There’s hope for your violent child! Join AMBrewster as he discusses what God wants Christian parents to know about protecting their malicious children from themselves.
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Listen to the following episodes on Apple Podcasts by clicking the titles:
“A Parent’s 5 Jobs” series (starts in episode 184)
"Merest Christianity" series (starts in episode 95)
“The 5th Way to Parent” series (starts in episode 26)
“The Four Children” series (starts in episode 55)
“Evangelism Parenting" (episode 63)
"Speed Parenting” series (starts in episode 115)
“Parenting is More than a Formula” (episode 110)
“Teach Your Children to Apologize” series (starts in episode 238)
“Forgiving Your Children” (episode 240)
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I’m glad you’re back with us for part 4 of our “Parenting Angry Children” series. Today we begin a slow and methodical look at how to parent our children through their anger.
I say “slow and methodical” because I have absolutely no expectation for how long this will take or how many episodes it will encompass.
Angry children are a scary and proliferate problem. Podcasts have a tendency to deal with deep issues in a short period of time or be way too long to really be practically helpful.
I desperately want to be helpful.
But before we do that, please let me take a moment to thank Ryan and Kim for making this episode possible. Without their assistance, we may not have gotten to the place where we could discuss angry children at this point. So, thank you, guys, for helping!
We are a listener-supported ministry, so please click on the “5 Ways to Support TLP" link in the description of this episode to learn more about who we are and how you can help.
Okay, we’ve discussed why our kids get mad and six ways that anger manifests itself. Now it’s time to reverse-engineer the problem.
Each of the manifestations of anger are like the layers of an onion. You can imagine that it’s easier to help a child with bitterness than it is to work with a malicious child because malice is a conglomeration of bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander all mixed together and fermented. Not only that, but bitterness is the core issue, while the other manifestations are things through which we have to work on our way to dealing with the core issue.
When we’re dealing with out kids, we may find that each layer of the onion needs to be removed and addressed individually, or you may need to address multiple layers at once.
So, we’re going to approach this discussion in three ways:
But before we dive into malice, let’s review.
Malice, slander, clamor, anger, wrath, and bitterness are the fruit of a darkened mind. A mind that knows and believes what God has to say about conflict management is going to act accordingly. Therefore, someone who engages in sinful forms of anger are revealing that they think their way is better than God’s.
That kind of thinking is futile.
Now, let’s take this and compare it to a parent’s 5 jobs. God desires for us to be His Ambassadors, and — in so doing — utilize His Word to teach, interpret, counsel, and train our kids.
Every single one of those jobs is about influencing how our children think.
Too often we parents are looking for the right fruits without taking the time to do the hard, hard work of cultivating the roots. According to our "Merest Christianity" series (an absolute must-listen), the root represents what our children believe about what they know. This is all stuff that happens in the mind. And the mind is synonymous with the heart and the spirit.
Parenting is not about managing behavior as much as it is about shepherding hearts, teaching minds, and cultivating world-views. Of course, behavior always submits to belief, so — in the end — behavior will be influenced, but never in the absence of heart change.
So, what do you do if your child is malicious?
Let’s start by defining what malicious behavior really is.
Is a murderer malicious? Of course they are, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who’s malicious has or is going to kill someone.
Here’s the key — it’s all about intention — a malicious child is someone who wants to hurt the thing or person whom they perceive is the source of their discomfort.
Now, right away, we’re reminded that the main problem is a thinking problem. They’re angry because they’re thinking incorrectly. If they understood their present discomfort biblically, they would realize that God is sovereignly allowing the testing and trials of their lives for the purpose of helping them be drawn to God and conformed to the image of His Son. That testing produces steadfastness and maturity.
That’s something about which we shouldn’t be angry; that’s something about which we should rejoice!
So, clearly, our malicious child doesn’t understand how life works. They’re living in a darkened, futile world, alienated from Truth, and they respond by desiring or actually physically attacking the perceived source of their discomfort.
Does your child throw his toy when it doesn’t work. Does she kick the bike or car or science project that that isn’t performing well? Does your son get into fights? Does your daughter pinch and slap and bite? Have your kids ever broken anything because they wanted to hurt someone’s feelings or make life difficult on them? Have your kids ever vandalized something out of anger? Does your toddler push you or try to pull way from you when you correct them?
