Evaluating Our Anger As a Parent
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The Disciple-Making Parent, The Donut Date Journal, Parenting with Patience: Overcoming Anger in the Home and numerous other resources for the family. He is passionate about helping parents disciple their childr...more
Chap Bettis explains how to evaluate our anger toward our children. He talks about having good desires for our kids and expressing those desires in constructive ways.
Evaluating Our Anger As a Parent
Bob: Chap Bettis is a Bible teacher, who teaches a lot on marriage and on parenting. He admits, when it came time to teach about parenting with patience, he was approaching the subject, not just to try to help other people.
Chap: This was my sin; and I’d done a lot of thinking for my own heart, that I need to change. The home is the hardest place to live out the gospel: people know how to push your buttons; and you’re tired, and you just want to be left alone. Then comes a toddler, or a teenager, or something like that; and they see the worst side of us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, April 15th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. I think all of us could use a refresher on how to be a little more kind and patient with our kids. We’ll get some help today from Chap Bettis. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. There was a song our kids learned—you remember, back in the day, when there was Psalty, the Singing Songbook;—
Ann: Oh, yes!
Dave: —that’s a long time ago!
Bob: —The Donut Man; Antshillvania. Back when our kids were growing up, there were all of these musicals for kids; and our kids listened to them.
There was one song that our kids learned and sang, and we sang to each other from time to time. It was a song that went: “Have patience; have patience; Don’t be in such a hurry,” Have you heard this one?
Bob: Well, at our home, it came in handy to look at our kids and say, “Kids, ‘Have patience; have patience…’” and just get them to slow down.
Then Mary Ann and I realized, “They’re not the only ones who need to have patience.” [Laughter]
Ann: Were you singing it to yourself?
Bob: Sometimes, we had to look at each other and go, “Sweetheart, ‘Have patience; have patience…‘”; because we can get exasperated as parents.
Ann: Oh, yes.
Dave: Oh, it happens almost daily. I can remember—I mean, we live in such a fast-paced culture that we don’t slow down and have patience. Have you ever stood in front of your microwave and been like, “Hurry up! Hurry up”? [Laughter] It’s a microwave! And yet, you know, some of us are old enough to remember you had to put that in the oven or on the stove, and it’s the world we live in. We want an instant download now, and we want that in character as well.
Ann: It’s especially hard when you’re a fast-paced person anyway; and then you have three toddlers, and everything takes forever.
Bob: We have a friend, who is back with us on FamilyLife Today; Chap Bettis is here. Chap, welcome back.
Chap: Thank you.
Bob: Chap is a dad; he is also a church-planting pastor.
A couple years ago, you started something called The Apollos Project. Where’d you pick that name? How’d that come about?
Chap: Well, Apollos in Acts, Chapter 18,—
Chap: —is articulate; he is zealous; he’s mighty in the Scriptures; and then he’s courageous. I just felt like, as parents, we want to raise our children to be like Apollos. We know Daniel/Daniel of the Old Testament;—
Chap: —we know Timothy; Timothy seems to be somewhat fearful. I just think, as our culture becomes more and more anti-Christian, that we need young people, who are going to be able to be articulate, be mighty in the Scriptures, and courageous as well.
Bob: There came a point in your pastoral ministry, where you felt God pressing on your heart to make parenting your focus and to help moms and dads raise the next generation. You’ve been with us on FamilyLife Today, talking about your book, The Disciple-Making Parent. When it came time to write a second book, you zeroed in on the subject of patience in parenting. Why that subject?
Chap: Well, can you see my smile? [Laughter] It’s a problem for some people out there; it’s not a problem for me. [Laughter] No, this was my sin; and I’d done a lot of thinking for my own heart, that I need to change.
You know, kids say one of the reasons they walk away from the faith is because of hypocrisy. The home is the hardest place to live out the gospel: people know how to push your buttons; and you’re tired, and you just want to be left alone. Then comes a toddler or a teenager, or something like that, and they see the worst side of us.
