Repenting with my children

I have an anger problem. In terms of when it manifests itself with whom, I’d say it shows up 0% of the time with adults, 0% of the time with other people’s kids, and 100% of the time with my two boys. This week, I had a particularly bad round of it. And, to be fair, my boys were certainly provoking me. I yelled at them, calmed down, apologized for yelling, used normal tones for two sentences, yelled again at them (a little louder), calmed down, apologized, used normal tones for one sentence, yelled again at them (louder still), and … well … you get the picture.

Finally after herding cats, I mean boys, into the car (because getting my boys in the car when I’m angry seems so much like herding cats), I told the boys I had an anger problem (actually, I think I yelled it in anger) and told them I needed to pray. So right there, in the car before we drove out the driveway, I prayed. “God help me. I’m angry. Please forgive me. Please help me not be angry.” Then I heard a groan/cry from the backseat, turned around to look, and the four year old was sticking his finger in the 6 year old’s mouth and yanking on his cheek. In that moment, I learned what REALLY makes me angry — boys who don’t respect prayer when mommy really needs it. I’m sure I must have literally had steam coming out of my ears at that point. Perhaps a vein was throbbing in my throat or forehead. Suffice it to say that my anger had NOT miraculously dissipated.

My 6 year old seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. He’s the one who told me last week that he hated God because he prayed for a TV in his bedroom and God didn’t give him one. We’ve been talking with him a lot about God’s love for him and have been trying to cultivate thankfulness for all the many things God has given him. In the car, the 6 year old looked at me sweetly and said that HE would pray. He folded his hands nicely and squeezed his eyes shut. He opted for silent prayer. We waited. And then he opened his eyes. I couldn’t resist asking him what he prayed for, and he said something about thanking God for the many things we have. He didn’t mention help with my anger, so I’m not sure if that was included or not.

Something about that entire scene was like a big bucket of ice water being poured over my head. The vision of my formerly God-hating 6 year old sweetly folding his hands in prayer for me just did me in. But not in a bad way. I didn’t feel shame. I felt grace and mercy. Really, God could have let me back my car into the wall in my anger and it would have served me right. But instead, He ministered grace to me through my son’s prayer. He turned a situation ruined by my sinful anger into a moment of spiritual joy watching my son exhibiting child-like faith. It’s called redemption. Deliverance. And I’m reminded once again that it is something only He can do.

For the rest of the afternoon, my boys and I had a really nice time together doing things that I had not expected to be enjoyable at all. For a few hours, the Kingdom broke into our sin-damaged reality and it was miraculous to behold. By that evening, we were back to the occasional fits of grumpiness and complaining that characterize us on normal days. But I went to bed with a renewed confidence in God’s ability to redeem the worst of what’s in me and instead of ruining my kids with it (which is a life long fear of mine), actually use it for all of our good to transform us into His image. Thy Kingdom come, O Lord.

14 Responses to Repenting with my children

  1. Lisa February 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm #


    Is there any chance you are being too hard on yourself? Anger comes when we don't get things our way and with two little boys, there is plenty of opportunity for things to not go as planned or your way.

    Once upon a time I had 3 little boys running around and I was plenty angry….and I hated it. I was trying to homeschool and care for a preschooler, and after 5 years of butting heads homeschooling, I got burned out. A total of about 10 years of caring for little boys full time. They are hooligans full of energy.

    Then they went to school, after I finally decided to let them go….and we have a much better relationship. I don't struggle with anger as I did, in fact anger at them is almost nil. On the other hand, they have become good kids, testament to training despite my weakness. They get angry at me now cause I am the worst parent for taking away privileges… created the buffer I needed to be a good mom.

    The preschool years are intense, tough, test your mettle, you'd rather be reading or thinking (I went back to grad school after they went to school and love the thinking…graduate in May!). I love my kids but enjoy them better as people I can hug face to face, and leave for a bit as me and my husband go for coffee, as they are middleschoolers. This is a season. Your human weakness won't ruin them, your humility and honesty will shape them. But you won't be perfect. Perfect w/little people does not exist, except for those few bloggers that make us ALL feel and look bad. Really now.
    Create some space away from them. Exercise. Talk to a friend. Have a hobby. Take care of yourself in the midst of taking care of them…..are you or they hungry, angry (duh), lonely, tired? You ARE doing a good job. Journal what or why makes you that angry. How would you rather it be? Is that realistic right now?

    Hugs of compassion your way, and as always, your honesty is valued.

  2. Wendy February 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Thanks, Lisa. I hear what you're saying.

    In this case, I don't think I was too hard on myself. Sin is sin, and I was sinning against them in ways that would have scarred me as a child, though my boys seem less sensitive than I was. But I recognize well that I couldn't change myself to stop doing what I hated. I really despise verbal anger and I get so frustrated when that angry voice comes out my mouth. I'm learning to rest from my measly attempts to change myself and believe confidently in God's methods of changing me (which may involve provoking my anger and having little boys pray for me). I haven't had that kind of anger in a few days, and I'm praying for that to continue. This is not to say that I don't get “serious” and “stern.” But those emotions seem ones that the Spirit can work through, and I desperately need Him to work when I'm parenting. 🙂

  3. LivewithFlair February 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    Timely here! Yesterday I confessed to my children my bad attitude about a friend I was jealous of. I felt SO HUMILIATED being so shallow, but I wanted my children to see that even after all these years of walking with Jesus, I still have to confess every day. Thank you. I love the honesty in this post.

