Anger

When Frustration Gets the Best of Us

frustrating

"Don't touch each other. Don't talk to each other. Don't even look at each other." Those were the words that came out of my mouth yesterday after an afternoon where my daughters spent the day arguing with each other over everything. I'll admit it wasn't one of my finest parenting moments.

When I uttered those words, I was frustrated. I was done. I simply wanted my girls to quit antagonizing one another. I wanted them to give me two minutes of peace to finish the phone call I was on. So I gave them instructions that weren't possible and didn't even really make sense.

We've all been there. We've all had moments when we've had it up to here with our kids' behavior and have blurted out the first thing that comes to mind -- often in anger and frustration. In those moments, we're not worried about teaching them anything. We're not concerned about molding their character. We're just after a little bit of peace.

Unfortunately, parenting out of anger and frustration usually doesn't lead to the results that we want. My girls did quit bickering, but they looked at me like I had two heads. Then they started walking around with their eyes closed so they wouldn't have to look at each other. It was then that I recognized how absurd my instructions were.

So, I took a minute for myself. Yes, we were on our way out the door to soccer practice. Yes, we needed to get a move on. But I needed a minute, so I took it.

When my minute was up, I called my girls back together, sat them in separate chairs and calmly explained to them why they owed each other an apology and why they owed me an apology. It was much more effective than giving ridiculous instructions born out of frustration.

Parenting is hard work. Some days it takes everything we have not to walk out the front door. Some days it takes all the wit and wisdom we have learned to keep our kids moving in the direction that we want them to go. And some days, we just lose it and yell at our kids. It's in those moments that it's time to take a step back. It's time to re-evaluate and take another stab at the problem. It's time to confess that our first reaction was wrong and go back and do it right.

Our kids know we're not perfect. They know when they have pushed us to the limit. They know when they are misbehaving. It's our job to mold the character of our kids, not to chisel away at it with the sledgehammer of anger and frustration. I think there's no more pertinent instruction in the Bible than James 1:19 when it comes to parenting: "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." Anger doesn't produce the righteousness God desires in us or in our kids. When we parent out of frustration, we have no chance of changing the hearts and character of our kids.

It's inevitable that we are going to make mistakes as parents. When we do, we need to take a moment to regroup. We need to not assume that our kids will simply know we were frustrated and will understand what we were trying to say. When we parent out of frustration, we need to take a minute for ourselves, then regroup with our kids. We need to explain what caused our frustration, then take another stab at correcting our kids' behavior and molding their character.

And the next time our kids frustrate us (because there will be a next time), we need to take a minute to think before we open our mouths.

Seeing Red: Using Anger for Good

I'm on vacation with my family this week. Enjoy this series from the archives. Most of the time, we consider anger to be a negative emotion. Out-of-control anger can lead to all kinds of terrible things — physical retaliation, hurtful words, reckless actions. Yet, controlled anger can be an impetus for change. God and Jesus get angry, so the emotion can’t be all bad. There has to be a useful purpose for it.

I’ve watched both my daughters get angry when they’re playing their respective sports. And I’ve watched them use that anger to play harder. When my oldest daughter gets beat in soccer and the other team scores, it makes her mad. That makes her go out on the next play more determined not to get beat. In that way, her anger is a useful tool.

Many organizations that help others were founded out of a profound anger at the injustice in the world. Whether it’s a parent who’s child was murdered that channeled their anger into starting a foundation that provides free self-defense classes for women or a person who has been to India and was angered by the lack of clean water available and took the initiative to begin providing clean water, anger has it’s purpose.

You see, when we get angry about the things that make God angry, then we can use that anger to create something good. Jesus used his anger to drive the money lenders out of the temple. God used His anger to defeat the enemies of the Israelites. We can use our anger for good as well.

Learn to channel your anger into something constructive. When you’re angry about something, ask yourself the question “What can I do about it?” If the answer is nothing, then decide whether what you’re angry about is deserving of your anger. If the answer is something, decide what that something is and get moving.

Teach your kids to channel their anger into something constructive as well. When your kids get angry, use that energy to constructively solve whatever problem they are having. Talk with your kids about how they can use the energy their anger creates to make a difference. Let your kids take the lead in figuring out how to use their anger for good. Maybe it’s standing up to a bully. Maybe it’s making a new friend. Maybe it’s helping to feed the hungry. Whatever it is, help your kids learn to take their anger and use it in a way that’s pleasing to God.

Anger doesn’t have to always cause harm. Our anger can be the thing that spurs us to change the world — even if it is just in our own back yard. You don’t have to start a big organization, either. If your kids’ disobedience makes you angry, create a plan to teach your kids first-time obedience. If your child is angry about the way the mean girls in class treat her, channel that anger into an understanding of bullying and how to stand up to a bully.

Take control of your anger and use it to foster change today.

If you missed the rest of the Seeing Red: Learning to Control Your Anger series, you can find the first post here.

Seeing Red: Words and Anger

I'm on vacation with my family this week. Enjoy this series from the archives. “Don’t say it unless you mean it.” Those words have come out of my mouth no less than a dozen times in the past three days. After spending five days with my parents, including close to 30 hours in the car, my girls came home to snipe at one another. Apparently they’ve had a little too much togetherness.

Too often, we’re like my girls, we say things we don’t mean. And when anger rules our tongues, the words that roll off of them often aren’t true, aren’t uplifting and aren’t kind. Anger makes us say things we don’t mean. It makes us wish we could take back words after they have spilled out. I can’t count how many times I’ve said something to one of my kids in anger that has crushed their spirits, and I wish I could take it back. But I can’t.

The danger with speaking in anger is that we do damage that is unforgettable and irrepairable. So we must learn to control our tongues — even in the midst of being angry. Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” See that little word “any?” It means we have to control our words all the time — not just when we’re calm. There are no exceptions in that command for words spoken in anger.

