I had an “a-ha” moment yesterday when I realized I had finally had a real breakthrough in anger management. I have struggled this entire time about what it meant to “productively release energies of anger under control toward the problem” and not internalize (hold in) or externalize (blow up) my anger. God gave me a simple example and revealed the truth to me–days later. I am very excited!
One of my triggers is my daughter’s potty training. She was trained and has been trained but over the past several months has regressed. She cries the entire time we make her sit on the potty when we know she has to poop, and she often has accidents, mostly at night, when we aren’t forcing her to sit when we have suspicions that she has to go. My responses vary from “sigh. Whatever.” to whining and pleading to “Why? Why do you do this?” to getting very angry with her. None of which seemed to be helping the situation and probably were making it worse. Realizing I was allowing emotion to affect my reaction, I applied some guidelines from Shepherding Your Child’s Heart. Author Ted Tripp suggests a series of more productive questions, such as:
1. “What were you feeling when …”
2. “What happened that made you feel this way?”
3. “How else could you respond?” (I haven’t tried this one yet.)
4. ” How do you think your response reflected trust or lack of trust in God’s ability to provide for you?” (I also haven’t used this per se, but I turn it into a statement to address her feelings.)
You have to realize the first time I go to this part in his book and read number 1, I kind of rolled my eyes. I have never beena fan of “I feel” statements. But something clicked when I read all of them together. It made so much sense. So, one day when I knew she had to go, but before anything escalated, I got down to her level, looked her in the eyes, and asked: “How do you feel when you go poop on the potty?” She didn’t know how to respond so I prompted her with various feelings, firstpositive ones like “Is it fun?” She would say no until I asked if it was scary. She nodded her head. When I asked what was scary about it, she said something about falling in the potty (she was talking very softly). So, I explained that I understood it was a weird feeling to sit on the potty but that God wanted her to go poop on the potty, this is how He made your body and it’s good for you.
It hasn’t completely solved the problem of accidents so far, but with the few there have been, I have been able to react with love and understanding because of our intimate connection. I truly feel we are making progress, because she knows she doesn’t have to be afraid of my reaction. Instead of asking what her problem is everytime she’s whining on the potty, I can talk with her about her fears and remind her that God loves her and this is how God made her. Or something to that effect …
We had another incident just this morning where I applied the same questions. She was upset that I had gone upstairs without her, and she wanted me to come back and wait. I sat down on the stairs and asked, “How does it make you feel when I go upstairs without you?” She replied, sadly, “Sad.” Well, sure, that makes sense! So, I explained how she could tell me, without screaming and crying, “It makes me sad when you don’t wait for me.” Then, of course, I reassured her by saying that God had chosen me to be her mom and I would never leave her, but if she’s ever sad, let me know with words. It diffused the situation right away. And as she grows older, she will be able to tell me anything, if I apply this to future encounters where I might normally have gotten emotional. Praise the Lord, I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I see now this is a perfect example of the Bible model for anger management.
Be controlled by the Spirit.
Proverbs 29:11 and Galatians 5:23, Proverbs 25:28