Homeschooling can be hard, but it shouldn’t be striving. Psalm 46:10 says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Striving isn’t a word we commonly use. I looked up the definition and was surprised by it. Striving may be defined as making great efforts to achieve or obtain something. Cease striving? That sounds downright unAmerican. Tommy Hilfiger said, “The road to success is not easy to navigate, but with hard work, drive and passion, it’s possible to achieve the American dream.”
Why should we cease striving then? The Bible dictionary defintion of striving wasn’t much help, except that it defines it as struggle. God would have us work hard, but He wouldn’t have us struggle in our own strength. Habakkuk 1:11 describes the Babylonians as people whose own strength is their god. I have so often been just like them.
Here are signs that you are homeschooling in your own strength, that you’re striving.
There’s no joy
Homeschooling is a burden for you. You resent it. You look forward to it being finished for the day and possibly for good. You’re irritated by your children’s slowness to learn, to work, or your family’s lack of appreciation. It’s not exciting. It’s just really hard. You wish you could make time for other things you enjoy doing or you wish you could find the passion for it you used to have.
You worry that you’re not doing enough, that you’re not using the right curriculum, that your children are behind, that your children will have low test scores, that you’ll be evaluated and fall short, that your family won’t be able to pay the bills, that your children won’t get into college or find a job to support them. Sometimes you have trouble sleeping. Your fear leads you to compare yourself to other homeschoolers and you find you never measure up.
The fear and the work are wearing you out. You’re doing so much for so many and nothing seems to go as planned for school, your family, your life. You think the answer is to work harder. You must be lazy or your family is or both. So you will try again with a new approach, a new curriculum, or a new schedule. You will lay down the law with yourself and the kids. But even as you think about trying again, you feel exhausted.
If you see yourself in any of those descriptions, there’s a good chance that at least some of the time you are striving. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to recover your joy, your peace, and your energy by ceasing to strive? It IS possible. I’ve experienced it. Here’s how.
How to cease striving
First, determine who your God is.
As I began my homeschooling journey, God was the author of it. It was His idea for me and my family. But after a while, He became little more than an undependable teacher’s helper. When things were bad, I would ask Him to pitch in, but I didn’t expect Him to follow through. In my view, He was even sometimes spiteful — a God who didn’t care if I suffered because it was good for me, a God who didn’t really love me enough to care about my challenges. There is a powerful quiz in the book Sidetracked in the Wilderness by Michael Wells that can help you determine if your view of God is a problem. Find it in the show notes at homeschoolsanity.com/strive
The truth is God is the source of our homeschooling success. If we aren’t abiding in Him, we will lose our joy, our peace, and our energy. He is the only reason I have produced any fruit in my homeschooling. He wants me to succeed because homeschooling was His idea for us. He loves me deeply; He loves my husband; He loves my children. He never wants to see me suffer needlessly as I have in trying to homeschool in my own strength. He isn’t a lame teacher’s helper. He is THE teacher, the principal, the school counselor, the board president, the librarian, the school cook, even the janitor. He definitely cleans up the messes we make. He is our creator and His power is so great that He raised Jesus from the dead and transformed us through the Holy Spirit living in us.
Second, determine who you are.
My inaccurate view of God led me to have a false view of myself. I thought I was the beginning and end of my homeschool. When my child earned a scholarship, that was me. When my child was reprimanded by another adult, that was also me. I was the god of my homeschool. Being god is very discouraging, terrifying, and exhausting because we weren’t created for this role. Even keeping up the appearance that we are the gods of our homeschools is overwhelming.
I don’t know how I’ve borne the fruit of our homeschool–the wonderful blessings I see and that I’ve been praised for–because I didn’t grow it. I don’t have that ability. I’m a self-centered, disorganized, slothful woman in my flesh. I know this is true and it terrifies me when I’ve put myself in the role of god in my homeschool. The truth for you and me is that apart from God we can do nothing in homeschooling or in life.
Finally, abide humbly with your God
Shortly after reading Sidetracked in the Wilderness, I saw a baby being changed at the tennis club where I play. The woman who works in the nursery absolutely adores children. The baby watched his caregiver in complete peace and trust as she changed him. I realized that this is what God wants as He seeks to change me. But I have been screaming, trying to roll away, and trying to change myself. I have been striving.
When we have an accurate view of God, we trust Him to make our homeschools bear fruit. The baby didn’t worry that the woman in the nursery didn’t know what she was doing. We can have complete confidence in God, regardless of our problems. A student who can’t read, a rebellious child, and more month than money are all small things to our great God.
