with our speech, we are to communicate graciously. And then the last two verses of the chapter tell us that instead of anger, we must respond in love.
What’s especially interesting is that anger is dealt with twice in this list. Verses 26 and 27 should be very familiar to us. They read, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
We’ll deal more with these verses later, but for now we can see how chapter 4 moves through the concepts and culminates with this discussion of anger.
With that said, we can assume that any of the negative behaviors listed in verses 25 and on are a result of not being conformed to Christ. And that lack of conformity isn’t merely because God hasn’t shown your children enough grace, but because they haven’t embraced it for their battle with anger.
It also means they haven’t engaged in the equipping God has ordained to come through spiritual authority.
So, let’s start with this:
1. Angry children are alienated from the life of God.
This comes from chapter 4 verses 17-25. Let me read those so we can hear how the Lord interprets this situation: “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
The clear assumption is that children of God must be engaged in change. We need to be moving away from the darkness to the light. The examples He provides of this change include not being angry.
Let’s pick this point apart a little more: Angry children are darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to the hardness of their hearts.
A. It’s very possible that your chronically-angry child is not born again.
It’s true we all struggle with selfishness and anger, but the Bible is clear that anyone who is known by a consistent and overpowering sin habit who doesn’t engage in repentance is likely not filled with the Spirit.
B. Whether they are born again or not, they are experiencing futility in their thinking.
This word “futility” refers to something that is morally depraved, devoid of Truth, and perverse. This type of thinking is empty, vain, and frail.
This leads to understanding that is dark. It’s non-existent. And this lack of understanding leads to alienation from the life of God because of the ignorance that grows from hard-heartedness.
We don’t have time to build all of this out right now, but we have two series that compliment this study well. The first is “The Four Children” series and the second is the “Teach Your Children to Learn” series. By the way, if you’re new to this show, every episode and series I cite will be included for easy access in the description of this episode.
The main observation I want to make about this futile thinking is that children with Hard-Hearted responses are suffering from a spiritual ignorance that makes it impossible for them to understand the Truth and live out the Truth. This is why their thinking — their philosophy of life that informs how they handle struggles — is futile.
Discussing this in any detail should be instructive as to how we need to help our children escape their bondage to anger.
1. If they’re not followers of Christ, they will never experience true freedom from sinful anger. This means that Evangelism Parenting is an absolute must.
I’m in that position right now. Though my youngest has made multiple professions of faith, her life is revealing that her only god is herself. Acknowledging this has changed the way I approach everything in my parenting. I’m constantly tying her life experiences back to Gospel Truth. Thankfully, she seems to be responding.
This is one thing for which you can pray for our family. We know what a weight it is when one or more of our kids aren’t saved. We’re there with you, and we find our hope in God and His grace, not our kids, and not our parenting.
A second way we can learn from the reality that our kids are ignorant of how to glorify God in their responses is . . .
2. Futile, ignorant minds that lack understanding must be taught and interpreted.
These are the first and second of our "A Parent’s 5 Jobs" series.
But, we’re going to save a more robust discussion of the Truth we need to cure our children’s struggle with anger until the end of this series. We can’t do into too much detail right now.
We still need to understand the root of the problem.
So, 1. Angry children are alienated from the life of God.
We could also say that our angry children are currently incapable of responding to difficulties the way God desires.
So, imagine that you’re in a foreign country, and a crowd of people approach you with obviously nefarious intent. If you can’t run, you’re likely going to try to communicate with them in a desperate attempt to protect yourself and possibly dissuade them from hurting you. Of course, you don’t speak the language.
English is all you have.
In a similar way, if your child’s worldview is devoid of God because of rebellion or ignorance, then they don’t speak the language of Christ-honoring conflict resolution. All they have is their native tongue of self-motivated fear or anger.
Is this possibly stirring up any empathy in you?
I know what it’s like. Anger is offensive. It’s attacking. It’s fundamentally aggressive. And when confronted with anger from our toddler or our teen, it's very easy to go on the defensive . . . at best.
But if we make ourselves see them for who they are — they literally are akin to a caged animal who’s instinctually reacting out of a complete inability to do anything else — it’s easier to parent the real issue and not just fight back against the fight.
This is why God gave you to your kids. They need to learn. They need to be ushered out of the darkness of their futility into the light of life.
So, not only are our angry kids currently incapable of responding differently . . .
