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The Heart of ANGER – Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children

Since I was a young woman, I have worked with children. As I dearly love these young hearts, I am particularly attuned to the anger evident in so many of them. Sometimes the anger comes from a wounded place or a response to bullying. Other times it is the result of neglect or a head injury. This blog explores practical helps for the prevention and cure of anger in children. Yes, there is prevention. Yes there are cures. Yes, more than just identifying the problem, there is help.

What is ANGER?

Anger is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility according to the Oxford Dictionary. Lou Priolo, author of The Heart of Anger: Practical Help for the Prevention and Cure of Anger in Children identifies anger as

  • Outbursts of anger demonstrated in temper tantrums
  • Disrespect
  • Fighting (violence)
  • Animosity
  • Cruelty
  • Strife
  • Antagonism
  • Vengence acts
  • Bitterness
  • Discouragement
  • Apathy
  • Indifference

Before we go too deep into this topic, it might be prudent to practice some self examination. If you are a parent, ask yourself if you are doing anything to provoke your child to anger. Check out this blog and companion podcast on 25 Ways that Parents Provoke Their Children to Anger. Certainly, many angry children are angry without any provocation from a parent. Introspection is a great place to start.

God has quite a bit to communicate about an angry person. His characteristics are many.

“An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.” Proverbs 29:22 NLT

“Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” Proverbs 22:24-25 NLT

Many of the thoughts in this blog are taken from Priolo’s book aimed at preventing and curing anger in children. This posture encourages while so many communicate the definition of anger and the outcomes. Anger evolves along a stairway to destruction from:

  • Hurt
  • Bitterness
  • Anger
  • Stubbornness
  • Rebellion

HURT: A parent may do something intentionally or unintentionally to the child who then responds mentally or emotionally with hurt. This hurt seed grows into bitterness.

BITTERNESS: The response to this hurt is not the Biblical one which would be forgivenss or to overlook the offense. I Cor 13:5 reminds us that love does not keep a running account of our offenses. Hebrews 12:5 talks about hurt that grows into bitterness.

ANGER: The scripture clearly warns fathers not to provoke their children to anger. This situation does not indicate a momentary experience with anger, but one that is habitual.

STUBBORNNESS: Insubordination is the same as rebellion with is paralleled with the sin of witchcraft. (I Sam 15:23)

REBELLION: Reading through Proverbs will give you a lengthy description of a fool which is essentially the same as a rebel.

Characteristics of a Fool in Proverbs:

  • Despises wisdom and instruction 1:7
  • Hates knowledge 1:22
  • Grieves his mother 10:1
  • Enjoys devising mischief 10:23
  • Right in his own eyes 12:15
  • Quick to anger 12:16
  • Deceitful 14:8
  • Arrogant and careless 14:16
  • Rejects his father’s instruction 15:5
  • Despises his mother and father 15:20
  • Does not respond well to discipline 17:10
  • Does not understand wisdom 17:16
  • Has a worldly focus – a carnal, fleshly value system 17:24
  • Will not discuss any viewpoint but his own 18:2
  • A smart mouth usually gets him in trouble 18:7
  • Quarrelsome/ contentious 20:3
  • Spendthrift 21:20
  • Repeats foolishness 26:11
  • Trusts in his own heart 28:26
  • Cannot resolve conflicts 29:9
  • Vents fully his anger 29:11

The angry child is most often found in a child-centered home. Investigate the value of a parent led home. The child centric style of parenting allows a child to commit these indiscretions:

  • Interrupt adults when they are talking
  • Use manipulation and rebellion to get their way
  • Dictate family schedule like mealtimes and bedtimes
  • More important than spouse
  • Demand excessive time and attention from parents
  • Escape consequences of their sinful and irresponsible behavior
  • Speak to parents as though they were their peers
  • Dominate influence in the home
  • Be entertained or coddled out of a bad mood instead of disciplined

In contrast in a God-centered home a child should be taught to

  • Joyfully serve others
  • Cheerfully obey parents the first time
  • Don’t interrupt parents who are speaking to each other
  • Understand that they will not always get their way
  • Work their schedule around their parent’s schedule
  • Input into family decisions but not an equal vote
  • Suffer the natural consequences of their sinful and irresponsible behavior
  • Don’t speak to parents as though they were peers
  • Fulfill various household responsibilities
  • Don’t divide parents over disciplinary issues
  • Not closer to a parent that both parents are to each other

How can I guide my child to develop a Biblical response to anticipated provocation? In other words, I can expect to be provoked. As an adult, I can expect to be provoked. Preparing for such triggers allows for a planned response. Practically, there are a number of Biblically acceptable responses. Let’s look at what the scriptures advise in this situation:

“The heart of the wise ponders how to answer.” Proverbs 15:28. Immediate reaction does not give a wise person time to consider options and select the best one.

“The heart of the wise teaches his mouth and adds learning to his lips.” Proverbs 16:23 Planning two to three responses for instances where anger has been the reaction will give your child tools. Many times anger is occurring in a pattern that reoccurs. When appropriate, rehearse the response.

Here are some questions to discuss with your child?

  • What circumstance let to my being angry?
  • What did I say when I became angry?
  • What should I have done or said when I became angry? Imagine that you could rewind time. What should I do if this occurs again?

All of these ideas above offer hope for the prevention and cure of anger in a child. Communicating and then doing the daily hard work of discussing wrong responses and planning new, correct ones is key in making progress to address the heart of anger.

More conversation on this topic with Tim and Leah on Embrace Your Everyday podcast:

MORE on Children:

25 Ways that Parents Provoke Children to Anger

Talking to Your Children about Dating

GRIT – 5 Characteristics of Grit

Considering Homeschooling? Start Here

Training Your Child HOW TO INTERRUPT

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