Abiding in Him means that we trust Him to not only solve the problems that invariably arise in our homeschools. It also means that we trust Him to change us. I am not a self-centered, impatient, lazy mother because Jesus lives in me and through me. When I spend more time online than I should, I repent, knowing that my behavior is not who I am. It’s a small blip on the screen of my story that is quickly edited.
Abiding in Him means that I stay close to Him throughout the day, like an employee in training. I don’t imagine that I know what to do. I don’t! Even after 19 years of homeschooling. Instead I call on Him for help and wisdom all day long. I seek to learn from Him by reading His Word and praying and worshiping, not as a duty, but because it is my lifeline. I begin my day by writing to God and sharing what is on my heart and listening for what is on His.
I despise the pride that provokes me to stop abiding in Him. As I experience discouragement, fear, and fatigue, I invariably discover a root of pride. I was hoping to look good, for God to obey my commands, for God to bless my efforts in doing things He hasn’t called me to do.
I have had a homeschool problem with a child of mine recently. I have prayed about it, of course, but more than this, I have been striving. I have applied my education, experience, and my flesh to the problem. But it has persisted. As I’ve taken a fresh look at it through the lens of humbly abiding, I realized that the main reason I see it as a problem is because of my pride. My child has been refusing to do something that would make me look good. My child isn’t concerned about it. Most likely my reliance on myself has made the problem worse. No matter how it works out, I will trust God to manage it. I no longer feel defeated, afraid, or worn out by the situation. I am homeschooling where strivings cease.
This fresh approach to walking with God has honestly changed my life in more than just homeschooling. It has impacted my business and relationships. I’m not burdening myself with trying to produce more and more products on a ridiculous timeline to feed my pride. I’m not fretting about mistakes I make in my business because I’m afraid of looking foolish in front of you. I am a fool and I don’t know how I haven’t made even more mistakes except for the grace of God. I’m finding myself able to let others’ negative behaviors go because I know they come from their own failure to humbly abide and I know I can’t manage them in my own strength. For years now I have tried to determine exactly what to say and do in response to difficult people. Replaying conversations and thinking of what I should have said and what I should say in the future has taken up so much of my time, energy, and joy. I recently admitted to the Lord that I couldn’t manage these people. I had no idea what to say or do, so God would have to do it. Immediately, the tension and unhappiness I have had for so long lifted. I know God will manage it. If I am to say or do anything in the future, He will prompt me then, not now.
I used to understand how to abide and not strive. I wrote the book So You’re Not Wonder Woman about the changes God made in my weight, home, and relationships. What’s sad is that I later thought the book wasn’t good because I don’t give a step-by-step plan for changing your life. I don’t have one! I don’t know how God changed me, but I am so thankful He did. I’m so thankful that He forgives me and brings me back when I have been busy relying on the god of my own strength.
What does the Bible say about being a homeschooling mother? I’m surprised how much of an example we have in the Proverbs 31 woman. Let’s pick up where we left off after part 1, which you can read here.
Verse 17 says that she sets about her work vigorously.
There it is again, her excellent work ethic. But we read that she also manages to keep her arms strong. My grandmother, in baking goods for an area bakery, had to have strong arms from kneading dough. No doubt she kept fit working in the garden as well. Today we have so many modern servants that it’s harder to stay strong by doing our everyday work. That’s why we have to be intentional about getting the exercise we need. Exercise in the form of walking, jogging, or any of a number of aerobic classes can keep our heart strong and our weight down. But we also need to keep our strength up. Strength training helps to prevent osteoporosis, keeps us looking fit and younger, and allows us to continue caring for our grandchildren well into our 70s. For more on how we can be strong moms, read my guest post on The Musings of Mum.
Verse 18 says that she sees her trading is profitable.
She is managing her business and also household expenses. We too want to be certain that we are good stewards of everything God has given to us.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
The verse continues with what I believe is the most misunderstood aspect of the Proverbs 31 woman. The verse says that her lamp does not go out at night. Real women like us can read these verses and think that in order to be a Proverbs 31 homeschooling mom, we must get up at dawn and stay up past midnight. Instead, I believe we learn here that keeping lamps lit requires proper planning.
Matthew 25 recounts the parable of the ten virgins.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
The Proverbs 31 woman has planned ahead and has enough oil to keep her lamps burning. The lesson we can take from this is that we do not want to be caught unprepared. If we plan ahead, we don’t have to discover the night before the Christmas pageant at church that none of the stores in our area have black pants in our boys’ size. Planning ahead saves our time, our money, and our sanity. Being prepared and not burning the candle at both ends is what I believe this verse is about. I do not believe that God would suggest we skimp on sleep when Jesus Himself slept whenever He felt the need. The Proverbs 31 woman’s lamp is also lit because she is prepared for the Lord’s return. We can keep the lamp of our hearts burning as we wait for Him as well.
