Last Updated on March 11, 2019

My son had just produced a wonderful drawing in red marker (his favorite color) of our family flying kites. (As a side note, I am loving this new era when a child’s artwork is easy to discern without my vague, “Ooooh! Tell me about that!”) In the drawing, my stick hands are on my wonderfully thin stick hips and hair is sprouting all over my circle head, but my eyebrows look downturned. “I made you look mad on accident, but you’re really happy,” he explained practically.

I was curious — wanted to know: “Am I usually mad?”

“Well, you’re mad a lot, but not in this picture.”

“I’m mad a lot?”

His eyes flickered a little. “Well, you’re mad sometimes, like when we break stuff that’s important to you.” Hmm.

This might not have stung so much if I hadn’t been particularly hormonal at the moment, following a day-and-a-half when anyone over four feet tall would have identified me as such. All my children are shorter, so I just seemed extremely irritable.

But it was also hard to hear because I dedicate a lot of prayer and effort into overcoming anger — because I have an anger problem. I can give you my reasons, but truth is, it matters very little. I can even tell you the things I do wonderfully as a mom, but again — that would be simply smoke and mirrors, diverting your attention from the fact that I get angry too easily at my kids and typically overreact in ways that are hurtful to them. I’ve blogged about this before, and I know that I’m not alone in feeling that young children bring out anger in a woman like nothing else! But typical does not equal harmless.

So I’ve renewed my prayers even more lately because I’ve come to understand that no amount of self-discipline can actually change my heart. And here’s a quote I found that both hurt and helped me gain perspective:

“… you overcome your own anger and replace it with tenderhearted joy. Joy that spills over onto your children. When the mouth of dad [or mom!] is angry, the tender emotions of a child are consumed.”

Seeing my children’s tenderness curl up in the flames of my anger was a vivid image for me. The author basically explained that God went to great lengths and self-sacrifice to lay down His (very justified) anger toward me — by sending Jesus. So I, too, should imitate God that way.

And I’m actually experiencing some victory over this old foe! I’m thanking God with my kids at bedtime when I have days that He has helped control my anger the entire day, and we pray for it together — especially when I need to ask their forgiveness. In my prayers for them, I pray that they’ll be better than I am in this way. But one of the best ways to accomplish that, as always, is to model it myself.

Here’s to a future happy stick-mom!

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  1. I grew up in an angry home, so I purposely created a peaceful, anger-free home when I left. Is it okay if I offer two tips? (1) We don't get angry over things that happen accidentally and (2) we value relationships over material things. That eliminates a lot of anger.

  2. Xavier Pacheco says:

    Wonderfully said Janel! Bless you guys. Miss you too!

    — x

  3. Absolutely loved it, Janel! Thank you so much for being real and authentic. I, too, struggle with this and it is so encouraging to realize that a lot of us do. Also- to remember how to deal with it daily. Thank you! 🙂

  4. Janel Breitenstein says:

    Wish I wasn't struggling with this as recently as TODAY! But it is encouraging that I'm not alone in such a need for God in this area. Sue, thanks for your suggestions, too; I've gotten to the point that I'm eager for help. 🙂

  5. thank you for sharing this… i was doing fine up until all my kids started acting up at the same time.. one throws a temper tantrum.. other starts crying because he doesnt want to go to sleep.. one keeps insisting that i hug her a million times before bed… one who is down syndrome and i hav e to repeat myself over over again………. and does my husband count as another???? lol …………. thank you… this helped me to realize how blessed i am again.. thank you much…. i couldnt imagine waking up everyday and not having a little rascal to hug me.. and say "I love you mommy…"

  6. Thank you! This was just what I needed to hear. I grew up in a household with an angry father who yelled alot, I see myself getting upset sometimes at the kids ( son almost 13, daughter 9 and son 6) and remember how I felt when I got yelled at as a child. It helps me to take a breath, and when I am thinking logically, to say a quick prayer. This mental picture however, when mom is angry the tender emotions of a child are consumed, is one that I know will linger in my head. I will keep you in my prayers as together we travel this road of being a mom.