The key to controlling our words when we’re angry is God. We absolutely cannot control our words on our own. So, when we’re angry, we need to stop and pray. Before we open our mouths, our first words need to be to directed toward God. We need to ask Him to control our tongues. Think of the damage that could be contained if we let God be the one in charge of our words. Harsh words would go unsaid and little spirits would stay intact.

If you or your kids struggle with controlling your words in anger, try this exercise to drive home the point of how words spoken in anger can leave permanent damage. Tack up a blank piece of a paper to a bulletin board. Every time your child gets angry, have him stick a tack in the paper. Explain that that tack is his words spoken in anger. They are sharp, and they hurt the person they are directed at.

When the paper is full of tacks, start having your child take a tack out each day. Explain that taking the tack out is like offering an apology. When all the tacks are gone, ask your child what he sees on the paper. It’s still filled with holes. That’s because no matter how much we apologize, our words can leave lasting wounds, just like the tacks left holes in that paper.

Our words are a powerful tool. They can be used to persuade and to share love or they can be used to poke holes in others’ souls. We choose. When we let anger rule, we choose to hurt others. When we let God rule we choose to share love. It’s that simple. Remember to stop and pray when you get angry because we want to stop leaving holes in others’ souls.

Seeing Red: We Can Control Our Anger

I'm on vacation with my family this week. Enjoy this series from the archives. I looked at the multiple pairs of shoes on the floor in my living room. I had asked for them to be put away numerous times. And still they sat on the floor. They were no longer just shoes. They became a symbol of all the times I asked my kids to do something that day and they had ignored it or gotten distracted. I saw red, called my kids to the room and lit into them. Both looked at me with wide eyes, unsure why a simple pair of shoes had turned their mom into a screaming meanie.

Was I correct in being angry? Absolutely. Disobedience is one of the things that makes God angry. Did I choose to deal with my anger correctly? Absolutely not. Neither my kids nor I took anything away from that situation that was constructive or helpful. I wasn’t disciplining my kids. I was simply taking my anger out on them.

Controlling our anger is a choice. Even when we’re angry about something that we should be angry about, we have to make a conscious choice to control our anger. We can’t just pass off those moments as part of our personality. Erupting, either verbally or physically, isn’t ever an appropriate way to deal with our anger.

Proverbs 29:8 says “Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger.” If we are wise, we will defuse our anger. We will control it. We won’t let it control us. But how do we do that? How do we hang on to our temper and not let it control our actions? We follow a few simple steps that put us back in control.

Stop. When you feel yourself getting angry, stop what you’re doing. If you need to, remove yourself from the situation or simply take a minute to be silent before you speak.

Identify. Identify what you are truly angry about. Finish this sentence: I’m angry because… Too often our anger doesn’t stem from the current situation but from the build up of a number of things, and the thing that sets us off is not the thing we’re really angry about. Knowing the root of our anger makes it easier to control it.

Decide. Decide if what you’re angry about is really worth pursuing. If you’re angry because you’re hot and tired, then it’s probably best to hold your tongue. If you’re angry about disobedience or injustice, then you’re anger is probably not misplaced.

Plan. Don’t just fly off the handle. Create a simple plan for dealing with your anger. Maybe you need to speak to the person who made you angry. Plan what you’re going to say. Maybe you need to work off your anger doing something physical. Plan how you can do that.

Pray. Ask God to help you control your anger. Ask Him to help you refrain from sin while you’re angry. Ask Him to show you what action you need to take based on the situation.

Act. If there’s a situation that needs to be dealt with, then it’s time to act. If the kids need to be disciplined or you need to talk to the person who made you mad, the time to act is only after you’ve taken a few minutes to Stop, Identify, Decide, Plan and Pray.

Anger is an explosive emotion, and we get into trouble when we act on it without analyzing it. Use this system to teach your kids how to control their anger as well. You can even use the printable Stop! Why Am I Angry? worksheet to help them work through their anger.

Seeing Red: It's OK to Get Angry

I'm on vacation with my family this week. Enjoy this series from the archives. I’ve lost it with my kids numerous times, turning from a calm, gentle mommy into what must seem like a raging lunatic. It may be the 18th sock I’ve picked up off the floor or a chore that went undone after I asked numerous times for it to be done that sets me off. Or it may be the 15th round of bickering for the day that pushes my buttons.

When I lose my temper, it affects everyone in the house. I often say things that I don’t really mean. I hurt my kids’ feelings. I blow things out of proportion. And I usually end up apologizing.

Being angry generally results in some ugly consequences. But anger is a very misunderstood concept among Christ-followers. Somehow, we’ve gotten it into our heads that we should never get angry. And that’s just simply not true. Jesus got angry. God gets angry. So it can’t be wrong to be angry.

So, what’s the difference between God’s anger and mine? God’s anger is righteous anger. It’s anger for the right reasons. God got angry at the Israelites when they turned their backs on Him. He got angry at the sin in the world during the time of Noah. He got angry enough to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Too often, my anger stems from the wrong reasons. I don’t like the circumstances I’m in. I’m tired or hungry. I simply don’t want to deal with my kids’ problems.

And our kids have the same problem. Too often their anger stems from selfishness. They didn’t get what they wanted. They didn’t win the game. They didn’t get to go on an outing. They didn’t get the sugary cereal they wanted at the grocery. Most of our kids’ anger stems from selfishness. And to be truthful, so does most of mine.

It’s not wrong to be angry, but the things that make us angry should be the things that make God angry — disobedience, mistreatment of others, sin. The Bible never admonishes us not to get angry. But it does say, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27). It’s not anger that gets us into trouble. It’s our actions while we are angry. And when we hold onto our anger and let it lead us into trouble, we give Satan an easy entry into our lives.