In verse 19, we find a Proverbs 31 woman spinning again. It reads, “In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”
What stands out to me from this verse is the emphasis on her hand. It is tempting as homeschooling moms to want to delegate as much as possible. I’m all for delegation! But there are some tasks that we ought to take responsibility for ourselves. I believe training our children the faith is one of those. I believe that teaching our children how to live in an increasingly unChristian culture is also our responsibility. We can have pastors and youth leaders and Christian teachers come alongside us to help, but our hands have to be in the business of training our children.
The next verse says that she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
This verse convicts me because much of the charitable work I do is outside my children’s awareness. We want to make sure our children know and participate in giving directly to needy people. The responsibility of offering hospitality is also hinted at here. If we do not make the sacrifice of honoring and serving guests in our home, we are missing an opportunity that would bless us and most certainly would bless our children.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
In verse 21 review we read once again that the Proverbs 31 woman is prepared. She’s not only prepared for the challenges she expects, but those she doesn’t necessarily expect. We don’t want to be caught unprepared for difficulties whether those are financial or otherwise. We want to be ready. A homeschooling mom I know had two hours to remove belongings before a fire consumed her apartment building. In an emergency like that, would you be able to retrieve your most valued possessions? If not, this preparation is something we want to do to become more like the Proverbs 31 woman.
Verse 22 says she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Here’s how I read that: She looks good. Making an effort to look good brings honor to her husband. This does not mean we have to wear expensive designer clothes. But it could mean that we make an effort to look as good for our spouse as we would for church or an important meeting. The side benefit of this is the better we look, the better we tend to feel. I used to wear sweatpants, my hair in a ponytail, and no makeup. Makeup isn’t the issue, so don’t let that hold you up. I feel better wearing some makeup; other women don’t. The key is to feel good about how you look. The more confident we feel, the more attractive we will be to our mate.
Verse 23 tells us her husband is respected.
At that time, and even still today, his respectability was somewhat dependent upon his wife’s character.
Verse 24 tells us that the Proverbs 31 woman has another business.
This business may be where she got the funds to start her vineyard. It can be intimidating to think about a woman who has multiple irons in the fire, but I find it exciting. This woman is held up as a model for godly women. If you have the desire to do something other than homeschool, I believe God honors that desire. We each have different capacities, depending on our families and our giftings. It seems to me that the Proverbs 31 woman was so earnest in her work and care for her family that she didn’t have time to compare herself to anyone else. Had her business gotten in the way of caring for her family, no doubt she would have made some changes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Verse 25 tells us once again that she is confident about the future.
Verse 26 tells us that when she speaks, she speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She doesn’t say idle words. They are words meant to build up. They are words of wisdom that she believes are vital to her children and most likely other women she mentors. This verse is also very convicting to me because my words are often careless. They are often not words that build up and they are sometimes foolish. As we seek to teach our children, let us ask ourselves if what we are teaching is wise and will build them up for their walk with the Lord.
Verse 27 says she watches over the affairs of her household.
Have you ever been guilty, as I have, of not watching over the affairs of your household? Have you discovered like I once did that work that was marked complete in the student planner wasn’t actually done? Have you gone so long without checking on chores that you’re horrified to see the state of your child’s room or the bathroom that is your child’s responsibility? Maybe it’s just me. Watching over the affairs of our household is what will give our husbands confidence in us. My husband, in particular, gets upset when the kids’ bathroom is a mess. I have been more intentional about checking the state of the bathroom daily. I’m also checking my children’s work weekly.
Verse 28 says her children arise and call her blessed.
Some of us homeschooling moms feel a pang of longing when we hear those words because our children are arising and complaining and quarreling instead. My belief is that the Proverbs 31 woman demands respect and gratitude from her children. It is something that I demand from mine. I feel no guilt over telling my children the sacrifice I have made to homeschool them. But even so, most children have to mature before they recognize how blessed they have been to have a devoted homeschooling mother. Hang in there, mom. The blessing is coming.
I love verses 30 and 31. In verse 30 we read that a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Our faith, our trust in God, and our obedience to Him are a crowning glory. In our culture, we don’t typically receive the honor described here.
The next verse says that her works are honored at the city gate.
Our culture honors money, beauty, and prestige more than a faithful wife and mother. Even though we may suffer the negative remarks of those who don’t believe in homeschooling, I believe we will one day be honored for our work. I believe that homeschooling is an incredibly powerful way that God uses to raise up godly men and women for the next generation. I also believe that the city gate in which we will be honored is a heavenly one. What we suffer now in our hard work and our trials isn’t worth comparing to the glory we will experience one day.