  4. kbonikowsky February 28, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

    🙂 feel your pain. I only have one hooligan and I behave just as bad.

  5. Daily Doings February 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    I have read a few of your “angry” posts and I am so thankful you keep revisiting it and posting it. Because I am right there with you. I know and hear and live out what you are saying. It is a huge struggle of mine as well. Just know we are walking with you through it. 🙂

  6. Sheila February 28, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Thanks for being honest about your anger problem. I have the same problem, and it primarily manifests itself around the 3 year old and the 5 year old. Their immaturity makes me crazy, but I know that I should be turning those into the teachable moments and extend grace. It's hard.

    And then I remember that I am like the man Jesus spoke of who begged for mercy for owing a lifetime of debt, yet withheld mercy from the one who owed him a tiny debt. So thankful for God's grace and new mornings.

  7. Anonymous February 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    Bless you. Bless God for allowing us motherhood. The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,Ps 23:1-2. (ps, don’t forget to pray extra hard during hormonally challenged weeks!)

  8. Lucky girl March 1, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    Thank you for this post. I too have an anger problem and have been having a really rough time with it lately. I just found Christ about a year ago so I'm having a hard time just stopping and praying, it's nice to know other people have the same problem and how they handle it. Thank you again and God bless!

  9. Jen March 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this…I struggle in a similar way. I just had my third child. Between a new 4 year old, 2.5 year old, and the 4 month old and the whole of our circumstances right now I am discovering just how deep rooted my anger is. In the same vein I am finding lots of reason to consider, dwell, and return to the gospel. It is interesting how I can get so put off by their interruptions…when that is a big part of my role as their mother. I'm to train them, guide them, love them, etc., and yet I almost seem to operate in this mindset that they should be perfect and not have issues that need to be dealt with seemingly every second of the day.

    There needs to be heart change for me and I pray that I continue to grasp more fully the implications of the gospel in my life and in their life. I am so quick to be harsh and find it truly breathtaking that God deals with us so graciously… particularly when I am struggling so much in my own journey as a parent.

    Thanks again for your words and reminding me that I'm not alone in these struggles. At the beginning when you talked about yelling, praying, normal tones, and then repeat cycle…I understand that. I'm floored sometimes by the range of emotions I can experience in a matter of minutes. Usually in times of transition…nap time, trying to exit the house, getting lunch going or cleaning up lunch. The dinner hour – end of the day chaos that happens as we eagerly anticipate my husband coming home…things just seem to fall apart then. As if they were ever really together! Ha!

    Anyway, I need to get back to those boys!

  10. Sandra March 1, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Love this Wendy! I literally laughed out loud at “In that moment, I learned what REALLY makes me angry — boys who don't respect prayer when mommy really needs it.” I have been there! Thankful for sanctification, and even the smallest people God uses to sanctify us!

  11. Kate March 1, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    I'm a new reader to your blog and have read some parts out loud in affirmation, praise, understanding, and gratitude that my struggles are not unique to me. How often I wonder how many people struggle like I do and wish for greater honesty in this crazy parenting job. Especially because this job is so exposing of my spiritual bankruptcy and need for grace. I constantly need to be reminded that I am just as in need of transformation and redemption as they are, and your blog boosts me to seek after that, not just good kids. Thank you!

  12. MelB March 4, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    Ha! a woman after my own heart. flawed but seeking. and unafraid to speak of her flaws. I truly loved (and related) to this post.

    I particularly loved this sentence…
    “For a few hours, the Kingdom broke into our sin-damaged reality and it was miraculous to behold.”

    More of those Lord. Yeah!

  13. Anonymous March 4, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    Hi, I'm new to your blog- I just started reading it today. I just wanted to say thanks for your openness and honesty. Something I've been thinking about a lot recently is how important it is to be able to repent and ask for forgiveness with, and in front of our children. I grew up with a parent who never (that I can recall) could admit sin. I often knew what she was doing was wrong but the fact that she never admitted it to us or apologized was very hurtful, and scarring. It felt (and still feels like) admission of sin for her would be admission of weakness (and therefore obviously loss of pride.) It felt like she was afraid of losing her authority or our respect. Well, that DID happen, but ironically it was due to the absence of her repentance rather than the presence of it. And what is really hard is that I feel like the anger problems could have been squelched at her generation if things had been different. I find myself struggling with the same kind of anger that I grew up with and I hate it. I often feel like a slightly toned down version of my mother and it makes me feel like a terrible parent. I definitely want my children to learn how to repent and I know that example is the best teacher (unfortunately my own sin prevents me from being that consistently calm example!). I want them to know that WE ALL fall short and forgiveness paves the way for change. It helps to be reminded that asking for God to change my own heart is the only way. Thanks for the encouragement.

  14. Alli March 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    I have 4 little people who keep me on my knees & struggling with anger. I have recently begun asking God to reveal to me the emotion under my anger so His truth & light can be shed on it. My prayers have changed from “help me to be patient & slow to anger” to praising Him that Christ covered this outburst on the cross. Like you mentioned, it is so freeing to be not burdened by guilt but reminded of grace & mercy.