So, how do we change? How do we stop letting selfish desires make us angry? We follow God’s example.

Sit down with your kids and talk about anger. Talk about how sometimes God gets angry. Make a list of the things that make God angry. Read Matthew 21:12-13 and talk about why Jesus got angry. Discuss the difference between the things that make God angry and the things that make us angry. Talk about how selfish desires tend to be the root of our anger while God’s anger stems from seeing injustice and sin.

Make a new list of the things that it’s OK to get angry about. Base your list on the things that make God angry. For example, my younger daughter tends to get angry when she loses a game. That anger stems from her selfish desire to be better than others. A righteous anger in that situation might stem from being angry that she didn’t do her best. Being angry about losing a game is selfish. Being angry that you didn’t do your best is acknowledging that you didn’t follow God’s directive to do everything with your whole heart. See the difference? When we redirect our anger from selfish desires to righteous ones, we make our anger useful and not sinful, which we’ll talk more about on Friday.

Read Ephesians 4:26-27 with your kids. Talk about what it means to be angry and not sin. Make a list of the ways we sin when we’re angry. Make another list of alternative ways of dealing with and expressing our anger that don’t lead to sin. Make a copy of the appropriate ways to deal with anger and post it in your home. Some ideas include: taking a timeout, being conscious of our words, channeling the energy into something productive.

Pray. We can’t change ingrained patterns in our lives on our own. We have to have help. Ask God to help you change the patterns of your anger. Ask Him to help you stop getting angry when your selfish desires are thwarted and start getting angry about the things that anger Him.

Anger is not sin. It’s what we do when we’re angry that is sin. When we work to change the things we get angry about, it’s easier not to sin when we are angry. Ask God to help you as you embark on this journey to change the way anger appears in your life and the lives of your kids.

Seeing Red: Learning to Deal with Anger

I'm on vacation with my family this week, so enjoy this series from the archives. It’s hot. The summer is long. Kids are bored. Parents are frustrated. These things can all combine to make anger an ever-present companion in our households.

My younger daughter explodes when she’s angry. We never have to guess whether she’s upset. My older daughter, on the other hand, holds it all in. She’ll ignore most things, but then she’ll get upset over something little. That’s when we have to take the time to untangle the web of things she’s angry about to get to the heart of the issue.

We all deal with anger in different ways, but the truth is that anger can destroy relationships and make for an unhappy home. So, this week, we’re going to look at anger. We’re going to knock out some of the myths about anger, and we’re going to learn what God wants us to do when we’re angry.

When we learn to deal with our anger in a godly manner, we take away it’s power to destroy. Mistakes are made in anger that can cause friendships to implode, lives to change and serious consequences to happen. When the red haze of anger takes over, nothing good happens.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” That’s a tall order. This week, we’re going to look at how we can follow that directive and how we can teach it to our children. Each day, we’ll look at a passage of scripture that deals with anger, we’ll talk about what that looks like in our lives and how we can teach that concept to our kids. Here’s the list of topics for the week:

Tuesday: It’s OK to Be Angry

Wednesday: We Can Control Our Anger

Thursday: Words and Anger

Friday: Using Anger for Good

I hope you’ll join us this week as we learn what God has to say about anger and how we can teach those things to our kids. When we learn to control our anger and not let it control us, we save relationships, create happier homes and honor God.

Leave me a comment to let me know you’ll be joining me this week, then share this post with your friends. I promise this week will be jam-packed with practical information that you can put to use in your house immediately.

Choosing Gratitude

attitude

After three days of a kid with a fever, we finally got out of the house yesterday. It was glorious. We went to the pool with some friends.  The girls burned off some pent-up energy, and I was happy to simply sit on the sidelines and enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Then we got home, and my younger daughter (the same one that had just gotten over the fever) started complaining about an itchy, watery eye. One look at her eye, and I stuck her in the car and took her to the Minute Clinic. A half hour later we had a pink eye diagnosis and a prescription for eye drops.

I would love to sit here and tell you that in light of the post I wrote on Monday that I took this all in stride. I would love to tell you that I didn't rant and rave in my mind about the unfairness of it all. I would love to tell you that I started counting my blessings.

But I didn't do any of those things. As I washed pillowcases and blankets and pretty much anything my daughter had touched in the past few days, I raged inside. This wasn't fair. I'm not accomplishing anything this week. I just want a few days of normal.

I didn't say any of it out loud, but I thought it. Oh, did I think it. Until my daughter started voicing her thoughts about the unfairness of it all. Her attitude went from smiling and happy earlier in the day to frustrated and mad. And I understood it. I felt the exact same way. Except that when my daughter started raging, I realized what it looked and sounded like. I realized how insignificant these illnesses are in the grand scheme of the world. And I set out to change my attitude and my daughter's.

We spent some time talking about it. We acknowledged that it wasn't fair that she had just gotten better and now she was sick again. We talked about how frustrating that is for everyone in our family. And then we talked about choices.

You see, every day, we have a choice about how we're going to deal with our circumstances. We can choose to let our circumstances overwhelm us or we can choose to be thankful despite our circumstances. The point of view we choose will affect every part of our day and every part of our attitude.

God doesn't tell us to be thankful when bad things happen. He tells us to be thankful in the midst of our circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." Our circumstances have the ability to rob us of joy and thanksgiving -- but only if we let them.

I am not thankful that my daughter is sick again. I am not thankful that we may have to change our plans for this week yet again. I am not thankful that my older daughter is getting the short end of the stick in not being able to hang out with her friends because her sister is sick. And God doesn't ask me to be thankful for all of those things.

