I believe good parents have more shame around anger than anything else that happens behind closed doors of homes all over the world. I also believe good parents get angry.
In 30 years of counseling, I’ve never had as many parents feel as defeated, as discouraged, as anxious or feel as much like failures as I have in the past year. I’ve also never heard as many parents talk about losing it with their kids behind the closed, confidential doors of my counseling office. I want you to hear me say this clearly: Your anger does not mean you’re a bad parent. In fact, I believe it means the opposite. What I believe it means is that you’re a parent who wants really good things for your kids and leans toward anxiety.
What Being an Angry Mom Really Means
I want you to think, for a minute, about the most recent time you became angry with your kids. If you could zoom out to the big picture, what was it you were wanting? Feeling in the moment? My guess is that you felt out of control—of the schedule, of the academic motivation (or lack thereof), of technology, of the character you’re hoping to instill that’s coming a little slower than you’d like—and the internal panic of feeling out of control comes out externally as anger. It’s not that you want to get angry. It’s likely just a well-worn neurological pathway in your brain, that has maybe even been passed down from the generations before you.
When you can learn to acknowledge where the anger comes from and start to use tools to work through the anger and anxiety underneath it, there is so much freedom to be found. Grace, too. You’re not alone. You’re not a bad parent.
Working Moms Need to Give Themselves Grace
As a parent, you are good at so many things that the goodness inherently becomes part of your identity. And then you sure better keep it up if you want the others around you to love you. Or to see that you have something to offer. And maybe especially if you want you to feel good about yourself. But we can hold two things. We can do a lot right and get a lot wrong.
We are capable of so much, and that muchness gets in the way of our need for grace. Our desire and our ability to stay in control get in the way of our need for grace as well. Control requires more control. It’s an anxiety-producing cycle. It could be where this anger-producing cycle comes from—and can be directed toward your kids. Here’s the truth: You are a mess. You fail often. You get it wrong more than you’d like to admit. Me too. But we can admit it—because there is so much good on the other side. Admit failure. Know grace.
One of my favorite statements by the writer Anne Lamott is this: “If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.”
If there has been some anger recently, talk to your kids. Ask for forgiveness. Tell them you’re doing your work, too, and come up with a code word to take a break when the anger does start to rise up. In any of you. Talk to a counselor if it feels like the anger is too much. One of the best gifts we can give kids is for them to see us walk out our humanity—our failures—with courage and grace.
Both acknowledging mistakes and asking for forgiveness. Let go of the control. Allow yourself to acknowledge the wrong. Admit it to the kids you love. And receive what your heart longs for most: grace.
Adapted from The Worry-Free Parent by Sissy Goff. Copyright © August 2023 by Bethany Publishing House. Used by permission. www.RaisingBoysandGirls.com
About Sissy Goff
Sissy Goff,LPC-MHSP, has worked as the director of child and adolescent counseling at Daystar Counseling Ministries since 1993. She speaks to parents and children’s ministers across the country and is a frequent guest on media outlets such as Southern Living, NBC Nightly News, CNN, Good Morning America, Focus on the Family, That Sounds Fun, Family Life Today, Fox News, andmany more. Sissy Goff is the author of 13 books includingher latest, The Worry-Free Parent. She co-hosts the chart-topping Raising Boys and Girls podcast, with fellow Daystar Counselor David Thomas. The podcast just celebrated more than 7 million downloads to date. www.RaisingBoysandGirls.com @RaisingBoysandGirls