Photo by Gaëtan Werp on Unsplash
Photo by Gaëtan Werp on Unsplash

Conveying Concern Rather than Anger

Question

When one of my kids makes a mistake that puts them in some kind of danger I often overreact in ways that communicate anger rather than the compassion and concern that I’m really feeling.  Any suggestions as to how I can change this pattern?

Answer

When my youngest son Andrew was a little guy he loved to go to the pool, but he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t let him jump in the big pool with his older brothers.  I always took him to the shallow kiddie pool.

One day, as we were all in the locker room getting ready to swim, I saw him sneak out the door, eye the big pool, look around and jump in.

When he came up for air he had a panicked look on his face and tried to call out my name but took in a mouthful of water on his way back down.

I immediately jumped into the water, pulled him to the surface and held him close to me.  I didn’t scold or shame or raise my voice at him.  I set him down on the side of the pool, cupped his little face in my hands, said a quick prayer and asked, “Honey, was that fun?”  His look answered my question.

My next question, “Why not?” was followed by “Now do you understand why I couldn’t let you jump in the big pool?” and he shook his little head up and down.  That night as I tucked him in I held his hand and I thanked God that just like I was watching Andrew, that the Bible says that God is always watching over us.

He didn’t try that again until several months later when I was in the deep end with my arms outstretched encouraging him to jump.

Our kids will have many “deep water” situations in life when they will jump or zig or zag when they’re not supposed to.  With God’s help we can recognize this as a unique learning opportunity for them.  We can retrain ourselves to not react but respond, to be there with our arms open and ready to be used by God to help them learn another life lesson about our love and their heavenly Father’s love for them.  You can learn to look for and seize these moments to not merely correct, but to lead them to be more aware of, to see and to love the Good Shepherd.

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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