However, even in the midst of our circumstances, I can find things for which to be thankful. I am thankful for the relative health of my girls. I am thankful for doctors and medicine. I am thankful that these illnesses, though they have come one on top of the other, are not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. They're not cancer or diabetes or some other life-threatening illness. I am thankful that even when I'm less than grateful, God is still there, loving me and caring for me.

So, today, my daughter and I are going to choose to be thankful despite the circumstances that will keep us home for one more day. We're going to choose to be thankful that we have a house to stay in, doctors to care for us, and a family that loves each other -- even if today we don't want to touch each other for fear of spreading germs. We are going to choose not to wallow in self-pity but to enjoy the blessings this day brings our way.

It may not be easy to set aside those feelings of frustration and anger, but it is necessary. And having a grateful heart pushes those feelings to the side. It's almost impossible to be frustrated and angry and thankful at the same time. So, today we're choosing gratitude in our house. Will you choose it in yours -- no matter the circumstances?

How Do I Deal with Conflict?

Tough Question

If you have kids, it's inevitable that you will spend part of your time as a parent moderating disagreements. If you have more than one child, this starts almost as soon as the second one comes along.

Our kids will experience disagreements with siblings, friends and even us over the course of their lives, so it's important that they know how to deal with it. Too often, we don't teach our kids how to handle their own conflicts: We either step in and solve it for them or everyone just stays mad at each other for a while. Neither one of those reactions teaches our kids how to mediate their own conflicts.

My older daughter and her best friend recently had an issue that resulted in some hurt feelings. The truth was that neither of them set out to hurt the other one's feelings. It just happened that way. There was a lot of being insensitive to the other person's needs going on on the part of both girls.

I really struggled to know what to do. I wanted to let them work it out themselves, but what I saw happening was that neither of them wanted to approach the issue. I saw two young ladies who had been friends since birth starting to take that friendship for granted and hurt one another without even realizing it. I also realized that they really had no idea how to start the conversation about how to resolve the issues.

So, I stepped in. However, I didn't solve their problem. I simply started the conversation for them. We sat at the kitchen table and set some ground rules.

1. Talk about how you feel. Use "I feel" statements, not "you did" statements.

2. No attacking the other person.

3. Everyone gets a turn to talk.

Then, I let them loose. I stayed in the room and helped guide the conversation, but the girls talked it out. They both realized that they needed to do things a little bit differently to protect their friendship and parted with smiles on their faces.

Was the conversation awkward for them? Absolutely. Was it hard? You betcha. Was it necessary to the survival of their friendship? Yes.

One of the best things we can do for our kids is to teach them to deal appropriately with conflict. Carrying a grudge or hauling around a bag of built-up hurt only destroys relationships. Proverbs 29:8 says "Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger." If we're wise, we'll teach our kids how to avoid carrying a grudge or fostering anger. We'll teach them to resolve their conflicts rather than "stir up a city."

It really is OK to be angry about something that has happened in a relationship. It's not OK to carry a grudge and stew in that anger. Teaching our kids to be wise and turn away anger, teaching them to resolve conflict in appropriate ways is one of the most important tools we can put in our kids' toolboxes. It will prevent broken relationships, anxiety and unnecessary conflict in their lives. Start giving your kids conflict-solving tools today.

5 Tips for Helping Kids Resolve Conflict

We're navigating some tricky friendship waters around our house these days. My younger daughter is having trouble getting along with one of my older daughters good friends. These girls spend a lot of time together, so it's important that they get along.

We've been letting the girls try to work things out themselves, but the results have been less than desirable. I've talked to my younger daughter about it numerous times. I've given her strategies for dealing with the situation. I've encouraged my older daughter to try to help both her friend and her sister to get along. None of that seems to be working.

We finally came to the conclusion that nothing is working because our daughters don't know how to resolve conflict. They don't have the tools in their toolbox to fix the problem. While we work on problem-solving and resolving conflict, we've never taught them how to sit down and constructively talk about how to solve the problem.

Our kids aren't born with the ability to resolve conflict. They're born selfish. We all are. Our first instinct is to protect our own interests. Our fall-back position is to look out for ourselves. We have to be taught to put others first. It's a constant struggle to put aside our selfishness and view others' interests as more important than our own.  Proverbs 18:1 says, "An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels." We want our kids to be good friends and to have sound judgment, which is why teaching them to solve conflict is so important.

Sometime soon, we're going to sit my daughter and this friend down to talk together. We're going to teach them how to respectfully and calmly resolve conflict. We're going to mediate their dispute so that they can see each other's point of view. When we do that, here are the things we'll be hoping to teach them:

1. Use "I feel" statements, not "you" statements. Starting a sentence with "I feel," puts all the focus on your own feelings and not on the other person's actions. It's less accusatory and simply a statement of fact. It doesn't put the other person on the defensive right off the bat.

2. Everyone gets a chance to talk uninterrupted. The only way to get all the cards on the table is for everyone to get a chance to explain their position, their feelings and their ideas.

3. The other person is going to have some valid points. It's a rare conflict where only one person is in the wrong. Usually, especially when it comes to kids, both have contributed to the problem.

4. The solution isn't going to be perfect. The key to conflict resolution is compromise. Kids need to understand that compromise means that everyone has to give up something. No compromise is going to result in them getting everything they want.

5. Prayer is powerful. Whenever conflict arises, one good way to get it to end is to stop what you're doing and pray. God wants to give you the answers. Even if it's a conflict on the playground, taking just a second to pray before you open your mouth can make all the difference in the world.

The world is full of conflict so our kids need to learn to solve it. If we help them by showing them appropriate ways to deal with conflict now, we're helping them live more peaceful lives as an adult.

Is It OK to Get Angry?

