Blended Families Part 7: Provoking Children to Anger
Last week we talked about angry children. But we can’t talk about angry children without asking ourselves if there are things we might be doing, intentionally or unintentionally, that provoke our children to anger.
Ephesians 6.4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
And Colossians 3.21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”
While each of us, including our children, is responsible for his or her behavior, we can’t read those two verses without admitting we can make it easier for our children to become angry or exasperated.
Last week, we talked about the seed of hurt that can grow into anger, bitterness and, even, full-blown rebellion in our children. While the hurt can come as a result of wrong perceptions, assumptions or misunderstandings, it can also come as a result of sin on the part of one or more parents or step-parents.
Lou Priolo in his book, The Heart of Anger, lists 25 ways parents provoke their children to anger. Most of these apply to blended families, biological families, single parent families, even grandparents or others who are raising children. Here’s Lou’s list:
- By a lack of marital harmony
- Establishing and maintaining a child-centered home
- Modeling sinful anger
- Habitually disciplining while angry
- Being inconsistent with discipline
- Having double standards
- Being legalistic
- Not admitting you’re wrong and not asking for forgiveness
- Constantly finding fault
- Parents reversing God-given roles
- Not listening to your child’s opinion or taking his or her “side of the story” seriously
- Comparing them to others
- Not making time just to talk
- Not praising or encouraging your child
- Failing to keep your promises
- Chastening in front of others
- Not allowing enough freedom
- Allowing too much freedom
- Mocking your child
- Abusing them physically
- Ridiculing or name calling
- Unrealistic expectations
- Practicing favoritism
- Child training with worldly methodologies inconsistent with God’s Word
While these can and do apply to children and parents in all kinds of families, what might they look like in a blended family? Let’s expand on a few:
- Lack of marital harmony
The normal struggles with personalities, culture, selfishness and other sins, can be exasperated by differing parenting styles, favoritism towards each one’s biological children, family traditions and/or relationships with ex-spouses.
- Establishing and maintaining a child-centered home
A child-centered home is one in which the desires of the child are at the center of family life. It’s often characterized by children who take precedence over other biblical responsibilities and priorities (especially the husband/wife relationship), talk to their parents like peers, demand excessive time and attention, use manipulation and rebellion to get their way, are frequently entertained and coddled out of a bad mood and must be bribed into obedience.
Spouses who have been single parents for an extended period of time or parents who are trying to make up for mistreatment or abandonment by the other parent may create a child-centered home. But any of us can fall into this trap if we aren’t focused on God’s instructions for parenting, as opposed to secular theories or what seems right to us.
- Modeling sinful anger, habitually disciplining while angry, & scolding
Again this can be a problem in any situation, but disagreements over discipline and/or parenting styles, disrespect by step-children, and dealing with joint custody issues can lead to increased anger and frustration.
- Being inconsistent with discipline, having double standards, being legalistic, comparing them to others
Parents who are battling other blended family issues can be tempted to get weary and become inconsistent with discipline. Step-parents sometimes give their own children favorable treatment, become legalistic with step-children or compare them to their own children.
- Not admitting you’re wrong and not asking for forgiveness or constantly finding fault
These are largely pride issues. Children are hypocrite-meters and can easily be provoked to anger by this kind of treatment.
- Parents reversing God-given roles
This is a huge issue in our culture today, but it can be extra challenging to break habits necessitated during single parenting.
Responding God’s Way
So what is the answer? Is there hope for blended families? Yes, God’s grace is sufficient for all the circumstances in our lives (2 Cor. 12.9).
But spouses must give up trying to do things their own way and seek to learn and apply God’s principles for the family.
The marriage relationship is second only to our relationships with God. Spouses should learn and practice biblical principles for building strong marriages and making God’s priorities theirs. I discussed this in greater depth in Blended Families Part 4.
We must pray and ask for God’s grace and help. That begins with some self-examination. We can pray like the Psalmist did in Psalm 139:
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
Then humbly admit to any sin and seek forgiveness from God and other family members, as appropriate. Read good books on marriage and parenting. If your church offers marriage or parenting classes take advantage of those resources.
Most important seek to show God’s love for one another (Matt. 22.37-40; 1 Cor. 13.4-7), put the interests of others ahead of your own selfish desires (Lk. 9.23-24; Phil. 2.3-4), and focus on pleasing God in every situation (2 Cor. 5.9).
Strengthening Your Marriage by Wayne Mack
Some of the subjects I’ll cover in future blogs:
Blended families in the Bible
How to prepare your children for being in a blended family
Damage control—healing the mistakes
Dealing with in-laws and out-laws
Helping your child be part of the “other” blended family
Dealing with “exes”
You’re not my dad!
Your questions, please share them in the comments section.
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