2. Angry children are working from a root of bitterness.
Culturally, “bitterness” is a synonym for resentment, but in the New Testament this word refers to that which is most bitter — specifically “extreme wickedness.”
This is the flip-side of the last point. To the same degree they are incapable of responding like Christ, their only other recourse is wickedness.
You can be certain that angry children are not responding in Truth, but instead functioning from a foundation of evil.
Now, I imagine that some people listening to this episode may have one glaring question. You may be thinking something like, “When I get mad, I’m angry because of what’s being said or done to me. Aren’t kids the same way? You’re placing the responsibility solely on them without addressing the fact that others are making them angry.”
Well . . . that’s not really biblically accurate.
Yes, no doubt someone is causing conflict or being mean or unfair or unreasonable or any number of other terrible things . . . but James 4 says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”
Do you see that our anger has nothing to do with the pressure from the outside but the pressure from the inside. Hopefully, this makes all the sense in the world given what we’ve just studied.
My child experiences external pressure, something uncomfortable comes into their life, but they have no foundation from which to respond in a proactive, healthy way. All they have is darkness and fear and bitterness, and because they’re not getting what they want (aka: a comfortable life experience) they react from the darkness in their spirit.
Man, can we see that in our society today?
But someone else may encounter the same external pressure, but respond very differently because it’s not the situation that causes the anger, it’s the spirit of the person that causes the anger.
This series is all about helping our kids stop responding from a root of darkness and embrace the light of God’s way.
But what is that root of darkness? How does that vanity work itself out?
3. Angry children are angry because that’s the sacrifice their god desires.
When we consider the two basic responses to conflict, most people refer to them as fight or flight.
Using more biblical categories, and focusing on only the sinful fight or flight responses, we could refer to them as fear or anger.
I know . . . it’s not as catchy, and yes, anger can be motivated by fear, but I’m trying to simplify this in our minds for a reason.
This conversation is all about how certain children respond to conflict, but there’s a whole category of these kids about whom we’re to going to talk. There are kids when they experience discomfort that they pull away out of fear. That’s not the topic of this series.
The other kids, when confronted with discomfort, attack the issue, and anger is usually a large part of their arsenal.
But why are they angry? What did I mean by “anger is the sacrifice their god desires”?
Well, we’ve talked a lot about the addiction of self-worship and the fundamental nature of sin. Our only choices are to take the things of life and sacrifice them to God or sacrifice them to self. Even idol worship and participation in the religious rites of false gods are forms of self-worship.
So, if your child is experiencing discomfort, and they don’t like it, and their nature is such that they naturally want to fight (it versus fly from it), when they respond in anger, it’s the response that their flesh believes will provide equilibrium.
It feels right because it’s attacking injustice or making the other person feel the way they felt or meeting the harshness of the presenting struggle with equal parts of harshness.
The point is, the child feels better when responding in anger because it’s all they really know.
So, it’s important for us parents to wrap our minds around the progression and really understand the intricacies of their struggles.
Now, I know that nothing we’ve discussed today has necessarily been life-altering. Perhaps you may have experienced a couple of “aha” moments, but my goal is not that we not be amazed by some “new truth” so much as we allow the simple and ugly realities of anger to motivate our parenting instead of reacting to the fury and passion of the outburst.
If your children struggle with consistent anger (regardless of the intensity or style), you can be certain that it has its root in a godless philosophy of life. It lacks light and is drenched in darkness.
This is the root of your child’s anger . . . every time.
Now, before I disclose the goal of our next couple of episodes, I want to encourage you — if this is a struggle you have with your kids, or if it’s a struggle with which you battle — please share this episode with others. I guarantee you’re not the only one with angry kids, and you’re not the only parent who struggles with anger.
And, if it’s been a help to you, please subscribe and then rate and review this show on iTunes and/or Facebook. It helps us connect with other searching parents.
Now, next time we want to see what God says about the intensity and forms of anger. He specifically outlines five different variations on anger, and we’re going to need to understand them all in order to address the unique parenting struggles in your home.
But, if you can’t wait until then, please reach out to us at Counselor@TruthLoveParent.com. We’d love to offer assistance for your specialized family needs.
Angry responses from our kids are not unexplainable phenomenons; they’re formulaic and thoroughly addressed by God in His Word, so I look forward to studying this with you.
So, to that end, I’ll see you next time.
Join The TLP Family and receive email updates when we publish new articles and episodes.
Subscribe to Our Podcast