We all have different ways of dealing with anger. I'm a get-it-out-in-the-open-and-deal-with-it kind of person. My husband is a hold-it-all-in-until-you-explode person. My younger daughter is an erupt-like-a-volcano girl, and my older daughter is a pretend-nothing-happened conflict avoider. No matter how we deal with anger, we all get angry.

Some of us, though, have been sold a myth when it comes to anger. We've bought into the lie that "good Christians" don't get angry. They're always calm, rational people who never see red. We find unhealthy ways to deal with anger because someone has told us that God doesn't want us to get angry about things. And then we teach that to our kids.

The truth is that anger is a God-given emotion. God gets angry. Jesus got angry (check out the overturned tables in the temple). If God and Jesus get angry, then anger can't be a sin. It's how we deal with anger that gets us into trouble.

Anger can actually lead to good things. When we're legitimately angry about something and not just flying off the handle because we're frustrated, grumpy or tired, anger can be the driving force behind change. We have laws against drunk driving because someone got mad about it. We have homeless shelters and food pantries because someone got mad that there was nothing to help the homeless and the hungry. We have laws against child abuse and for car seats because someone got mad about children dying. Anger, when appropriately directed, can be a good thing.

It's when we let anger get the best of us that we run into problems. Ephesians 4:26 says, "In your anger, do not sin." When we're angry, we have to work extra hard to make sure that we're not letting anger take over our actions. When we let anger take away our ability to treat others well and to think through a problem before reacting, we are more likely to sin. We say things we don't mean and do things we shouldn't. When anger talks, sin happens.

As we teach our kids to control their anger, we need to make sure that we're not teaching them that getting angry is wrong. What we do need to teach them is that anger is a lot like fire. When a fire is controlled in a fireplace or a fire pit, it's a useful tool. It keeps you warm, provides a nice atmosphere and can even be used to cook food. When a fire is out of control, though, it causes mass amounts of destruction. An out-of-control wildfire can destroy homes, lives and wildlife. It can take hundreds of firefighters to control it. Anger is the same way. Once it's out of control, it can take us a long time to get it back under control, and it can leave devastation in its wake.

Help your kids understand that they don't have to live life without getting angry, but they do need to ask God to help them to control their anger so that when they are angry, they don't cause irreparable harm to others.

 

Learning to Lose

She sat in the locker room dejected. Frustrated, sad, angry tears rolled down her face.

This wasn't how we wanted the day to end. Her hockey team had lost it's first tournament -- with a minute left in overtime. They had played so well. They had played so hard. This little team that no one expected much of had made it to the championship game. They were short six players, including a couple of their best. They had never played a tournament together before. They had gone so much farther than we thought they would.

None of that mattered to my daughter. She wanted to win. She knew they had played well enough to win. It just wasn't their day.

It all came crashing down with one well-placed shot. No one on her team was out of position. No one made a huge mistake that caused the goal. The puck just got through, ending in celebration on one end of the ice and hanging heads on the other.

It's a tough life lesson, this learning how to lose. For so many years there's been a philosophy in parenting and teaching that there should be no winners and no losers. Everyone gets a pat on the back no matter how much or how little they have accomplished.

But the truth is that in life, there are winners and losers, and our kids have to learn how to do both with an attitude that pleases God. My daughter didn't take losing well. She didn't want her medal. She didn't want to talk to anyone. She wanted to blame someone.

So we spent some time on Saturday learning how to lose. We spent some time learning that God expects our actions to honor Him no matter how disappointed we might be, no matter how frustrated, no matter how sad. Letting emotions get in the way of God-honoring action simply isn't an excuse.

When our kids lose, because they will, we have to be ready to help them lose well. No one likes to lose, but we can honor God even when we lose. We can congratulate the other team or person. We can encourage our teammates. We can be gracious when someone compliments our play.

Winning is fun, but losing builds character. If our kids can learn to live out the words of Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him," they become a light to others even in the midst of their own frustration.

No matter what our kids are doing -- whether it's winning or losing -- we want them to let Jesus shine through to others. They can only learn to do that if we are there to teach them in the moment. Grab a winning or losing moment with your kids and teach them to live out the words of Colossians 3:17.

Don't miss your chance to win a copy of the book You Have Been Invited! Enter here.

Linking up today with The Better Mom and Graceful.

Reclaiming 'No, Thank You'

My girls were squabbling again. Sometimes, it seems like that's all they do. That sisterly love thing seems to get lost more often than it gets put into practice. And I've had just about enough.

I know that siblings argue. I know that there were times I couldn't stand to be in the same room with my brother, but when the picking on each other and fighting becomes more habit than anything else, it's time to figure out how to put a stop to it.

After watching my girls for a week, I've come to the conclusion that they have lost the art of saying "no, thank you." When they were little, we had a rule that if someone said "no, thank you," you had to stop whatever you were doing that was annoying them. This applied to adults and kids alike. It worked really well, but somewhere along the way, the girls forgot and I stopped enforcing the rule.

We're going back to that rule this week."No, thank you" is just about the perfect phrase for family squabbles. It allows our kids to say no to their siblings or friends while still respecting the other person. It's much better than screeching "No!" or yelling "Stop it!" Both of which I've heard far too often in the past few months.

It also teaches our kids to live up to God's instruction in Romans 12:18, which says, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." We want to teach our kids to solve conflict in a way that respects others but still allows them to stand up for themselves. I certainly don't want to raise girls who are doormats, but I also don't want them screeching at each other every time they're frustrated with each other.

"No, thank you" allows my girls to express their displeasure while thanking the other person in advance for stopping. It offers them a chance to stand up for themselves without disrespecting another person.

So, this week, we're reclaiming "no, thank you" as an important phrase in our family's vocabulary. If you've got squabbling siblings, you might try it, too.