This is my sinful area. I had studied/had thought about it; and I think, by God’s grace, had seen some growth. Then, as I would talk with people, find out, “Oh yes, this is an issue as well,” so felt led to put it in a video series.
Dave: A lot of what you wrote in Parenting with Patience is about anger. Now, is anger the opposite of patience? What is anger? I’ve never been mad, so I just need somebody to tell me. [Laughter]
Chap: Well, I think the definition by Dr. David Powlison has really helped me: “It’s an active stance you take to oppose something that you assess as important and wrong.” “An active stance you take to oppose something that you—”
Bob: That’s what anger is?—“an active stance you take to oppose something that is—
Chap: —“you believe is important and wrong.”
I just found that very helpful; because on the one hand, it helped understand why not all anger is sinful. We know Jesus was angry, and He obviously didn’t sin—Mark,
Chapter 3—and Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger, don’t sin [paraphrase].” So there are times that things are important and wrong, and we need to address that.
On the other hand, of course, there are huge warnings in Scripture about the destructiveness of anger.
Bob: The problem is when you have an active stance opposing something that you assess that is important or wrong—and it’s really something that’s just trivial and something that is inconveniencing you—right?
Chap: That’s, I think, the heart: is you have to be able to look and say: “Yes; Jesus was angry in Mark 3 when people/the Pharisees were sinning against this man, and God’s glory was at stake. When they sinned against Him on the cross: “When He was reviled, He reviled not.”
Chap: Most of the time/99 percent of the time, my anger is not righteous anger.
Dave: Talk about that. What’s the difference between righteous anger and sinful anger?
Chap: Well, I think it’s what we talked about before, which is that there is something important and wrong; and am I involved in it? In other words, I can see something in the church and say, “We have to deal with this,”—and have a little emotion behind it—“This is not right,” as opposed to, if it’s attacking me, it’s often, my self-interest is at stake.
Bob: Yes; “Is God’s glory at stake?” or “Is my comfort at stake/my desires at stake?” I think that’s really the heart of it; don’t you think?
Chap: Right; James 4 says: “What causes the fights and quarrels? It’s the desires that battle within you.” To me, what was hard for me to assess, though, as a parent, is that I have bad desires, and then I have neutral desires or good desires that become demands. In the moment—watching the game on Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon, and not being interrupted—that’s a neutral desire/maybe a good desire; but if I’m interrupted, and I erupt, that was a good desire that became a demand.
Ann: You talk about two major ways that we express anger. You just talked about one: we blow up.
Ann: What’s the other?
Chap: Well, we can clam up; right? Every couple knows the silent treatment; right?—which is: “I’m not going to talk to you until you apologize,” and “I’m going to punish you by withholding affection.” Just going inward as well—you know, just mulling over in our minds resentment—rather than saying, “This is actually something we should talk about. I should bring this up, and I should talk about with this person.” I just bury it, and it becomes—
Chap: —it becomes bitter; yes.
Bob: How did impatience or anger manifest itself in your life when you were raising your kids? Bring this to the parenting. You’re smiling again—
Ann: Bring us into your home! [Laughter]
Chap: How big is your listenership? Do I have to confess my sins? [Laughter]
Bob: It sounds like this happened on more than one occasion.
Chap: Yes; raising my voice, yelling, being short with the kids.
Bob: Do you remember a time that was kind of a defining moment, where you said, “I really got out of hand here,” and had to go back and make things right with the kids?
Chap: Well, okay; true confession; man, this is humbling/this is humbling. It goes back to expectations. As a church-planting pastor, we were not growing the way I thought we should grow.
Dave: Been there; done that.
Chap: Yes; you know why?—pride on my part: “These people won’t do what they’re supposed to do,”—[Laughter]
Chap: —horrible, wicked pride; just wicked; terrible. But can you explode at the congregation?—no; so you bring it home on Sunday.
