I started this series on dirty little secrets in order to address subjects that I know many homeschoolers struggle with, but are ashamed to mention. And it is with great shame that I broach this last topic – anger.
Over the years, I’ve read enough forum and blog posts about yelling moms and angry outbursts to know that anger can be a problem both inside and outside of the homeschool community.
To be clear, I am not talking about loud families. Volume isn’t the problem, emotions are. Frustration, resentment, fury, rage and wrath – ugly, ugly stuff that it’s high time we deal with.
There is No Valid Excuse for Acting Out in Anger
If a school teacher gave your child the tongue lashing you just gave him, would you be okay with it? Even if she had reason to feel frustrated? Even if it only happened every once in a while?
Would you sympathize with her for being stressed, tired and overwhelmed? Would you want to hear about her hormone imbalance and lack of support from the principal? Would she be fit to teach your child again just because she apologized?
I don’t think so.
Neither is it okay for us to excuse our angry outbursts and console ourselves by apologizing.
We can’t save our children from schoolyard bullies only to bully them in our own homes. If you wouldn’t let a school teacher say it to your children, don’t you say it either. If you wouldn’t behave that way in public, don’t behave that way behind closed doors.
Please know that I am not writing from some perch on high. I am writing from my experience of having done it wrong so often. And I am not trying to make those of you who feel guilty feel even worse. I am writing because it is time to move beyond guilt to action.
The Roots of Anger
In order to truly get rid of anger, you have to get it at the root.
For some, the root is quite simply exhaustion. If that’s you, you’re lucky. Stop blogging. Stop reading blogs. Close your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Drop out of co-op. Stop volunteering. Pare house and schoolwork down to the minimum. Do less, and get the rest your body needs.
For others – not me, and certainly not you – the problem is not so simple. Some of us have hearts so full of anger that it just can’t help spilling out and splashing all over those closest to us.
That kind of anger may be caused by one of the following:
Perfectionism – Children will be childish, messy, too loud, too slow and sometimes annoying. Friends and family will disappoint you. You will make mistakes. Lots of them. Your house will be a wreck at times, and you often won’t accomplish half as much as you would like to accomplish. Accept that life is never perfect, and embrace it as it is.
Challenging Behavior in Children – Sometimes concerns about our children’s behavior involve more than just childishness. I shared ideas for addressing those issues here. I also think it is important to realize that anger is of no use in improving a child’s behavior. “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.” (James 1:20)
Misplaced Priorities – Are you a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom? Or are you a mommy blogger, Farmville Angry Birds champion, Reality TV expert, championship forum debater, homeschool support group queen or church lady extraordinaire? Make a choice. If you are a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, your kids are your main priority – they are not interruptions.
Unforgiveness – Chances are you’ve been hurt deeply at some point in your life. However, the Bible warns us against letting bitterness take root. (Hebrews 12:15) Forgiveness is a must. I’ll share more on that below.
Ungratefulness – Contrary to popular belief, we are not entitled to lots of me time, a housekeeper, a nanny, a spacious home, gourmet kitchen appliances, expensive decor, and exotic vacations. If you have those things, wonderful. If not, you still have no excuse for anger. Learn to be content in the state you’re in. (Philippians 4:12)
How to Get Rid of Anger
So we’ve examined common sources of anger, but how do we get rid of it? Here are some ideas:
Accountability – Be honest about your struggle, and have your spouse or a close friend hold you accountable. Write post-it-notes to yourself, post scripture in highly visible locations, place a special bracelet or rubber band around your wrist, or use some other physical cue to remind you that you are changing this area of your life.
In addition, hold your friends accountable. Instead of merely empathizing with friends who tell you they are struggling, ask, “What’s going on in your life that’s causing you to get so angry?” or “What can I do to help you?”
Self-Control – If you can control yourself in public, you can control yourself in private. The first step is to simply keep your mouth closed. Do not allow yourself to utter a single word. Then, do something to calm yourself down. Take a deep breath, count to ten, pray, recite a scripture or affirmation, stretch, walk or go sit in the bathroom. Break the habit of allowing tension to build up and explode.
Don’t Vent – The Bible says only a fool gives full vent to his anger (Proverbs 29:11), and over the years I’ve come to see the harm that comes from venting. When we fall into the habit of ranting about pet peeves and petty grievances, our minds become tuned to seeing things that upset us. Learn to overlook offense (Proverbs 19:11), and spend less time around friends who have a tendency to vent and complain (Proverbs 22:24-25).
Forgive – Some of us have been wronged, and have reason to be angry. But wrongs unforgiven are seeds that grow into bitterness. You can’t be a joyful, loving mom while harboring unforgiveness. No matter who did it, how bad it was, or how many times it has happened, let it go so you can be a better mother to your children. Let the person who hurt you off the hook, and trust the Lord take care of anything that needs repaying (Romans 12:19).
Guard Your Thoughts – I’ve found that whenever I’ve become angry with my children, I have been meditating on things that I am upset about, and the just kids happened to interrupt my train of thought. The Bible says that, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) Cancel the pity party. Stop watching television and listening to talk radio. Stop trying to prove others wrong, and agree to disagree.
Memorize scripture, recite positive affirmations, listen to uplifting music and think about good things. (Philippians 4:8) Live a life of wonder and beauty, being ever grateful for the precious souls that have been left in your care.