Don't miss our December series, 25 Days of Giving, which will be chock full of practical ideas of ways to get your kids focused on giving to others this Christmas season. And if you're looking for a good read for the month of December check out my Everyday Christmas e-book, a 24-day devotional full of easy ideas to keep your family focused on Jesus this Christmas.

 

Mistakes Create Second Chances

My husband explained the math concept again and asked my older daughter to do a problem. She made the same mistake, again.

As I fixed lunches for the day, I could see the frustration growing on both sides. Tears began to roll down my daughters face. The pitch of my husband's voice showed his frustration. He couldn't understand why she kept making the same mistake. She couldn't understand why he was getting so frustrated.

My husband is really good at math. He likes it, and he uses it every day at his job. My daughter is also good at math, but the combination of fractions and variables in the same problem was a puzzle her 11-year-old brain couldn't seem to solve.

Teaching our kids isn't easy. Whether it's math or life lessons, it's easy to assume that our kids learn just like we do. But they don't. Each of our kids is an individual. They each have their own learning style. They each have their own areas where they are going to struggle, and those areas are usually different from the places where we struggle ourselves. That combination often leads to frustration for everyone.

We hate to watch our kids make mistakes. It's hard enough when it's a math problem. It's even harder when we watch our kids make poor choices in friends or when they choose to be disrespectful at school or even when they make poor choices when it comes to how they treat their bodies. We can get so frustrated as parents as we try to teach them the right thing to do.

The truth is, none of us can learn without making mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process, and we often learn more from our mistakes than we do from getting something correct the first time. God uses our mistakes to help us learn to do the right thing.

Look at Peter: he denied knowing Jesus three times. Imagine how frustrating that must have been for God. Peter had said he would follow Jesus anywhere, and then he pretended not to know Him. Yet, Jesus didn't give up on Peter. He simply reminded Peter he was loved, then gave him another shot. And Peter made the most of that second chance. He became the leader of the early church and eventually died a martyr's death because he refused to deny knowing Jesus for a fourth time.

Just like Peter, we have to let our kids make mistakes. We have to keep teaching them even through the frustration of them making the same mistake over and over again. We have to treat each mistake as a learning process and give our kids another chance.

When we hang onto our frustration with our kids' mistakes, when we don't let it spill over into the way we interact with them, we have a much better chance of helping them to conquer the mistake. We can step back, look at the situation and tackle the problem again from a different angle when we're not frustrated and angry about it. When we do that, we offer our kids a second chance, and, like Peter, they just might do something amazing with it.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Making Your Kids Mad

Everyone else was gone, and I was still waiting for my daughter to come out of the locker room after hockey practice last night. I finally went looking for her. I found her with her nose pressed to the glass, watching the travel team, which included many of her teammates from the past two seasons, practice.

"We need to go," I said.

Silence.

Uh-oh, I thought. Here we go again.

When we got to the car and started home, I said, "Do you want to tell me why you're mad?"

Silence.

"When you're ready to talk about it, I'll be happy to talk to you."

About halfway home, she finally spoke up. "I'm mad you won't let me play travel hockey."

Ahh. Finally. We've known she was upset that most of her friends tried out for the travel team. We've heard about how upset she was. We've been over and over the reasons that she couldn't play -- money, time, family -- but she clearly hadn't settled those things in her mind. To her, we're just being mean.

So, I sent up a prayer for wisdom and tackled the subject again. I gave her a breakdown of the cost. I explained that it would split up our family nearly every weekend for five months, and then I had a stroke of divine inspiration. I explained that we had made our decision out of love. I told her that we love her and her sister too much to deprive them of time with us and time with each other. I explained that we made the decision that was best for our entire family.

It wasn't that we didn't want her to play travel hockey. It's that we didn't want to add the strain to our family. It's that we want to spend time with her. We want to have time together as a family.

Then, I told her she had a choice: She could live in the land of "what if" and "I wish" or she could choose to enjoy the hockey season to the fullest. She could make the best memories she could with her house team. She could focus on learning and having fun every time she was on the ice. Or, she could sulk her way through the season. It was her choice.

Sometimes, as parents, we have to make the best decision we can make for our families. And sometimes that decision makes our kids mad. It's OK to let them stomp and stew and express their disappointment. It's OK for our kids to be upset. But it's also our job to help our kids deal with that disappointment, to help them move on and enjoy what they do have.

Too often, kids want to focus on the things that they don't have. They get caught in the cycle of "I want" or "what if," and that's a dangerous place to live. It results in discontentment and frustration. Philippians 4:11 says "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." We want our kids to learn to be content even when we make decisions they don't agree with. And the only way we can do that is by helping our kids understand help our kids understand that we make decisions based on our love for them -- not simply because we want them to be miserable.

Take the time to explain difficult decisions to your kids -- multiple times if necessary. Then, make sure they know that the choice to be content in what they consider a crummy circumstance is entirely up to them. Help them to focus on what they do have instead of what they don't.

Our kids won't like every decision we make, but we can help them understand those decisions and learn to be content in the midst of those circumstances.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Seeing Red: Using Anger for Good

Most of the time, we consider anger to be a negative emotion. Out-of-control anger can lead to all kinds of terrible things -- physical retaliation, hurtful words, reckless actions. Yet, controlled anger can be an impetus for change. God and Jesus get angry, so the emotion can't be all bad. There has to be a useful purpose for it.

I've watched both my daughters get angry when they're playing their respective sports. And I've watched them use that anger to play harder. When my oldest daughter gets beat in soccer and the other team scores, it makes her mad. That makes her go out on the next play more determined not to get beat. In that way, her anger is a useful tool.