Yes; so my wife—like Nathan, plotted—she took me out; we went out on a picnic. She said, “We’re starting to call these black Sundays. This is not acceptable.” I heard that, and I said, “You’re right. You’re right; this is…”
I think one of the things with anger is you underestimate how much you’re hurting people; you’re saying: “I just raised my voice a little bit,” or “I just yelled a little bit.”
Bob: You were coming home from a frustrating time at church, where it wasn’t going the way you wanted, and you were displacing; you were taking that frustration out on your wife and on your kids. They knew they better walk on eggshells with Dad on Sunday.
Chap: Yes, yes; that was very helpful; that was eye-opening. I think—I mean, sin is deceptive that way—where you just think: “It’s no big deal,” or “My anger is righteous,” or “I just raised my voice a little bit.”
Dave: It is interesting that the anger that your family was getting was not about them.
Dave: I was thinking, you come home from church—I’ve been a pastor—and yes, you can take out what you’re feeling about church. I had it even worse; I had to go from church to the Detroit Lions sideline and then come home. I lost twice that day. [Laughter] I’m just kidding!
But I want to get at something, because you talk about this/you get into it in the book. I experienced the same thing in my life, when my wife said to me, early in our marriage, after a conflict in the kitchen, she just looked at me one day and said, “You know what? I’m not going to bring stuff up anymore; because every time I do, that’s what you do—you blow up.” I just looked at her. She walked away.
I’m not kidding; I didn’t even realize—I do this/I go, “What are you talking about?! I don’t blow up!”—she just turns and goes, “Exhibit A”; you know. I’ll never forget that moment—again, it was decades ago—because I went to the three guys that I met with every week, and I said to them, “Hey, of all the emotions that you experience, as a man, which one do you think you experience the most?”
They all looked at me, like, “What are you talking about?—what emotions?—what are those?” I listed, you know: “Joy, or happiness, or tenderness, or anger, or sadness”; and I just said, “What do you think?” Every guy sitting there said, “Oh, yes; definitely anger.” I said, “Why?” They go, “I don’t know.” I said, “Well, here’s what Ann said to me this week. I have to find out where this is coming from.”
Long story short, I discovered what you talked about in Parenting with Patience, that anger is a second emotion; in other words, when the emotion that you should be feeling in this situation is uncomfortable, we often skip right past it; and we’re angry. I was like, “What in the world is going on?” Emotional hurt—you feel hurt—what do guys do often? We don’t cry—not saying we don’t, but we should—we often don’t even realize we go right to anger.
You come home from church; you’re feeling frustrated, and there’s an emotion attached to the church thing; but all your family gets is anger. Talk about that a little bit, because I think you identified something that most of us don’t even understand. Often, our anger isn’t about the situation we’re sitting in—sometimes it is—but often, we don’t even realize it’s plugged into something else, and we’ve never even looked at that. Talk about that.
Chap: I think, going back to that passage in James 4, it’s coming from a desire that is within me. It can be a desire to have obedient children/to parent on cruise control; to have, in this case, a church that’s just growing/just blossoming—and all these other expectations or rights that I feel like I have—“I have a right to obedient children,” “I have a right to this. I’ve worked hard all day; I have a right to this.”
So to me, to be able to drill down—I think for me what was clarifying—in my head, to stop justifying the anger was to say that: “Some of these desires are good, but I can’t express them this way,” and “I need to figure out: ‘Lord, how can this desire to see our church grow,’ or ‘…to have obedient children,’—or whatever those things are—‘how would You have me, at this moment, progress?’”
Ann: Did you end up apologizing to your kids?
Chap: Oh, yes. Oh, yes; more than once; many times. But yes; absolutely; absolutely.
I think also part of that—we get into a sin/confess; sin/confess cycle. There needs to be: “What’s the restitution?” “What is part of the restitution?”—my restitution, in my heart, was journaling: “What just happened? What was going on in my heart? What were the desires going on? What am I going to do differently next time?” To me, anything—but especially, in this sin area—we can get into a sin/confess; sin/confess cycle.
