“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.”
Proverbs 29:17 NIV
Anger vs Guilt and What’s the Alternative?
I was talking with a dad who would like to move away from allowing anger to take over from time to time in his parenting.
We all fall into this trap occasionally so what’s the payoff – why do we do it?
I think part of it is that we get our emotion out. The release of frustration feels good in the moment. We probably don’t build resentment on our end because resentment typically comes from stuffed emotion so there’s some benefit that way as well. There’s a strong possibility, however, that the child builds resentment when we use anger which is likely why we try to temper it when we’re in the heat of the moment.
My way is sometimes the guilt trip or manipulation – a little more subtle, yes, but equally damaging (if not more so) because no one really gets their emotion out. Depending on who ends up getting their way, guilt can build resentment in both the child and the parent.
There are parents who just let their kids “get away with murder” that’s when I think resentment really builds in the parent.
What’s so bad about resentment?
Have you ever turned two magnets the opposite way and tried to stick them together? Resentment turns a relationship that is naturally created to be very close/tight and turns it around like those magnets making it almost impossible for closeness and connection. There’s a constant push back.
Then how do we avoid resentment, discipline well and raise children who “bring us peace and give us the delights we desire” as Proverbs 29:17 claims?
The very first word of the verse says “Discipline.”
The root of the word discipline is disciple.
We start with us. As parents, we need to be students and followers of Jesus. His way, wisdom and the guidance of his Holy Spirit alive and at work in us moment by moment is the only real hope we have of experiencing the true delights of parenthood.
Next, we disciple our children in the daily walk of life. There are moments when we discipline well out of selfless love for our children truly looking out for their best interest and building them up in the way they should go. This begins discipleship because they will very likely default to parenting the way they were parented.
What about when we blow it?
The good news is, they have a perfect Father in Heaven who always gets it right. We can point them to Him.
The other good news is that mistakes in parenting, handled well, can be some of the very best teaching tools and repair moments. A sincere, very genuine, well-timed apology from parent to child can be like flipping those magnets right back around after hours of trying to push them together the wrong way. It models humility and positive relationship skills they’ll need for the rest of their lives.
Parenting well is gut-wrenching, invigorating, impossible, incredible and most of all an absolute privilege. Imagine that God is our perfect father and we get to intern under his loving care as we are given the great responsibility and joy of attempting to help raise his children. We’re never alone. He is here with us every step of the way. Let’s turn to him often, walk in his footsteps, and pray our children will do the same.