Many organizations that help others were founded out of a profound anger at the injustice in the world. Whether it's a parent who's child was murdered that channeled their anger into starting a foundation that provides free self-defense classes for women or a person who has been to India and was angered by the lack of clean water available and took the initiative to begin providing clean water, anger has it's purpose.

You see, when we get angry about the things that make God angry, then we can use that anger to create something good. Jesus used his anger to drive the money lenders out of the temple. God used His anger to defeat the enemies of the Israelites. We can use our anger for good as well.

Learn to channel your anger into something constructive. When you're angry about something, ask yourself the question "What can I do about it?" If the answer is nothing, then decide whether what you're angry about is deserving of your anger. If the answer is something, decide what that something is and get moving.

Teach your kids to channel their anger into something constructive as well. When your kids get angry, use that energy to constructively solve whatever problem they are having. Talk with your kids about how they can use the energy their anger creates to make a difference. Let your kids take the lead in figuring out how to use their anger for good. Maybe it's standing up to a bully. Maybe it's making a new friend. Maybe it's helping to feed the hungry. Whatever it is, help your kids learn to take their anger and use it in a way that's pleasing to God.

Anger doesn't have to always cause harm. Our anger can be the thing that spurs us to change the world -- even if it is just in our own back yard. You don't have to start a big organization, either. If your kids' disobedience makes you angry, create a plan to teach your kids first-time obedience. If your child is angry about the way the mean girls in class treat her, channel that anger into an understanding of bullying and how to stand up to a bully.

Take control of your anger and use it to foster change today.

If you missed the rest of the Seeing Red: Learning to Control Your Anger series, you can find the first post here.

Words and Anger

"Don't say it unless you mean it." Those words have come out of my mouth no less than a dozen times in the past three days. After spending five days with my parents, including close to 30 hours in the car, my girls came home to snipe at one another. Apparently they've had a little too much togetherness.

Too often, we're like my girls, we say things we don't mean. And when anger rules our tongues, the words that roll off of them often aren't true, aren't uplifting and aren't kind. Anger makes us say things we don't mean. It makes us wish we could take back words after they have spilled out. I can't count how many times I've said something to one of my kids in anger that has crushed their spirits, and I wish I could take it back. But I can't.

The danger with speaking in anger is that we do damage that is unforgettable and irrepairable. So we must learn to control our tongues -- even in the midst of being angry. Ephesians 4:29 says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." See that little word "any?" It means we have to control our words all the time -- not just when we're calm. There are no exceptions in that command for words spoken in anger.

The key to controlling our words when we're angry is God. We absolutely cannot control our words on our own. So, when we're angry, we need to stop and pray. Before we open our mouths, our first words need to be to directed toward God. We need to ask Him to control our tongues. Think of the damage that could be contained if we let God be the one in charge of our words. Harsh words would go unsaid and little spirits would stay intact.

If you or your kids struggle with controlling your words in anger, try this exercise to drive home the point of how words spoken in anger can leave permanent damage. Tack up a blank piece of a paper to a bulletin board. Every time your child gets angry, have him stick a tack in the paper. Explain that that tack is his words spoken in anger. They are sharp, and they hurt the person they are directed at.

When the paper is full of tacks, start having your child take a tack out each day. Explain that taking the tack out is like offering an apology. When all the tacks are gone, ask your child what he sees on the paper. It's still filled with holes. That's because no matter how much we apologize, our words can leave lasting wounds, just like the tacks left holes in that paper.

Our words are a powerful tool. They can be used to persuade and to share love or they can be used to poke holes in others' souls. We choose. When we let anger rule, we choose to hurt others. When we let God rule we choose to share love. It's that simple. Remember to stop and pray when you get angry because we want to stop leaving holes in others' souls.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Seeing Red: We Can Control Our Anger

I looked at the multiple pairs of shoes on the floor in my living room. I had asked for them to be put away numerous times. And still they sat on the floor. They were no longer just shoes. They became a symbol of all the times I asked my kids to do something that day and they had ignored it or gotten distracted. I saw red, called my kids to the room and lit into them. Both looked at me with wide eyes, unsure why a simple pair of shoes had turned their mom into a screaming meanie.

Was I correct in being angry? Absolutely. Disobedience is one of the things that makes God angry. Did I choose to deal with my anger correctly? Absolutely not. Neither my kids nor I took anything away from that situation that was constructive or helpful. I wasn't disciplining my kids. I was simply taking my anger out on them.

Controlling our anger is a choice. Even when we're angry about something that we should be angry about, we have to make a conscious choice to control our anger. We can't just pass off those moments as part of our personality. Erupting, either verbally or physically, isn't ever an appropriate way to deal with our anger.

Proverbs 29:8 says "Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger." If we are wise, we will defuse our anger. We will control it. We won't let it control us. But how do we do that? How do we hang on to our temper and not let it control our actions? We follow a few simple steps that put us back in control.

Stop. When you feel yourself getting angry, stop what you're doing. If you need to, remove yourself from the situation or simply take a minute to be silent before you speak.

Identify. Identify what you are truly angry about. Finish this sentence: I'm angry because... Too often our anger doesn't stem from the current situation but from the build up of a number of things, and the thing that sets us off is not the thing we're really angry about. Knowing the root of our anger makes it easier to control it.

Decide. Decide if what you're angry about is really worth pursuing. If you're angry because you're hot and tired, then it's probably best to hold your tongue. If you're angry about disobedience or injustice, then you're anger is probably not misplaced.

Plan. Don't just fly off the handle. Create a simple plan for dealing with your anger. Maybe you need to speak to the person who made you angry. Plan what you're going to say. Maybe you need to work off your anger doing something physical. Plan how you can do that.

Pray. Ask God to help you control your anger. Ask Him to help you refrain from sin while you're angry. Ask Him to show you what action you need to take based on the situation.

