Anger Issues: How I’m Helping My Kids … and Myself (for FamilyLife)

I was walking through a friend’s house when immediately, a frog leapt to my throat. A painting hung there in her hall—and somehow, I felt more understood. I comprehended a nugget of that transcendent truth art can mine in the soul.

The title? Jesus and the Angry Babies.

Anger issues—angry babies (and angry children and angry mom)—is a subject featuring prominently in my life since becoming a parent seven years ago.

For the first three months of my eldest’s life, it seemed that if she was awake, she was screaming. “Colicky” felt like an understatement of her infancy. “Strong-willed” felt like an understatement for both of my toddlers.

That painted depiction of a human Jesus encountering human, angry babies was a comforting reminder that my experience is both normal and hard. I found in His face traces of fluster and fondness, ache and acceptance. I wondered if, like mine, perhaps His heart rate became elevated and brain released oxytocin. A body’s stress response is not sinfulthough I often shamed myself as if it was.

Jesus probably did encounter angry babies. But I took comfort at the thought that their anger had nothing to do with Him. I tended to take my children’s anger personally, like it said something about how I was doing as a parent (= unsatisfactory) or who I was as a person (= a failure).

Anger Issues? 4 Things to Consider

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3 Replies to “Anger Issues: How I’m Helping My Kids … and Myself (for FamilyLife)”

  1. What an interesting post! I was curious to see such a picture and so had to google it. I found a couple versions by the same artist. I liked the words you used to describe the traces of emotion you found in Jesus’ face—fluster, fondness, ache, acceptance. I found weariness (a physical state but not really an emotion).

    I suppose that Jesus also—being in limited human form—had to trust the Father regarding all the ills and hardships he witnessed or experienced but could not fix at the moment. He “learned obedience by the things that he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8)?

    Some people do seem to have a special gift with children—a sense for what they need at the moment along with a calm assurance that seems to form a shield of protection around almost everything, including their own spirit (they don’t second-guess themselves; they seem to shrug off what they can’t fix through their own knowledge, actions, or gifts).

    But the responsibility of parenting falls heavy on most of us. Some of us are perfectionist doers. We try to be super-moms who scurry around resolving problems, running interference for our loved ones. Others of us feel overwhelmed and stymied by the unending confusion of children’s changing needs; we muddle through the mess of raising a child, in not to discover too late the crucial moments we missed (our worst nightmare). And some parents just walk away—drink or drug themselves numb.

    Jesus probably was gifted with children, but I am guessing He did not wave a magic wand that instantly calmed the criers or dulled the angry little protestors with drowsiness. It seems a bit strange to me that He is not singing a lullaby, though…. 😀


    1. Katie! I definitely see weariness too and that was definitely something that comforts me 🙂 I relate so much to everything you said and I agree about kind-of the “why” or the “what” of what makes people seem (or actually be) gifted with children — I think they’re more confident in themselves and more confident that the kids will be alright.

      And I think, just like us, the lullabies we sung sometimes…and then the fluster may have come sometimes, too. You??


      1. When I was 7, my younger sister was born, and I often entertained her as we were growing up. I started babysitting for neighborhood families when I was 12 and worked for at least 15 families on a recurring basis. And I started working regularly with children’s ministries when I was only 15 (and continued on through college). I trained as a teacher. All my experience considerably eased my transition into motherhood. After my first child was born and the nurses brought her to me to nurse, more than one asked, “Are you sure this is your first child?” It seemed a silly question to me. How could one be confused about such a major life change?

        Motherhood made me into a light sleeper… responsibility weighed heavily, and I was blessed in not having to work during the first four years. Fortunately God blessed me with lots of energy and motivation and stamina (I tended to attempt the super-mom role). But there were plenty of times I was frustrated by things not going the way I thought they ought (a one-year-old and a two-year-old can wreak havoc faster than one can fix it especially if company is expected). And there were scary times when my nursing two-month-old second child was hospitalized for bronchitis and dehydration (lots to juggle), and when my 18-month-old crawled under the changing room door and wandered off (I was trying on desperately needed nursing bras for my second-born and couldn’t scramble fast enough to catch her—couldn’t leave the new baby either—a painful dilemma). We didn’t have much money back then, and that factored in to the issues too. I have a lot of sympathy for mothers of young children. I made mistakes (lots of dental fillings for my first child because I didn’t realize how bad juice was for teeth). Lots of good times still, but the fatigue is what I remember most.


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