Teaching Your Child How to Manage Anger Biblically

Introduction: A child that does not learn to handle his/her anger in a biblically appropriatemanner will experience a lifetime of personal and interpersonal problems (i.e. social/relational, emotional, occupational, spiritual, physical, etc.). Ideally, anger management skills should be taught during a child’s formative years before destructive habits are formed.

Note: Anger, in and of itself, is not sinful—it carries no moral weight.It is a God-given emotion that can be used in either a godly manner (i.e. constructive—motivates us to resolve the problem/conflict between another person and ourselves responsibly and respectfully) or ungodly manner (i.e. destructive—selfishly attempt to win the argument in order to get our way). Anger is not the problem, but the way in which we choose to display/use it.

Two Sinful abuses of Anger: Passive Aggression and Active Aggression

Both forms are hostile and are ways of attacking the person(s) that the child believes are deserving of their wrath.

Active aggression is easy to spot because it is displayed out in the open and is frequently loud:explosiveness, shouting, screaming, accusing, raging, intimidation, blaming, sarcasm, griping, threatening, and (in extreme cases) violence. Active aggression is the attempt to control,wound, annoy, or undermine a parent. Even mild-mannered children, when they feelsufficiently frustrated or threatened can become openly, actively aggressive.

Note: Active aggression is a self-centered choice; the child is focusing only on his/her needs andfeelings with little or no sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others.

Passive aggression occurs when a child takes their hostilities underground. Avoiding openwarfare, they choose instead a cold war of hidden agendas and sabotage. Some examples would include the following: the silent treatment—sulking, pouting, acting hurt; procrastination;laziness; tardiness; lying about feelings (“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not mad.”); engaging in irritating or aggravating behavior, etc. Passive aggression is the attempt to control, wound, annoy, or undermine a parent without risking open conflict or confrontation. Passive aggression can be as destructive as active aggression—and is often evenmore destructive. Why? Because it is harder to pin down the passive aggressor and get him/her to resolve the conflict/problem. It can be extremely difficult to penetrate their denial and evasiveness in order to bring him/her to the negotiation table for peace talks

Note: Suppressing anger does not eliminate it. It only drives it underground where it festers intobitterness. It is a sinful choice that creates an unhealthy, dishonest relationship between the child and his/her parents.

The Godly Use of Anger:

Assertiveness is the ability to state your needs or defend your own personal worth or convictions firmly, without devaluing the needs and feelings of others.

Your child needs to be taught how to verbalize his/her angry feelings in a constructive manner; how to be open and honest about his/her angry feelings in a respectful and responsible manner. Scripture refers to this approach as “speaking the truth in love”(Eph. 4:14-15). How can your child learn to be assertive? By the parent(s) teaching and modeling assertive behavior in real life situations. Conflict is inevitable because we all are sinners by nature and tend to have different views, values, and opinions. When conflict arises don’t “go to the bedroom” so your children will not hear you. Use the situation as a teaching opportunity—demonstrate the biblical way for handling anger and resolving conflict.

Use the Three-Step Method:

  1. State the problem
  2. State how you feel about the problem
  3. Look for a “we” solution to the problem

Use “I” messages. Verbalize your message gently, respectfully, and tactfully. To speak thetruth in love means using “I” messages rather than “you” message. “You” messages convey blame, and blame causes people to react defensively.

Be careful of the tone of your voice. Your voice can create an attitude of respect ordisrespect. If the other person becomes hot, loud, and contentious, our natural tendency is to match that person in volume and wattage. Instead, make a conscious choice to soften your voice. As you do, the other person will most likely respond to your modulation, and the anger level will subside to a manageable level. Speaking the truth in love means, in part, speaking with a loving tone of voice.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

Scenarios for practicing the Three-Step Method: Assume your children are watching and

