Friday, 25 September 2009

The heart of Anger (4)

In chapter six of the Heart of Anger, Lou Priolo shows how to use an Anger Journal to help children identify and correct inappropriate expressions of anger. It is a four-step process that involves;
  1. indentifying the circumstantial provocation of the anger
  2. describing the outward manifestions of the anger
  3. biblically evaluating the exact nature of the anger
  4. developing a bible response to the circumstantial provocation
It sounds a little pompous and self-righteous written like that, but if I give you an example* you might get the picture.  The idea is that a child keeps a journal like this every time they have an outburst of anger.  Self-review and review with parents and/or a counsellor along with rehearsal of the final step should help them respond appropriately in future similar situations.
1. What circumstances led to my becoming angry?
I was shooting baskets in our driveway, when my Dad stuck his head out of the back door and insisted that I come in to begin doing my homework.  He told my friend who was shooting with me to come back tomorrow.

2. What did I say/do when I became angry?
"I don't have any homework and you're always running my friends off.  It's no wonder they all think you and Mom are idiots."  Then I cursed at him under my breath (but loud enough that my friend could hear) and slammed the basketball into the back door (breaking the window) and stomped off to my room sulking and pouting.

3. What is the biblical evaluation of what I said/did whan I became angry?
Lying (I did have homework and my friends don't all think my parents are idiots), profanity, slander, backbiting, hateful.

4. What should I have said/done when I became angry?
Said, "OK Dad" and explained to my friend that I really did have homework but that if I finished early, I'd call him.  Made an appeal "Dad, I have new information, may I make an appeal?" (yes) "My teacher was out sick today and the substitute teacher allowerd us to catch up on some homework so I only have to study for two subject instead of my usual four... so may I stay out and shoot baskets for another 45 minutes?"  I could have appealed to Dad about changing my schedule so I would study when it isn't possible to play basketball.  Appeal to Dad to install a light in the driveway so I can play basketball after dark (if I get my homework done).  How about it Dad?*
This example is clearly from an child much older than mine, however I we have used simple questions like
  • What did you do that was naughty?
  • Can you explain why you did that?  What were you feeling?
  • What could you do instead?
Until now I have always left out references to scripture feeling that a statement like "God says that's called Malice and that's sinful" might make them feel worse and lead on the path of insecurity and self-righteousness.  However, I'm re-thinking this opinion in the face of their response to Proverbs (which I describe here) which says much about words and anger.  And because as they grow they need to know about God's holiness and how great their sin is and how much greater is God's love and forgiveness.  So I'm grateful for his encouragement in this area and I'll keep thinking about it.

I also really appreciate two further points he makes in this chatper.  

The first is the necessity of determining whether a child is sinfully or righteously angry.  Anger is not always sinful.  God can be angry.  So how do we tell?  Priolo provides simple questions we can use to work this out.  And it is simple (not rocket science).  Immensely helpful not just in dealing with children but also in thinking about my own anger.  Often I am angry with the children not because of anything they have done but because I want to do my own thing and not deal with children or the crayon on the wall or the puddle on the floor or the tears...

The second is the reminder that tools such as journalling are helpful, but they are not the thing that provides lasting change in the heart and behaviour of a child.  He says,
It is not possible for a Christian to change in dependence upon his own strength.  He must depend upon the Lord for the grace (the wisdom, power and desire) to live in obedience to the Bible.  This is why you must faithfully proclaim the Gospel to your children.  If they are lost, they must be told about the need to trust Christ's substitutionary death on the cross.  If they are saved, they must be reminded that they cannot obey God apart from reliance upon the Holy Spirit's power.

Parent's must also must guard against viewing the materials in this book as "behaviour modification" or "cognitive therapy techniques."  They are biblically derived solutions to common problems of living and are of limited value apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in your life and the life of your child.**
The next chapter is about the heart, where he moves from dealing with behaviour and looks at what is going on in the heart of the child when they are angry.

* p87
** p88-89

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachael,

Have you seen the Ted Tripp Biblical Parenting DVD's? - you can get here, free.

They're a parenting course he does - on this occasion, at Mars Hill. Not the definitive word on parenting but quite a few of our families have found them helpful.