Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Parenting Series--ABCs Christian Parenting--Part 5

As I continue with the parenting series, I am finding that the further in the alphabet I go the more convicting the letter becomes and this week is no exception!

EXERCISE self control when you're angry, committing your feelings to the Lord rather than using them against your child.

Has your child ever done something that makes you mad? Not just really mad but so mad you can not believe they did that and more mad! You feel so much anger that you yell? Scream? Lose your temper? Anger is a natural emotion, and it is also a powerful and possibly dangerous if we don't use self control or "rule" over the anger.

I found this story by Sean E. Brotherson(click on the name to go to the complete article) that I thought had some great insight on parenting in anger...

Many years ago my father formulated a simple and symbolic definition of parenting in anger that has dramatically shaped my understanding of this concept. He calls it “puffer fish parenting.”

One night when I was growing up our family was sitting around the dinner table and having a discussion. My older brother, who at age twelve had read nearly every book in the house and could remember almost every detail, got into a discussion with my dad and the rest of us about the Indian chief Crazy Horse. My dad started telling us about the history of Crazy Horse and his experiences and how he died. Pretty soon my brother raised his hand and said, “Dad, that’s wrong!” Somehow dad took exception to being stopped and corrected in that manner, and he let my brother know somewhat angrily and pretty clearly that he was out of line. As he explained it to me once, he said, “I got upset and started to climb all over that poor boy’s heart and soul.” Then Mom got involved, and we all got involved, and well, my family isn’t known for its quiet demeanor. What had started as an angry response had soon become a total uproar.

Well, Dad stepped out back and tried to calm his mind and emotions, and there overhead saw the blazing stars of the distant Milky Way galaxy and then considered his own status at that moment. He realized then how absolutely insignificant he was in relationship to God above, and yet knew that God loved and cared for him. And then he knew that his anger had been wrong and he needed to make it right with his son. And he did.

As an ecologist, my father spends much time observing the natural world and has a unique capacity for drawing lessons of life from the things that he sees among plants, animals, and the patterns of nature. Later as he thought about this experience he happened to be visiting a marine science center and there saw a fish tank that contained a unique fish called a puffer fish. A puffer fish is a fairly small, almost square fish that looks innocent until it is threatened in its environment by any predator or anything that seems to be a threat or a surprise. Then it changes! The puffer fish has the capacity to immediately puff up and take on a lot of air so that it blows up to almost four or five times its original size. The idea seems to be that if you blow up quickly and act really big and threatening then you can scare away or intimidate or control what it is that has disturbed you or threatened you. It’s a bluffing mechanism. It’s meant to discourage or control others. It also happens to be a pretty common parenting technique. And my father has taught me that when you parent by intimidation or with anger that you are practicing what he now calls “puffer fish parenting.”

How many of us have practiced puffer fish parenting? Let’s think of a few examples:

“I cannot believe you did that! I’m sick of it! If you ever do that again I will beat you within an inch of your life!”

“You did what?! You’ll never drive again! I’ll never let you behind the wheel of that car again, you irresponsible twit!”

“If you touch that again, you’re going to get it! I mean it, I will break every bone in your body!”

“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. A thousand times!”

“Get to your room! You are going to be grounded for a year, young lady!”

“Just wait until your father gets home! You’re going to wish you’d never been born!”

OUCH! Does this really hit home for me! I find myself doing this more often and I realize that I need to work at changing my ways(hopefully it isn't too late!)with my children. I need to step back, calm down, pray, rule over my anger and not be so self-centered. I need to take a more pro-active response rather than a reactive!

What kind of Godly example to our children are we being with our angry outbursts? Are we controlling our anger or are we letting anger rule us?

And now for some advice that I need to take to heart myself...for those times when anger wants to rule over you...Take the time to step away, calm down, and pray before lovingly talking and explaining to your child why you are so angry and why you have to discipline them(if need be.)

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