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.