TLP 294: Parenting Angry Children, Part 8 | how to help our kids with their wrath
What should you do when your child is emotional and angry? Do you let it play out, or is there something a parent can say or do to help? Join AMBrewster as he lays the foundation for Christian parents to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do have options when dealing with emotional kids.
Check out 5 Ways to Support TLP.
Listen to the following episodes on Apple Podcasts by clicking the titles.
“It’s Time to Play!” (episode 146)
“Emotions and Parenting” (starts in episode 32)
“Should Christians Parents Participate in Emotion Coaching?” (episode 34)
“Why Do Your Children Feel What They Feel?” (episode 97)
“Circle of Learning" (episode 207)
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If you were just searching for help for your screaming, yelling, erupting child, and you just found this episode, I do really, really, really, want to help, but I think — if you really want the help for which you’re looking — you should start with part 1 of this series. Simply jumping in on this episode won’t help you with your child as much as you may want. There’s a lot to understand about our children and anger, and unless we deal with the fruit, the root, and the Truth, we’ll miss a vital part of the solution.
“But that’s seven episodes worth of content!”
Yeah, I know! I never intended to spend this much time on this subject, but I’m so glad we have. It’s been so enlightening and encouraging for me. I feel much more prepared to think through and address the anger issues I know I’m going to face this year with my students.
I pray you’ve been equipped as well.
And, if you’re new to this show, my name is Aaron, I have a family of four who invites up to 8 at-risk teen boys and 2 Residence Assistants to live with us for 9 months.
I created this podcast so — Lord willing — you will never have to send a child to a program like ours. We have a growing community of dads and moms who trying to be the parents God called and created them to be. It’s hard, it’s dirty, but it’s glorious and beautiful because — if we have kids — it’s God’s will for our lives.
Now, before we talk about some of the ugly of parenting kids with wrath issues, I’d like to thank Lisa and Cara for making this episode possible. Without the faithful support of our Patrons, we wouldn’t be able to create this free parenting content to deal with things like anger and tantrums.
Now, every show I mention that you too should take a moment to click on the “5 Ways to Support TLP" link in the description of this episode, but today I’m also going to encourage you to check out TruthLoveParent.com and plan to do so repeatedly throughout the month. We’ve been expanding the site to include more and more resources for Christian parents, and I’m super happy to announce that we’re working on a whole new page called “Family Fun;" you’ll find it under the resources tab. There we’re going to start highlighting attractions, games, and activities your family can use to have fun, grow closer together, and glorify God.
One of the things we’re doing is compiling a list of amazing family games, and I’m not talking about the video game kind. In episode 146 we did a show called “It’s Time to Play!” where I introduced some of my family’s favorite games, and in episode 254 we discussed “What Your Children's Toys Are Teaching Them” and mentioned some classic, enduring games.
Well, now we’re working on a complete list for you to peruse. And here’s something else really awesome to consider: if — after scanning through the list and reading my family anecdotes — if you decide you’d like to add one of those games to your family game cabinet, you can just click on a link to be taken to Amazon . . . and this is the cool part: if you purchase the game, Truth.Love.Parent. will receive a commission off the sale.
Your family gets a new game, TLP receives money from Amazon!
Now, we’re adding to the list slowly — it takes work to populate a page of Amazon Affiliate links — so check back often.
And not only are we planning to do this with games, we’re also planning to do the same thing for our suggested books and we want to use it on any page makes sense to provide a helpful link.
All of this to say, there are a lot of ways you can be a blessing to TLP and support the work we’re doing with families all over the world.
Okay, let’s talk about how to parent a wrathful child.
And — as always — we have free episode notes and a complete transcript available for you at our blog, Taking Back the Family.
Not all angry people yell all the time, but the vast majority of them do most of the time. But which yelling is wrathful, which is clamorous, and what does it matter?
Two episodes ago we talked about helping your child with their clamor and were reminded that clamor grows out of anger, and anger is the thought-out result of continued smoldering.
This is different than wrathful responses because the wrath we’re discussing doesn’t grow out of purposed, reasoned thought; it’s more of a mindless, emotional response.
And this is what makes parenting a wrathful child different than a clamorous child.
Parenting the clamorous child requires you to pick apart how they’re thinking and what they’re thinking and why they’re thinking what they’re thinking.
But there are practically no answers to those questions when you’re dealing with a wrathful child. And yet we still need to deal with the issue.