  • Your husband has just made a snide remark about the weight that you have put on.
  • When your husband becomes frustrated or angry in traffic, he begins to drive more aggressively.
  • At your son’s baseball game your husband makes a derogatory remark to the umpire while sitting in the bleachers.
  • Your son has been beat up again on the bus by the neighborhood bully. You are sick and tired of this abusive behavior and decide to call the child’s mother.
  • Your husband has gotten into the habit of not letting you know when he will arrive home from work. It varies from evening to evening, which makes dinner preparation difficult.
  • Your husband is prone to kick back in his recliner after supper even though dishes need to be washed, homework completed, and children bathed and put to bed.
  • Your wife spends a good deal of time on the phone with her mother who lives out of state. The phone bill is over $200 every month.
  • Your husband is in the habit of throwing his wet towel on the bathroom floor after showering.
  • Your wife has overspent the food budget several times in a row.
  • When your neighbor mows his grass his lawnmower throws grass into your driveway. He doesn’t seem to notice or care.
  • Your waiter has added two items to your tab that you did not order.
  • A clerk in the grocery store is short and rude to you for no apparent reason.
  • Your husband has promised to till your garden three weeks in a row but has yet to start and complete the job.
  • Your neighbor finally brings back some of the garden tools that he borrowed but they are covered in mud.
  • Your husband called at the last minute to inform you that he is bringing an old friend home for dinner.

Major on the majors. Don’t allow yourself to get embroiled in issues that don’t deserveenormous amounts of energy. Major on the majors and not on the minors.

Conclusion:It is imperative that parents teach their children how to handle anger biblicallybefore destructive habits are formed. A world of personal and interpersonal pain can be avoided by doing so.


Anger Management: Self-Test

Note: In the home, children learn primarily through parental modeling (i.e. observing yourbehavior and imitating it.) Therefore, if you are to teach your child how to handle anger effectively, you must consistently model the biblically correct method.

Part 1

Circle the items that apply to you:

  1. When I am frustrated, I become silent, knowing it bothers other people.
  2. I am prone to sulk and pout.
  3. When I don’t want to do a project I procrastinate.
  4. When someone asks me if I am frustrated or angry, I will lie and say, “No, everything is fine.”
  5. I can be a “back-stabber” when someone has hurt my feelings.
  6. When someone talks to me about my problems I stare straight ahead, deliberately obstinate.
  7. I complain about people behind their backs but dodge the opportunity to be open with them face-to-face.
  8. Sometimes I become involved in behind-the-scenes misbehavior.
  9. I sometimes refuse to do someone a favor, knowing this will irritate him or her.
  10. I may act kindly on the outside while feeling very frustrated or angry on the inside.
  11. Resentful thinking is common for me, although many people would never suspect it.
  12. If a family member or friend upsets me I can let days pass without even mentioning it.
  13. I have a tendency to be depressed and moody.
  14. I am not inclined to initiate conversations about sensitive or troublesome topics.
  15. Sometimes I feel paralyzed when confronted by an unwanted situation.
  16. I have suffered with physical complaints (i.e. headaches, stomach ailments, sleep disturbance, etc.).
  17. I don’t like to let others know my problems.
  18. When I am angry I tend to withdraw.
  19. Sometimes I walk in the other direction to avoid seeing someone I do not like.
  20. When I am displeased with someone, I sometimes shut down communication with him or her.

Count the items circled ________ 

Part 2

Circle the items that apply to you:

  1. I can be blunt and forceful when someone does something to frustrate me.
  2. My voice tends to get louder when I state my convictions.
  3. When someone confronts me about a problem, I am likely to offer a ready rebuttal.
  4. No one has to guess my opinion; I am known for unwavering viewpoints.
  5. When something goes wrong, I focus so sharply on fixing the problem that I overlook others’ feelings.
  6. I have a history of getting caught in bickering matches with family members.
  7. During verbal agreements with someone, I tend to repeat myself several times.
  8. I find it hard to keep my thoughts to myself when it is obvious that someone else is wrong.
  9. I have a reputation for being strong-willed.
  10. I tend to give advice, even when others have not asked for it.
  11. I can become sarcastic to others when they have upset me.
  12. Impatience comes over me more frequently than I would like.
  13. When I talk about my irritations, I don’t really want to hear an opposite point of view.
  14. When someone confronts me from a misinformed position, I am usually thinking of my rebuttal as he or she speaks.
  15. When I am in an authority role, I sometimes speak too sternly or insensitively.
  16. As much as I hate to admit it, I tend to yell and sometimes even scream when I am mad.
  17. It seems like I have more than my share of conflict with other people.
  18. In arguments I tend to blame the other person.
  19. When conflict breaks out, I do my best to “win” the argument.
  20. When someone speaks badly of me, my first reaction is to think of how I can defend myself.

Count the items circled __________


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