Have you ever noticed that often when your child is angry that you are working with a short fuse too? That’s the way life goes sometimes. And, right now, in the middle of a pandemic, odds are that frustration and anger are daily struggles for you and your children. Long hours spent together, plans canceled, vacations on hold—that’s the reality for most families in the summer of 2020.
Our kids can tell when we are angry and are watching to see how we react. If they can see how God helps us with our anger, they’ll learn how God can help them with theirs.
Here are nine simple lessons to remember yourself and to share with your child that will bring God’s perspective into moments of anger, irritation, and frustration.
1. Anger says that something in your world that matters to you has gone wrong.
If your child doesn’t want to be teased, he will get angry when another child teases him. As adults we may get angry because a part breaks on the lawn mower with one strip of grass left to mow or when there’s a distraction and dinner burns in the oven. How do you react in those moments? When your child is angry, start by asking them questions that will help them understand why they are angry. What important thing has gone wrong in their world?
2. God also gets angry at things that are wrong in this world.
Our ability to get angry is part of being made in God’s image. There is a place for anger in a world where bad things can and do happen. But remember that God is always angry at the right things (bullying, unkind words, lying, unfairness—all kinds of sin). And God always responds in the right way to anger. The greatest good that God has done—giving his only Son to die on the cross—was a response to all the evil and wrong in the world (Romans 5:6–11).
3. Our anger usually goes wrong (not right!).
It isn’t right when someone mistreats us or doesn’t follow the rules, but sometimes our responses aren’t right either. The Bible says, “Anger will not help you live a good life that God wants” (James 1:20 ICB). What are some ways that anger goes wrong?
• When we get angry at something that doesn’t really matter—like not getting a lollipop or a toy that we want.
• When we want a good thing more than we want God—like our brother or sister to be kind or our friends to include us. When we want a good thing more than we want to please God, then our anger will control us instead of love for God and others. .
• When we respond to wrong in the wrong way. It isn’t right to get back at someone who has done wrong to us. Yelling, complaining, hitting, and trying to get even are wrong ways to respond when we are wronged.
4. Our anger is not just about us, our world, and whatever is going wrong, it’s about God.
When we get angry, aren’t we saying to God “my will be done; my kingdom come”? But God is the only true judge, we are not (James 4:12). When we are angry, we often act as the judge. Ask yourself (and your child) if you are putting yourself in God’s place when you are angry. Are you acting as the judge of those who have irritated you?
5. God forgives those who know they are wrong (James 4:6).
When we understand that the root of our wrong anger is trying to act like God, then we can identify the core wrong that we need to turn from. It’s not just yelling, pouting, hitting back, or getting even that is wrong. It’s trying to be like God. That’s the core sin in each of us. Help your child identify how anger, irritation, and frustration look and sound in his or her life. Share with your child how those things look and sound in your life (they might already know this!). Help them make the connection to trying to act like God in their life.
6. Ask God for help.
God is here to help in times of trouble, and moments of anger are moments of trouble. Remember that you can stop and pray with your family. You can pray with and for your child and also encourage them to go to God when they are trying to take his place in the world. God helps those who ask (Hebrews 4:16).
7. Those who know they need forgiveness are able to share God’s forgiveness with others (Ephesians 4:32).
Admitting we are sinners and asking for God’s forgiveness changes our perspective on those who have wronged us. When we realize we need mercy because we didn’t follow God’s rules, then we can let go of our anger at someone who has irritated or wronged us.
8. God is patient—we can grow in patience too.
Patience in the Bible literally means “slow to anger.” God, in his great love for us, is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6). Love is slow to anger (1 Corinthians 13:4). The fruit of the Spirit includes patience (Galatians 5:22). Remind your child that both of you can ask God to make you slow to anger with frustrating people and situations. Use Bible Verses to bring God’s love and mercy into moments of irritation. Remind your child who God is and how he helps us to become like him—patient and slow to anger.
9. God’s anger is redemptive. Yours can be too.
God’s anger results in great good. He rights wrongs and lays down his own life for his people. Your anger can also result in good. When you ask for forgiveness, God gives you himself—his Spirit. Now it is possible for you to respond in a way that helps instead of hurts in situations where you are angry and irritated. Talk over with your child what a good
response might be to a true wrong. What should they do when their sibling teases them or takes their things? What should they do when they see another child being bullied on the playground? What are some ways to right the wrongs we see? God will help you and your child learn to return good for evil, just like God does to us (Romans 12:21).
“The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”– Psalm 103:8
The above content was adapted from Jax’s Tail Twitches: When You Are Angry.
JAX’S TAIL TWITCHES: WHEN YOU ARE ANGRY
Everyone gets frustrated when something important to them goes wrong. In Jax’s Tail Twitches, the whole Squirrel family ends up out of sorts when acorn gathering doesn’t go according to plan. Although Papa, Mama, Jax, and Caspian Squirrel all get angry, they also learn about the power of saying sorry, seeking forgiveness, remembering God’s words, and praying together.