Ann: I think this is really typical, at least for me, as a young mom—with three boys, that were super active and really going crazy—I thought, “I’ve never been angry in my life! These children have brought this out of me.”
Then, because I would blow up at times during the day—and some of it was just frustration—then I would go to bed at night, feeling so guilty/full of shame. It was like the enemy just pounced on me at night.
Ann: What do we do with that? I think that can be very typical, especially for moms with young kids.
Dave: You could do what Ann did. She got up at two in the morning, went and tapped each boy on the shoulder, and say, “Hey, I’m really sorry.”
Ann: —or I’d write letters.
Dave: She did that sometimes.
Ann: This was ongoing, sometimes.
Chap: Yes, yes; well, to me, part of this—Ephesians 4 talks about that we’re to put off, put in, and put on: we’re to put off the sin; we’re to renew our minds; and then we’re to put on the positive.
To me, part of the reason I wrote this is because I, at least my judgment of some of the literature out there/what I see young moms talking about today, is exactly what you’re saying, which is, “I confess it as sin: ‘This is wrong.’”
Having said that, along with that comes a resolve—2 Corinthians talks about what repentance brings; it brings a resolve: “I’m going to repent; I’m going to change,”—and then the positive—seeing anger as a “friend,” saying: “What was the issue? It’s going to happen tomorrow;—
Chap: —“what am I going to do differently tomorrow?”
Whatever happened today, it’s going to happen tomorrow. Am I going to be surprised? “Oh, they got out of bed 15 times for water last night. Oh, they’re going to do it, again, tomorrow night. What is the ‘put on’?—what is the consequence?” I’m going to think hard, because my own sin is so destructive.
On the one hand, taking it very seriously—not just getting caught in a sin/confess cycle—but to say, “Okay, I need to see how ugly this sin really is,” as a foe to fight. And it’s an emotion that says something is important or wrong, maybe/maybe.
God has given us, as parents, we get this little realm to rule over; you know? Think about it: a family’s really cool. You make your own culture: you have different foods you like, different traditions, different music or sports—whatever is emphasized—that’s really cool that God gives us, as part of being made in His image, we’re ruling over this realm.
But what this anger reveals is: “There’s a problem in this little realm, and I need to think about, “What am I going to do about it?—because it’s going to come up again.’”
Bob: One of the things you’re going to have to do about it is: you’re going to have to guard your, not just your heart, but your tongue; because: “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” One of the ways we can tell if somebody’s angry is the words that are coming out of their mouth; right?
Chap: Oh, yes.
Bob: How does a parent, who recognizes, “My speech has become explosive; the words I’m using are toxic words,” how do they begin the process of moving from sinful speech to godly speech?
Chap: We talk about, in the Parenting with Patience, there’s an anger journal, where basically you walk through and you say, “Okay, let me replay what just happened.”
Part of it, we are choosing to live life very quickly; and we don’t slow down and replay the video. For your example there, and to say, “Okay, what did the kids do that caused me to get upset?” and to slow down the video. Then, “What did I say?”—writing that out is very—
Chap: —convicting! It is; but that’s part of the repentance—is to say, “Yes, those words came out of my mouth.” Proverbs talks about: “Reckless words pierce like a sword,”—and to say—“Yes, this pierced my child.”
Bob: You know, as you’re describing that, I’m thinking—and Dave’s going to relate to this—any time the team fumbles in a football game, the first thing that we want to do, as fans, is: “Show me the replay,” and “Show me the replay from about six different angles, so that I can see what happened. What knocked the ball loose?—was his knee down before he lost the ball?” We want to evaluate this so, we can see what happened here.
Bob: Yet, we fumble as parents, and we move on; and don’t stop and go, “What happened here? Let’s look at this from six different angles.”
Dave: Look at Bob using a football analogy. [Laughter]
Ann: You’re rubbing off on him!
