False Parenting Guilt

by Jason Braaten

Parents carry a lot of guilt. Some of it is real, and some of it false. One source of false guilt for moms and dads comes from the fad that you should never discipline your child from a place of anger. The point of this piece of advice is that if you discipline your children while you are angry, you are simply punishing them, teaching them that anger is an appropriate way to express oneself when someone sins against them.

The problem is this: The vocation of parent necessitates anger at the misbehavior of children, because God calls and places parents to be agents of His wrath against the misdeeds of their children so that they will repent.

A point of clarification: I am not saying that if you are already angry you have a right to take that anger out on your children. God does not call a father to come home from a bad day at work and make his children and wife walk on pins and needles simply because he is crabby. That would be provoking his children to anger and teaching them to do the same. It also doesn’t mean he can lose his senses and scream and yell at his children.

 I am saying, however, that when children misbehave and disobey their mother and father, parents are supposed to be angry with their children. And they are to communicate this anger in such a way that a child sees that they have not only made their parents angry by their words and actions, by what they have done or left undone, but they have also angered God, who set parents over children. (Don’t forget: If you break the Fourth Commandment, you have at the same time broken the First!) That is what it means that parents should raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. By their anger, parents show that breaking the Fourth Commandment incurs the anger of God Himself, since they are representatives of God to their children on earth.

So, parents, preach the Law to your children to bring them to repentance, remembering that the Law is never about volume or duration. That doesn’t mean you can’t raise your voice at your children; it simply means that just because you have doesn’t mean you have communicated that anger. Sometimes you will raise your voice. Sometimes you will simply speak sternly. You, as the parent, know what situation calls for what kind of response.

And in the meantime, stop feeling guilty when you are angry with the disobedience of your children and discipline them from that anger. This is false guilt. God has placed you as parents to communicate His anger over your children’s disobedience, even as He desires to see them repent over breaking His commands and turn, instead, to fear and love and trust in Him above all else. 

The Rev. Jason Braaten is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tuscola, Ill. 

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4 Responses to False Parenting Guilt

  1. RK Marek January 9, 2017 at 11:10 pm #

    I totally disagree. “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” James 1:20 KJV.

    There is a VERY good reason that parents are cautioned not to discipline while they are angry. Parents are human, and anger is an emotion that often causes us to over-react.

    God, in complete contrast to us, is long-suffering, and absolutely capable of containing His anger while He works for the good of those who believe.

    Christian parents, by God’s grace, can do this, too. But they need to give themselves the blessing of Time. What I mean by that is, no harm comes to a child who is told that he must wait for several minutes, or even several hours, while the parent thinks, prays, and cools down, before the appropriate discipline is administered.

    It is far better to say, “This deed of yours has made me extremely angry. And I do not want to respond out of anger. But I WILL need to discipline you in obedience to God, Who has made me His representative for your good. So while I consider how to respond, you must have “Time Out”. No pleasant distractions for you are allowed while your parents consider how to discipline you.”

  2. Cheryl Post January 10, 2017 at 8:13 am #

    How surprised I was, when raising my now grown (and godly) children, at my own anger when at times, in spite of all my loving care of them, they disobeyed my clear instruction for things I knew they could and should do. Amazing! They came to learn that their disobedience would bring corrective discipline, yet, at times, still chose to disobey. How I disliked having to correct them, when I worked so hard to help them avoid sin. I guess I was angry at having to be the enforcer of discipline, which was really rebellion of my own. I have needed to repent of sinful behavior inspired by anger, but have concluded, as Scripture explains, not all anger is sinful (Eph. 4:26). Also important to note is that while God’s anger is always perfect, mine is not. Thank you for writing this article, though I disagree that anger is necessary at a child’s misdeeds. We expect misdeeds from children and prepare for them (James 1:20). Overall I think your article will help relieve Christian parents of an undue burden and help give them God’s peace and strength for the challenging job of parenting, as long as they persistently couple the Law of God with the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Thank you.

  3. Rev. Dr. John Tape January 11, 2017 at 6:25 am #

    James 1:20 tells us, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

    You should never ever discipline a child while you are angry–never, never, never!

    If what your child has done has made you angry, calm down first, cool down, and take a few moments to pray. Ask God to give you patience and wisdom. Thank Him for bringing that child into your life. Then reassure your child of your love and discuss with him/her why that action was wrong and lovingly explain the discipline/consequences involved. Disciplining a child should never be used as an opportunity to vent your frustrations or anger. But it can be a time to draw closer to God and to each other.

  4. John J Flanagan January 18, 2017 at 11:45 am #

    Unfortunately today, many young parents do not correctly discipline their children. Depriving them of some privileges or having a “time out” will not work with all children. There are times when a child needs a spanking. Children who are too often indulged and not disciplined at an early age will usually be narcissistic, demanding, and obnoxious, having gotten away with bad behavior by weak parents who have done them no favor by allowing continued misbehavior to persist. In children who have not been corrected, one will always see a common characteristic….they do not fear or respect their parents, other adults, or authority. It is comparable to the definition of Original Sin….it is not so much a character flaw as it is no fear of God or fear of wrongdoing. A Christian parent needs to discipline their children at an early age, and if a child is raised up right, there are fewer issues of disobedience and disrespect. However, some children may change even after the best efforts are made by the parents, and this is also not uncommon.

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