Act. If there's a situation that needs to be dealt with, then it's time to act. If the kids need to be disciplined or you need to talk to the person who made you mad, the time to act is only after you've taken a few minutes to Stop, Identify, Decide, Plan and Pray.

Anger is an explosive emotion, and we get into trouble when we act on it without analyzing it. Use this system to teach your kids how to control their anger as well. You can even use the printable Stop! Why Am I Angry? worksheet to help them work through their anger.

Controlling our anger is important. When we are in control of our anger, we're in control of our tongue and our actions. We are a better example for our kids and a better advertisement for Jesus. Don't let your anger control you. Learn to control it.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Seeing Red: It's OK to Be Angry

I've lost it with my kids numerous times, turning from a calm, gentle mommy into what must seem like a raging lunatic. It may be the 18th sock I've picked up off the floor or a chore that went undone after I asked numerous times for it to be done that sets me off. Or it may be the 15th round of bickering for the day that pushes my buttons.

When I lose my temper, it affects everyone in the house. I often say things that I don't really mean. I hurt my kids' feelings. I blow things out of proportion. And I usually end up apologizing.

Being angry generally results in some ugly consequences. But anger is a very misunderstood concept among Christ-followers. Somehow, we've gotten it into our heads that we should never get angry. And that's just simply not true. Jesus got angry. God gets angry. So it can't be wrong to be angry.

So, what's the difference between God's anger and mine? God's anger is righteous anger. It's anger for the right reasons. God got angry at the Israelites when they turned their backs on Him. He got angry at the sin in the world during the time of Noah. He got angry enough to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Too often, my anger stems from the wrong reasons. I don't like the circumstances I'm in. I'm tired or hungry. I simply don't want to deal with my kids' problems.

And our kids have the same problem. Too often their anger stems from selfishness. They didn't get what they wanted. They didn't win the game. They didn't get to go on an outing. They didn't get the sugary cereal they wanted at the grocery. Most of our kids' anger stems from selfishness. And to be truthful, so does most of mine.

It's not wrong to be angry, but the things that make us angry should be the things that make God angry -- disobedience, mistreatment of others, sin. The Bible never admonishes us not to get angry. But it does say, "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:26-27). It's not anger that gets us into trouble. It's our actions while we are angry. And when we hold onto our anger and let it lead us into trouble, we give Satan an easy entry into our lives.

So, how do we change? How do we stop letting selfish desires make us angry? We follow God's example.

Sit down with your kids and talk about anger. Talk about how sometimes God gets angry. Make a list of the things that make God angry. Read Matthew 21:12-13 and talk about why Jesus got angry. Discuss the difference between the things that make God angry and the things that make us angry. Talk about how selfish desires tend to be the root of our anger while God's anger stems from seeing injustice and sin.

Make a new list of the things that it's OK to get angry about. Base your list on the things that make God angry. For example, my younger daughter tends to get angry when she loses a game. That anger stems from her selfish desire to be better than others. A righteous anger in that situation might stem from being angry that she didn't do her best. Being angry about losing a game is selfish. Being angry that you didn't do your best is acknowledging that you didn't follow God's directive to do everything with your whole heart. See the difference? When we redirect our anger from selfish desires to righteous ones, we make our anger useful and not sinful, which we'll talk more about on Friday.

Read Ephesians 4:26-27 with your kids. Talk about what it means to be angry and not sin. Make a list of the ways we sin when we're angry. Make another list of alternative ways of dealing with and expressing our anger that don't lead to sin. Make a copy of the appropriate ways to deal with anger and post it in your home. Some ideas include: taking a timeout, being conscious of our words, channeling the energy into something productive.

Pray. We can't change ingrained patterns in our lives on our own. We have to have help. Ask God to help you change the patterns of your anger. Ask Him to help you stop getting angry when your selfish desires are thwarted and start getting angry about the things that anger Him.

Anger is not sin. It's what we do when we're angry that is sin. When we work to change the things we get angry about, it's easier not to sin when we are angry. Ask God to help you as you embark on this journey to change the way anger appears in your life and the lives of your kids.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife and A Pause on the Path.

Seeing Red: Learning to Deal with Anger Series

It's hot. The summer is long. Kids are bored. Parents are frustrated. These things can all combine to make anger an ever-present companion in our households.

My younger daughter explodes when she's angry. We never have to guess whether she's upset. My older daughter, on the other hand, holds it all in. She'll ignore most things, but then she'll get upset over something little. That's when we have to take the time to untangle the web of things she's angry about to get to the heart of the issue.

We all deal with anger in different ways, but the truth is that anger can destroy relationships and make for an unhappy home. So, this week, we're going to look at anger. We're going to knock out some of the myths about anger, and we're going to learn what God wants us to do when we're angry.

When we learn to deal with our anger in a godly manner, we take away it's power to destroy. Mistakes are made in anger that can cause friendships to implode, lives to change and serious consequences to happen. When the red haze of anger takes over, nothing good happens.

Ephesians 4:26 says, "In your anger do not sin." That's a tall order. This week, we're going to look at how we can follow that directive and how we can teach it to our children. Each day, we'll look at a passage of scripture that deals with anger, we'll talk about what that looks like in our lives and how we can teach that concept to our kids. Here's the list of topics for the week:

Tuesday: It's OK to Be Angry

Wednesday: We Can Control Our Anger

Thursday: Words and Anger

Friday: Using Anger for Good

I hope you'll join us this week as we learn what God has to say about anger and how we can teach those things to our kids. When we learn to control our anger and not let it control us, we save relationships, create happier homes and honor God.

Leave me a comment to let me know you'll be joining me this week, then share this post with your friends. I promise this week will be jam-packed with practical information that you can put to use in your house immediately.

Linking up today with The Better Mom and Graceful.