How to Parent When Angry


As my kids have become teenagers our whole family has noticed that when one of the kids disobeys or mouths off I increasingly “lose it” and react with anger and sarcasm.  I’m not proud of that and need to make some changes.  Any suggestions?


At the outset it’s essential that you gain a better understanding of the emotion of anger.  Anger is the most powerful and the second most frequently mentioned emotion in the Bible and the majority of biblical references to anger refer to God’s anger—so anger isn’t always bad.

However most people don’t understand their anger.  They allow it to control them and cause them to react rather than respond and when we allow that to happen it can become the most destructive emotion.

On the positive side anger can be a signal, an alarm, a warning sign that something is wrong, that a boundary is being violated, that we are in danger or that there has been an injustice.  Anger can also provide an energy boost to help us take a stand and deal with an issue we might otherwise avoid.

Anger is always a secondary emotion caused by a primary emotion such as hurt, frustration, or fear.  In other words, whenever you have anger you always have at least one other emotion that is feeding it. When you learn how to identify and deal with the primary emotion you can then direct that anger-energy in ways that help you respond rather than react and actually become a more effective dad.

Here are a few questions you will find helpful.  What are some situations and circumstances that set you up to react rather than respond?  Are there certain days of the week or times of day that you are most likely to experience the secondary emotion of anger?  When was the last time you lost it?  What might your primary emotion have been–hurt, frustration or fear?  What did your schedule and eating habits look like the preceding 24-hours?  What’s different about the times you responded in healthier ways?  What have those previous 24-hours been like for you?  How does your time in the Word and in prayer impact your anger?

Anger is energy and with God’s help you can choose whether you are going to spend it or invest it, whether you are going to react or respond to the situation at hand.  While you may have minimal control over when you experience anger, you have significant control over how you choose to express that anger.

For many parents both the experience and expression of anger have become a habit.  Habits can take some time to change.  The good news is that with God's help we can change, we can grow, we can be more than conquerors.  As we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and apply promises in God's Word we can take the old unhealthy ways of reacting and develop new, healthy and biblically-consistent emotional responses.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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