Dave: I love it!
Bob: But it’s true; isn’t it?
Dave: It’s exactly true. That’s why that anger journal is such a great idea, because we don’t replay it. Actually, we don’t even/sometimes, we don’t even admit it; we just walk on by. Our kids are telling us; our wife may be telling us…
Ann: Well, we think it’s our kids’ fault.
Chap: Or sometimes, it actually works—and that’s the scary thing—is when your kids are running around like crazy, and you yell, and suddenly they’re quiet; or they didn’t do their homework, and you yell, and they get motivated; and you think, “Oh, this actually does work. I need to pull that card out every so often/the yelling card.”
But James 1:20 says, “The anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.” In that moment, you’re getting the homework done; but you’re destroying your relationship with your kids.
Ann: The atmosphere of your home changes.
Chap: Right; right.
Dave: Yes, I just wondered if Black Sundays changed.
Chap: They did; they did.
Chap: —by God’s grace.
Bob: Over how long a period of time?
Chap: Well, I think it was the rebuke—the Nathan-type rebuke—and then I’m injuring people that I love. I believe it’s Paul Tripp who said/he has a statement, where he says, “My view of myself is about as accurate as a funhouse mirror.” So if I will, in humility, accept that—“Here’s what people are saying, and that’s true,”—not what I’m perceiving is true, but what they are saying is true in that moment—then I have to change, because I love these people.
Bob: I’m guessing some of our listeners are going, “Why did I have to listen to this program?” [Laughter] This has been convicting. Maybe they’re recognizing some of these patterns in themselves. Here’s the good news: it can change.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Bob: By God’s grace, it can change. It may take some work and some time; but trust me, this is work and time you want to do. You want to invest; because you don’t want, ten years from now, your kids to be saying, “Mom was always angry.”
Ann: Yes. I love what you said, Chap: “When you start to get angry, start praying.” That could be the first step besides journaling. I remember doing that, like, “Jesus, I need You right now!”—of just calming myself down.
One of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control; so to pray, to take a breath, and to have Jesus—that conversation going on continually—has really helped.
Bob: You are making available for our listeners a 12-part video series that you’ve done on this subject of Parenting with Patience that is really great material. In fact, you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and the information is available there on how you can access the 12-part video series that Chap Bettis has done on Parenting with Patience. You’re making the videos available for free for FamilyLife Today listeners. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; there’s information there about, not only the video series, but there’s an accompanying workbook that people can purchase if they want to. All the information is available at FamilyLifeToday.com. Of course, we have copies of your book, The Disciple-Making Parent, available as well.
While we’re talking about parenting, Dave and Ann, your new book, No Perfect Parents, has just come out. Again, resources for parents—go to FamilyLifeToday.com—you’ll find information you need there. You can access the video series from Chap Bettis when you go to our website. Again, it’s FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’d like to order any of the resources we’ve talked about, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
We want to take a minute and say, “Thank you,” to those of you who are, not just listeners, but those of you who have made today’s program possible for all of us. That would be those of you, who are either monthly Legacy Partners, or those of you who will, from time to time, donate to support the ongoing work of FamilyLife Today. We so appreciate our partnership together with you. You are helping provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families all around the world. Hundreds of thousands of people, every day, are getting help because of your support; and we are grateful for that.
This week, if you’re able to help with a donation, we’d love to send you, as a thank-you gift, a copy of the book, Marriage Triggers, by Guy and Amber Lia. Guy and Amber talk about the things we do in marriage that provoke each other/that cause us to respond wrongly in a marriage relationship: “How can we correct that? How can we respond in a biblical manner rather than just venting?” The book is our thank-you gift when you help with a donation today. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, thanks for your support; we look forward to sending the book, Marriage Triggers, your way.
We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow when we’re going to talk about how we respond rightly when our kids provoke us. Chap Bettis will be with us again. We hope you’ll be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, with some special help from Bruce Goff and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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