  7. I was raised in a household that yelled. Everything was loud. It is hard to control when it is what you are used to. Really the only time you get a handle on it is when you get that honesty from your child "if you wouldn't yell at me so much in the morning I would get ready faster". Of course this isn't true, the child is slower than you can imagine, but it allows me to put my yelling in check for a few days and at least not have as much of a negative energy and stress to start to the day for both of us. I have been better lately but it is hard. A 9 year old can push every button you have if you let him!

  8. Thank you so much for your honesty. I was feeling like I was the only mom that was struggling with this issue of anger. I have a 3 year old and a 20 month old. Both kids are very strong-willed…in the future that will be a blessing. Right now, I feel at times I'm going to pull my hair out. I catch myself getting upset and impatient over things that I should not. Thank you for the reminder of Christ and what He's done for us. I need to keep looking to Him for strength and wisdom.

  9. Marshelle says:

    Ditto. Ditto, Ditto. I can relate to all of these moms who struggle with getting mad and yelling so much. I love my kids more than anything in this world, but they are so good at pushing our buttons. I have 2 strong-willed boys 10 and almost 8. The 10 year old, we are considering getting him tested for ADHD, so that explains a little. I can sit here and try to justify my actions all day long, knowing at the same time that none of those things make it right for me to yell at my kids. I didn’t like it when I was a kid, and I know mine don’t like it now. I find my older one yelling at my younger one with so much anger, and I think to myself how ugly that sounds and wonder if that’s how I sound to them. Has made me cry numerous time. I’ve prayed about it but obviously still need lots of work. My husband doesn’t understand it, b/c he can tell them one thing and they’ll usually do it right away. But he’s a big guy, with a big voice, who’s not around the boys as much as I am. They’re going to listen to that more so than my broken-record of a voice that goes in one ear and out the other. That’s why I feel I have to yell. I don’t start out that way. It just escalates the more and more I’m being ignored. He says that as a child he remembers respecting his dad so much more than his mom b/c he could stay calm and she would just “freak out” from time to time. The thought that my kids may feel that way toward me is scary. Esp’y since my husband’s dad turned out to be someone that belittled and verbally abused his mom and cheated on her throughout their marriage. But he was the one that got the kids respect over the mom who was always around and took care of them, even when dad was away for years in the military. Wow! Here I am justifying again and moving into another subject. Anyway, thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone. Doesn’t make it okay just b/c others share this with me but I don’t feel as “crazy” somehow. The reminder was much needed Thanks!

  10. Janel Breitenstein says:

    Thanks so much for your transparency, Marshelle. I never thought I was an angry person until I became a mom…!! My husband has a natural authority, too, so I’m so glad when he comes home. 🙂 I keep thinking, like you, that my kids are learning to handle their anger from watching me, which makes the stakes so much higher.

    I’m going to keep blogging on my anger, so I’m praying God leads me to some solutions! (Just did one on my next steps “out” on Praying for you right now. Thanks again for your honesty.

  11. Susan Penning says:

    Janel, I appreciate your transparency as I also struggle with anger. Although I continue to battle this beast daily (OK, sometimes hourly), I have experienced some victory with it over time. One tool that has become helpful to me … I use my daily planner to log any angry outbursts I direct at my husband or daughter. I designate it as "AO" so as not to embarrass myself should anyone get a hold of my planner:) Then I can look back and see how often the outbursts are and I can shoot to create distance between them. (e.g. this week I went 1 day without an AO. Next week I'll shoot for more days). It has proven encouraging and allows me to see any progress I am making. Prayer and daily devotions are also vital. I can tell when I'm slipping in my time with the Lord because I get progressively more irritable.

  12. Janel Breitenstein says:

    What a good idea, Susan. I think it’s easy to kid myself about how poorly or how well I’m doing (by God’s grace!). It probably also allows you to see patterns–what else is going on in your day, how much sleep you got or whatever. And I, too, notice a parallel b/w my anger and my time with God–including whether I’m walking with Him throughout my day. Good words, Susan. Thanks so much.