All of these are examples of a malicious heart. Remember, malice doesn’t mind breaking rules and laws in order to hurt the perceived source of their discomfort. That’s the whole point.
I know that middle school and teenage violence is clearly a problem, but I’m constantly amazed by parents who seem to tolerate their toddlers violent physicality. I get that their pushes and slaps and kicks and tantrums don’t hurt or cause that much damage. I understand that when they throw their toys, nothing gets broken. And I understand the culture’s tendency to stereotype young children and say things like, “They’re in a phase,” or “That’s how the terrible two’s act,” or “Boys will be boys.”
But, my friends, the problem is that the child wants to hurt something. Think about that. They want to overpower you, they want to scare you, they want to enact violence. They are malicious, and too many parents don’t see it for what it is, and — what’s worse — they practically ignore it because the child is so small they can be handled with no bruising or bloodshed.
But . . . left unchecked, that same attitude in the toddler becomes a brawler, a vandal, and a murderer as they get older.
The year 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Charles Manson’s murder of Sharon Tate. As distasteful as it may sound, I research things like that because I’m always trying to get a better understanding of the kind of child who becomes a terrible adult. And, you know what? Believe it or not, Charles Manson didn’t start as a delusional psychopathic murderer with a messiah-complex, he started as a delusional angry violent child with a messiah-complex.
But as terrible as that may sound, we all have delusional messiah-complexes when we believe that our way is better than God’s way. As a child, Manson was described simply as a liar who always blamed others for anything he did that was wrong, “and was so determined to be the center of attention that he’d deliberately misbehave while the grownups were around.”
His older cousin, Jo Ann remarked that “You could whip him all day and he’d still do whatever he wanted.”
Take that description by itself, and you can probably think of many children that portrays — maybe even your own.
And though I know how absolutely terrible it is to imagine a small child one day becoming the monster Charles Manson became, we have to be honest with ourselves.
Your toddler may very well be malicious. If that’s the case, what do you do? What can you do differently than Charles Manson’s guardians did?
Well, when it comes to Ambassador Parenting, our first and constant goal should be to introduce our children to God in such a way that they fall in love with Him and choose to follow Him.
That decision is theirs to make, but we have to be the ones driving them back to the cross.
This is expressly important in any discussion concerning habitual sin because there is no hope for real, lasting, genuine, deep heart-change without the power of the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t mean we don’t parent our unsaved kids because they don’t have the Holy Spirit; it should simply impress upon us more and more how absolutely necessary it is that our kids know God and submit to Him.
Young angry children are — more often than not — unsaved. And I’ve found that older angry children have frequently put on a shell of Christianity that manages to fool everyone around them when they’re not angry. This is why we, as the 5th Parent, must continue to have high biblical expectations for their lives and our own. Only then can Hard Hearts, Rocky Hearts, and Thorny Hearts be exposed for what they are . . . spiritually dead.
This is Evangelism Parenting at its finest.
But we don’t really have time to rehash all this previous content. Suffice it to say, our kids need to be confronted by Truth in such a way that they choose to reject it or accept it. It should never be so nebulous or nonexistent that they can flail through life imagining that it’s up to them to figure it out.
So, let’s leave the discussion as to whether or not your child is born again, how to determine that, and what to do if they are or aren’t, and focus on addressing the malice in such a way that it accomplishes the purpose of presenting Gospel Truth with which your kids — saved or unsaved — will have to interact. And then we can let the Holy Spirit do the rest.
1. The best way to parent a malicious child is when they’re not angry.
It’s true that angry children foment under the hood even when there’s little to incite them. You may wonder if your child even sleeps angry.
In situations like that, try to create an atmosphere that lowers the stress and tension to such a degree that you can broach the topic. You want to be able to talk about what they want to hurt and why they want to hurt it.
Of course, this becomes ever more difficult when you, your rules, and your correction are the perceived source of their discomfort. Now, if that’s the case, I’d say you absolutely need to involve a third-party. Get a pastor, a friend, a counselor involved.
In fact, it’s very possible that for four out of the five manifestations of anger we’re going to study, if you are the target, you will definitely have to get someone else involved. Otherwise you’re likely doing little more than exacerbating the problem.
Now, again, I’m not suggesting that you don’t deal with your kid when they’re mad; I’m simply making the observation that you may approach heart-change faster if the kid isn’t already fuming.