So . . .
1. Discern whether your child is unreasoned or reasoned.
That may sound confusing.
Originally, I wrote, “Discern whether your child is emotional or angry.” The problem with that is your angry and clamorous and slanderous and malicious children are clearly very emotional as well.
Wrath doesn’t have the market cornered on emotion. That’s just all wrath has.
So, whether your kid is malicious or slanderous or clamorous or just downright angry all the time, you’re going to have to deal with the emotion because it’s all part of the same Angry Onion.
It’s not happenstance that wrath was the second on the list. Bitterness is wrong thinking, but the moment your thinking goes astray, your emotions are tanked.
So, we need to discern if our child’s emotional response has reasoning behind it or not.
How does one go about this?
Well, you know your child better than I do. It should be easier for you to be able to tell when your child is simply being emotional and when their emotion is being motivated by a perpetual anger that rehearses the issue over and over.
I think the main hurdle we need to jump is this: If your angry child is a teenager, they’re probably not wrathful.
Infants and toddlers and perhaps kindergarteners and 1st graders will likely be more wrathful and less clamorous. But the nature of growing up — the thing we love most about our kids as they mature — is their ability to reason.
This means that their addition gets better too. Their memories are longer and more complex. It’s easier to add up all the grievances they’ve born. As children in the nursery, they probably didn’t remember that the child with whom they’re now playing was the same kid to bop them on the head last week. And if they get bopped again, their emotional response will not be motivated by last week’s bopping.
But your third grader remembers that unkind fourth grader who occasionally knocked your child’s lunch to the floor in the cafeteria last year. And when your child hears that the 3rd and 4th graders will be having recess together, your third grader may likely start to imagine the horrors this situation may create.
And — as they age — it’s so much easier for them to remember how every time your child told the lunch monitor, the bully lied and said your child was blaming him for his own clumsiness.
On top of that — now that school has started — your child has noticed the 4th grade bully and his friends watching him during recess.
So when the first unkind act occurs, will your child be emotional? Yes. But will the manifestation of his anger be wrath or clamor?
I’m saying that 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be clamor that’s been growing from a year’s worth of pondering and contemplation.
And the older the child gets, the more likely their angry outburst is clamorous and not wrathful.
Unless your kids are never angry, and you’re listening to these episodes because they just so happened to be the very next ones on the list, I bet you’ve been listening because you see the anger in your kids. It’s a consistent issues with them.
Some of you may never have even heard of Truth.Love.Parent. before, but when you Googled “help for my angry child” you found these podcasts.
And — if that’s the case — you know as well as I do that you’re not having trouble with a child who always thinks correctly about life, but constantly blows up out of sheer emotional upheaval.
That’s not how it works.
Now, I don’t really want to discuss things like being “bi-polar” and “manic depressive” and all of that. I work with kids like that all the time, and I’d love to discuss those issues with you if you have a child who’s been labeled thus.
For now, I want to simplify this issue as much as I can.
If your child needs help, and you’re searching the internet and reading books because their explosive tempers have become such a problem that you can’t handle it anymore, your child is not a level-headed individual with a loose hinge on their emotions. Your child is angry. They’re thinking wrong about life, and they’re thinking that way all the time, so when their comfort gets trampled, clamor breaks through.
So, who are the wrathful kids?
I’d say that genuinely wrathful kids who haven’t progressed to the angry or clamorous or slanderous or malicious stages are generally very young children, and kids who have infrequent explosions of temper.
You likely wouldn’t even categorize these kids as being angry because it happens so infrequently during high-intensity times.
In fact, you’d probably be tempted to give them a pass because it happens so infrequently and because the situation seems “justifiable” given the circumstance.
However, we need to understand the emotion. We need to understand what that reveals about our kids.
So, if your child is emotional . . .
2. Wrathful children need to understand their emotions.
Let’s be honest, I don’t believe the vast majority of people alive today have any idea what emotions are. And they definitely don’t have a biblical idea of what they are.
This is why we did three episodes back to back all about our emotions. Episodes 32 and 33 are entitled, “Emotions and Parenting,” and episode 34 asks the question, “Should Christians Parents Participate in Emotion Coaching?”
There’s also episode 97 called “Why Do Your Children Feel What They Feel?”
We don’t have time to get into any of the details of what emotions are and why we feel the way we do and why God created our emotions, but we talk about all of those and so much more on the episodes I just named. You can access any of them from the description of this episode.
