FamilyParenting 5 minutes to read

It had been such a beautiful day. The sun was out, we got a lot done around the house, and I had time to play and bring our daughters to the park. We sang songs, we laughed, and the kids even ate their broccoli. Wow, just wonderful! 

But then bedtime came. We started our normal bedtime routine. The girls brushed their teeth, got into pajamas, and my husband and I read them a book. Everything seemed like it was also going to wrap up nicely. As we finished reading, we prayed and said goodnight. My husband walked out of the room and as I followed, our 5-year-old decided she didn’t want to go to sleep. 

The famous words of our daughter, “Mommy, I can’t sleep.”

“Then just lay in bed,” I said and continued to walk toward the door. 

It was then that the tantrum began. She started screaming, throwing things off her bed, and calling me names. With it being the end of the day, I was exhausted and would have loved to just ignore her tantrum, leave the room, and continue on with my own night. Unfortunately, she shares a room with her sister and now her screaming was causing her sister to stay awake and cry. 

This left me feeling like I only had a few options. 

I could follow through with natural consequences and start taking away her toys—I’ve tried this many times and it seems to just make things worse. Okay, so maybe I could just bring her out of the room—but then this means she gets to stay up later and her screaming made it so she got her way. Not happening!

I could try to talk with her and calm her down. By this time, though, she had lost all of her toys, called me many mean names, screamed until her voice was going out, and she still wouldn’t listen. This continues until something in her mind just clicks and all of a sudden she starts crying the saddest cry and saying she’s sorry. 

If you’re a parent, this kind of situation probably sounds familiar to you. The self-questioning of “What can I do better?” or ”What am I doing wrong?” fills our heads. My husband and I have been struggling with this for years. We were constantly seeking out new tactics and trying different bedtime routines to figure out what could help. But it seemed like nothing was working and her anger was just getting worse. Our daughter would go from zero to sixty not just at bedtime but also at the store or at Nana and Papa’s house. We were so confused as to what could be causing this and completely lost on what we should do to help teach her.

About a month ago, I was leaving my Pure Desire group and had some quiet time with God as I drove home. I thought about the different times I had been angry and how I tried to show our daughters what I do when I’m angry instead of hiding away. Hoping they would learn by my example. I pause, I breathe, and then I address the situation. 

I wondered, Why can’t our 5-year-old do this too?

I prayed to God asking Him to show me what more we could do and that’s when it hit me. We had tried just about everything you can think of to teach her how to manage her anger, except for the one thing I tend to do quietly and to myself. Pray.

We pray all the time with our kids and as a family but I don’t think we have ever prayed in the midst of an argument or a tantrum. I began wondering why this is: What would it look like to stop everything and pray? In my mind I imagined it being absolutely amazing! 

Our daughter would be screaming and everyone’s anxiety is through the roof when all of a sudden my husband or I will say, “Hey, let’s pray.” It’s then that everyone will say, “okay” and immediately calm down.

This sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Well, it didn’t take long before we had the opportunity to try it. Needless to say, it wasn’t anything like I imagined it would be. Instead, it sounded more like our oldest daughter saying mean things about her sister to God and vice versa.

The next day we had, yet again, another opportunity. This time, her anger seemed worse than ever and we were all pushed to the very edge. I chose to not ask either of our kids to pray and instead I just paused, took a deep breath, and began praying for peace over our family. Honestly, it was very difficult to not have a snotty prayer asking God to help our daughter fix her attitude. But I chose to focus on what my heart was needing and prayed from my pain instead of from my own anger.

It was then that our 5-year-old stopped in her tracks. She started to just breathe and at the end, she said amen; followed by crying and saying sorry.

It worked! I couldn’t believe it. I thought to myself, I wonder if it will work next time too?

To my surprise, it has now been about a month and she has yet to blow up in the same way. She naturally gets angry from time to time, as any other person would, but she hasn’t once been so enraged that it seems like all she sees is red.

All children are different and respond in unique ways. This approach has worked for us and may work for others who are parenting an angry child. 

I hope by reading this you are encouraged to follow the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Never stop praying.” But don’t limit your prayers to just you and God. Share them with your family. 

Have that time with God during the good times as well as during the bad times. He longs for a relationship with us and no good relationship is limited to just the good parts of us. In order to have a good relationship, we need to be intimate with each other; sharing both the good and the bad. This is the same when we are working on our relationship with God and with our kids, too.

Sarah Peters

Sarah is the International Groups Coordinator Assistant for Pure Desire and is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). She is a group leader and speaker who has a heart for helping women and students who struggle with trauma and addiction—passionate about bringing Pure Desire to women’s prisons and juvenile detention centers.

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