And, I want to reiterate the importance of getting Christ-honoring third-parties involved if your child is malicious toward you. They will use you as an excuse for ignoring you if they’ve decided that you are the one they need to hurt.
2. Malicious children must be be protected from themselves . . . and so must others.
People who derive satisfaction from hurting other people are a danger to themselves as much as they are to the other people.
If you know your kid has a mean-streak, and you get the hint that they’re upset about something, you need to be proactive to help them not go down that path.
I know how scary it can be, and I understand how we can be convinced in our fear that everything will be okay if we just let them “settle down a bit,” but if your seven year old has habit of hitting people who make fun of them, and you know your mouthy nephew is coming over for a visit, you would be a fool to not proactively start dealing with the issue before it’s an issue.
And I can’t take too much time role-playing what this sounds like because each and every example I give is going to require a different approach — especially when you consider that each individual and relationship and authority structure is going to add its own mix of trouble.
So, remember, these are general principles with which to start.
And if you’re already saying to yourself that you can’t confront your kid — even if he’s currently in a good mood — because he’ll explode, or there’s no way you can proactively parent her because she hates to be told what to do . . . your only recourse is to get someone else involved.
This is the point that many parents reach out to a place like Victory Academy. But wouldn’t it be great to deal with the issues before you reach that point?
If your child is becoming angry, and you know it could lead to shoving and biting and throwing and punching or even planning for a future way to hurt the perceived source of their discomfort, you must intervene . . . especially if it’s going to become dangerously violent.
Depending on the age of your child, this may even mean preparing yourself that you may have to call the police. It is completely appropriate to call the authorities if your child is big enough to actually cause you or someone else great harm and they put a violent hand on someone.
I know how calloused that may sound, but physical violence must not be tolerated. I can’t say this strongly enough. Christians should never aid and abet violence. God hates violence. I’ve dealt with too many physical and sexual abuse cases to have patience for parents who don’t want to call the police on their little boy or girl.
Violence was one of the main reasons God destroyed the earth with a flood. Proverbs 19:26 says, “He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother is a son who brings shame and reproach.” And Psalm 11:5 says, “The Lord . . . hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”
These are powerful words.
Of course, the parents who don’t want to call the police often end up doing it anyway. The only difference is that instead of having beaten up a kid at school or a sibling, he turned his aggression toward the parent. And that’s when their charity ran out.
That’s really noble of them.
Please protect your child from himself and other people from him by removing him or the other people from the situation. Of course, like I said before, being proactive is a far better choice. Deal with it before you have to deal with it.
3. When addressing the malicious behavior, be biblical, not pragmatic.
If we’re going to teach and reprove biblically, then the content of our parenting must be from the Bible.
Parenting pragmatically is using threats like, “You’re going to end up in jail if you don’t change,” or “No one will ever want to pay with you if you don’t stop hitting,” or “Stop throwing a tantrum or you’re not getting any candy.”
Those things may be true, but all they do is fuel the child’s self-worship. No child inherently doesn’t want friends, but what good is it if the child stops hitting simply to satisfy himself? He’s still squarely on the the throne of his life, and when the next decision needs to be made concerning how he’s going to treat people, he’ll again turn to himself for the answer.
We have a short series called "Speed Parenting” which goes into a lot more detail about the temptation and destructive nature of pragmatic parenting.
So, what is a biblical way to approach it?
There are soooooooo many.
Your child needs to be taken through why he does what he does. We need to biblically show the fruit of his life and help him see from what root it grows, and then present him with the biblical Truth necessary to address that root.
The “Speed Parenting” episodes deal with this as well.
This is not really the place to list out all of the biblical passages that could be used with your malicious child, and it may not even help that much because I don’t know your specific child and her unique issues, and so therefore may not even mention the best place to start.
But I will say that we are blessed to live in a day and age where we don’t only have God’s Word, we also have free, completely searchable online Bibles. We have Google that can reveal amazing resources that are chock-full of Bible passages for angry kids.
I have a fantastic tool I can’t want to share with you that approaches things like this from a less topical direction but, instead, a more theological direction. If you contact me directly at counselor@TruthLoveParent.com, I will be more than happy to share that tool with you even before I unveil it on the show.
And you can always reach out to us at counselor@TruthLoveParent.com if you legitimately have no idea where to start. We’d love to help.
However, let me get you started on those internet searches. If your malicious child seems tender enough to consider what God has to say about how they handle conflict, I would focus on passages that address the consequences of violent living, and the passages that teach us how we need to treat our enemies.