They also discuss the common misperceptions concerning emotion.
And this is HUGE deal. The current belief concerning the centrality of emotion is devastating our nation. We’re being told that we have no control over emotion, but that our emotion has complete control over us.
For so many reasons, I love the movie, Inside Out, but if that were how people actually function, it would be sooooo scary!
We need to start by teaching our kids what emotions are and what place they should have in our lives.
And I highly recommend you teach them that before they’re all emotional.
In the same way you want to talk to your child about their anger before they’re angry, you want to teach your kids about their feelings before they’re in the throws of a meltdown.
When you’re in the practice of training your kids about emotions, when they start to lose their control over them, you can use the touchstones you’ve already placed to help draw their minds back to Truth.
Because once they know and understand those truths, your child will be responsible to actually put that knowledge into practice.
And that leads us to . . .
3. Wrathful children need to control their emotions.
In Luke 12:48 Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”
This is how the Circle of Learning works: you learn, you understand, and then you put it into practice. That’s what we call wisdom.
We should not simply tolerate our kids’ meltdown — patiently waiting for them to cool off on their own. We don’t need to be afraid of their feelings.
Our only recourse isn’t to take cover until the explosion has subsided.
Once we and our children know what emotions are, why God created them, how they’re to be used, and how to control them, we need to help our kids put that into practice.
And the only time to practice reigning in our emotions will be when they start to get away from us.
We all know Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
This teaches us that in the same way there are times we should be sad and angry and afraid, there are also times we shouldn’t be.
We need to help our children interpret the situation and come to the right conclusion about how they’re going to feel about it.
It’s interesting that I’ve been answering questions like this for weeks now. It came up on Facebook, some of you have emailed me about your kids, and it seems that a lot of people have questions about whether or not there’s ever a situation where you should just let your child calm down on their own with no influence from you.
What if they have a disorder or an illness or a disability? What if they’re very young?
So, I think that instead of ending on episode 9, I’m going to do one more that directly deals with these questions.
They’re big ideas, they’re weighty matters, and I don’t want to speed over it if there is a legitimate discussion that needs to happen.
So, by way of review . . .
1. Discern whether your child is unreasoned or reasoned. You need to figure out if this explosion is a clamorous product of anger or a wrathful product of emotion.
2. Wrathful children need to understand their emotions. Please, please, please, for the sake of the Lord, your family, your kids, and the world . . . teach your children what God has to say about emotions. Don’t let them buy into the world’s lies.
3. Wrathful children need to control their emotions. This can be done. Even very young children can learn to control their emotions. You should definitely listen to the previous episodes I mentioned, but I’m going to give some very practical advice for this next time when we talk about bitterness.
And that leads us to . . .
4. Wrathful children need Bible, not pragmatism.
You should have seen that one coming!
Now, I’m not going to share a bunch of passages with you because you really need to listen to the emotion episodes. You’ll find plenty of Scripture there.
But I will share this.
A number of episodes ago I mentioned Genesis 4:2-16. This passage doesn’t specifically talk about emotions and feelings, but it illustrates a man enslaved to them. It also gives us an example of how you parent an emotional person.
It’s unfortunate that this guy didn’t submit to the “parenting” he received, and I think that makes it a really powerful illustration as well.
If we’re not giving our emotional child Truth, our opinion carries no more weight than their feelings. They have no real reason to settle down or to try to control their emotions in the future.
I admit that today we talked about things that had the potential of being very practical, but weren’t. I said that we need to teach our kids about emotions, but I didn’t explain it because there are other episodes for that.
And I said that we can help our kids work out of their emotional explosions, but I didn’t give any practical help in doing so.
Neither of these facts are lost on me. Here’s why I did this:
1. On this particular episode I wanted to address philosophy. We need to believe that God speaks on this matter and that what He says needs to be the foundation of our family’s lives.
2. Our next episode is going to be the most practical one yet. We’re going to see exactly how to parent violent, gossiping, screaming, angry, emotional kids.
Addressing the bitterness is the key to it all.
So, Lord willing, next time we’re going to put all the pieces together so we can help our kids work through their anger to a Christ-honoring response . . . or — better yet — head of their anger in the first place.
I’m excited to be doing this with you, and I’m really looking forward to our next two episodes!
So, I’ll see you next time!
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