Discipline With Kindness, Even When You're Angry

     Walking past the window in my three-year-old son’s room, something caught my eye. Along the trim under the windowsill were three deep holes dug into the drywall with a small screwdriver sitting on the wood floor underneath. Calling him upstairs, I sat Judah on my lap, showed him the holes in the wall, and asked him how they got there. “I don’t know, maybe a woodpecker flew in here and made them.” An obvious lie. My blood was boiling.

     After he continued his woodpecker lie for several minutes, I finally showed him the drywall dust on the tip of the screwdriver. I said I know a person made the holes in the wall with this screwdriver and asked if it was him. With tears in his eyes he wrapped his arms around my neck and cried, “It was me, it was me. I’m so sorry daddy.” That sentence, full of genuine remorse, broke through the petty anger I felt. With my wife by my side, we discussed the importance of honesty, forgiveness, trust, and living like Jesus.

     I’m grateful God gave us that moment, because, if I’m being honest, sometimes it’s hard for me to let go of that anger. I know some of you can relate to that feeling - that feeling that comes from being lied to, disobeyed, or disrespected by your children. I don’t know about you, but my temperature starts to rise whenever my kids sin against me or their mom. Although it’s not wrong to feel anger, I can easily justify letting my anger get the best of me when correcting my kids.

     In her blog post “How Should I Handle Anger While Disciplining”, author and speaker Jen Wilkin discusses the role that anger plays in the process of correcting our children. I especially needed to hear two points from her post:

  • Kids have a hard time processing the anger they see in their parents. I don’t want my kids to think they have power over my emotions, but I also don’t want them to obey me simply out of fear and insecurity.
  • It’s so important to analyze and debrief any anger I feel when my kids are disobedient or disrespectful. Why did that make me angry? Did I express my anger in a sinful way? Had I communicated my expectations well to my child? Answering questions like these will only help me become slower to anger and quicker to repent for my own sins.

     This idea reminds me something that author and counselor Tedd Tripp wrote in his book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. He said,

“God calls you to be authorities who are truly kind.”

Kindness is not a character quality I usually associate with discipline. As I kindly lead my children - correcting them in love and not fueled by my anger - they will be more likely to love, forgive, and be slow to anger just like Jesus.

     Have you wrestled with the role anger plays in your family’s discipline? How can you improve to correct through kindness and not anger? How do you debrief or analyze your own emotions during times of discipline?