Alright . . . thank you for your patience today. I love you guys, and I really appreciate your desire to learn. I never want to take too much of your time, but I also want to make sure I give you enough to be helpful.
And, 4. Malicious children need to experience the consequences of their malice.
This is another generalism that will take different forms depending on the parent, the child, and the malice. But it must not be avoided.
Episode 265 is called “Immediate Consequences,” and it unpacks Ecclesiastes 8:10-13 which ends with this: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.”
It’s possible your child’s anger has reached the point of malice because his slander and clamor and anger and wrath and bitterness weren’t addressed the way they should have been.
Maybe not . . . but it’s possible.
We need to address the issue as soon and as biblically as possible if there is going to be any hope that our malicious child may repent.
Consequences have to be part of that. They’re a vital part of the interpretation stage of parenting.
When we interpret the situation for our kids we show them from God’s Word how we’re to view the issue, and God always has two responses to sin: A. There is always a consequence, and B. There is always a call to repentance.
I wish I could tell you exactly what consequences work all of the time with everyone, but that’s not the reality God created. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. However, we do know that the Primary Consequences happen every time we sin. We hurt God, we hurt those around us, and we hurt ourselves by making it easier to sin next time.
It’s the Secondary Consequences that are up for application.
And this is true for how we parent. There is no specific formula. Generally we can say that we have to be intentional, premeditated, disciple-making, Ambassador parents who teach and interpret and counsel and train using God’s Word. But, what passages we use and how we use them coupled with the unique recipe of consequences and discipleship is where the Spirit must lead and where we have to absolutely drench our parenting in prayer and fasting . . . begging God for wisdom to glorify Him in our parenting.
Just remember, there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. You do not have to do it alone.
We know that God is a God of consequences. The universalists who think that God will capriciously pardon everyone just because He’s nice don’t know their Bibles. There are temporal and eternal consequences for our choices, and we must model that reality to our kids. But getting advice and trying new things are not a problem.
The problem is that the violent, malicious child is the one who scares us enough to not want to get in their way.
You may need allies, or you may not, but you do need to parent as God would, and that is going to involve consequences.
Now, I knew this was going to go long, but we have to ask the question, “What if they repent?”
So far we’ve talked about teaching them what is right when they’re not already angry and reproving them when they are. Part of that reproof (or interpretation, as I like to call it) is going to involve consequences. But what about the counseling and training stages of parenting?
Well, we can only enter those stages if our child shows a desire to want to change. It’s then that we can bridge the interpreting and counseling stages by leading them to apologize and repent of their sin.
We talk about this in great detail in our two-part “Teach Your Children to Apologize” series and the following episode called “Forgiving Your Children.”
The point I want to make is that we should always be parenting toward repentance, but we shouldn’t pretend they’ve repented when they haven’t.
Saying they’re sorry or showing remorse is not repentance. Repentance is a moving away from the former sinful actions and moving toward righteous replacements. We’ll talk about those righteous replacements later in the series, but we should also expect that no one is going to do this perfectly.
So, a legitimate expectation is that there will at least be an apology and baby steps to change. It’s then that we can engage in counseling our children out of their malicious tendencies and teach them to replace hurting others with serving others.
Now, this is not the end. You doing these four steps we outlined earlier is likely not going to change your child. Those tips are not going to guarantee anything. In fact, left to themselves, theses principles aren’t too much different than the secular notions for dealing with violent children.
Everyone knows it’s better to deal with a violent person when they’re not angry.
It’s common knowledge that a violent person is their own worst enemy.
Pragmatism never solves anything.
And history is replete with examples that consistent consequences are very valuable for reforming an individual, but that in-and-of-themselves, consequences don’t really change a person.
So . . . what was the point of the past 21 minutes?
Remember, this is a layer. A violent child should be approached differently than kids with other manifestations of anger.
These four points are biblical and necessary, but they’re only four pieces of a much larger puzzle.
We’re going to build this puzzle over the next episodes and draw everything together into a plan to address the pressure in your home.
We’d love it if a malicious child submitted to God after you parented them in these four ways, but likely there will have to be more.
There is help, but we must go about it wisely. You can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a house fire.
So, on our next episode, we’re going to talk about how to parent a slanderous child, which will include information we need to help a malicious child.
So, to that end, I’ll see you next time.
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