To conclude our study, I believe that we are Proverbs 31 homeschooling moms if we believe we are. Begin each day considering what you did the day before that is consistent with your identity as this godly woman. Consider how you will earnestly take on your work as a Proverbs 31 homeschooling mom today. Know that we can do nothing apart from Him. But in His strength, we can be more than we ever imagined.
Which of these characteristics of a Proverbs 31 homeschool mom are you already making progress on?
Have you ever wondered as I have what God expects of you as a homeschooling mom? One place we can find answers to that question is in Proverbs 31. She isn’t the unrealistic role model so many say she is. Join me for the first part of a study of this woman and how she can help us grow in our roles as homeschool moms.
Grab your Bible and your printable study below and let’s walk through the Scriptures together.
In verse 10 we read, “A wife of noble character can find? She is worth far more than rubies.”
One of the ways I have struggled as a homeschooling mom is in recognizing my value. Some of my friends work part-time or full-time instead of homeschooling and generate an income for their families. One even supplies college scholarship money because she works for a university. Our worth certainly does not depend on income generation. But the tasks that we perform in our roles as homeschooling mothers are very valuable. I have saved thousands in private school tuition over the years. My one-on-one tutoring of my children has helped them to earn college scholarships with their test performance and grades. My children and I are home to keep our house clean, meaning that I do not have to pay for housekeeper. I am not as rushed, so we can enjoy less expensive and healthier meals at home on a regular basis. I don’t have to have a more expensive work wardrobe and nothing I own needs to be dry-cleaned.
True value, however, is in being at home for our children. If we are married, we are also available to support our spouses. If you work part-time or full-time in addition to homeschooling, don’t think that I am taking anything away from your value as a homeschooling mom. The extra time you spend reading to and talking with your children has proven dividends.
Verse 11 tells us that the Proverbs 31 woman’s husband has full confidence in her and he lacks nothing of value.
I want to seek to educate and parent my children in such a way that my husband isn’t worried about our decision to homeschool. I can give him that confidence by bringing my very best to my role. Sometimes that means I have to educate myself about the best approach to teaching and parenting. Notice that it says the Proverbs 31 husband lacks nothing of value. It does not say lacks nothing. We gift our husbands with everything we can and are not responsible for gifting those things which we have not been given. At one time my husband asked me to learn to cut our children’s hair. Doing so would save us a tremendous amount of money and time. I was honestly reluctant to do this, but I purchased a book on how to cut hair at a used book sale, gave haircutting my best shot, and I have now been doing it for years. I cannot, however, offer everything that might be of value to my husband. We do what we can.
Verse 12 says she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
I have heard many sad stories of wives who spend freely and foolishly. I have heard other stories of women who refuse to cook, clean, or even be intimate with their husbands. Such women bring harm to their husbands. Those of us who are married want to bring our husbands good.
Verse 13 says she selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
If you’re like me, at this point you’re thinking, “Woah, Nellie! I don’t spin thread.“ Neither do I. I don’t have the skill of spinning, and it’s just as well, because that skill is not of greatest value to my husband and family. We each do, however, have skills that are of value. What strikes me in this verse is her attitude about her work. She works with eager hands. She is diligent and not slow. She is ready to accomplish valuable work. Whatever our specific abilities are, we can approach our work eagerly.
The next verse tells us she is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
Have you ever ordered special foods for your family? I used to belong to an organic food co-op that required me to place my order well in advance and drive to pick it up. I was being like a merchant ship that was gathering the best food. Grocery shopping, even at your local Aldi’s, which is where I shop to save money, is gathering food from afar.
Verse 15 says she gets up while it is still night.
She is an early riser. Some of you may be bristling at that. I was not always an early riser, but I have come to love it. However, when I had babies getting me up in the middle of the night, I was not an early riser. The Proverbs 31 woman described here does not appear to be nursing an infant. The principle, however, is this. If we can begin our day early, however early is defined for our season of life, we can achieve the work God has given us to do. The later I get up, the less I get done. If you’re a late riser, consider gradually rising earlier and note any improvement in your days.
Verse 15 continues to say that she provides food for her family.
The benefits of eating at home are not limited to health and financial benefits. Meals prepared and served at home have numerous social and emotional benefits for families. The Proverbs 31 homeschool mom does what she can to provide meals for her family at home. This does not mean that we can never enjoy a meal out. But eating the majority of our meals at home is probably best for our families.
The verse goes on to say that she provides portions for her servants as well.
This is where you want to pull back on the reigns once again. Servants? Are you kidding me? No wonder she could do so much! She had help and you have none. I used to feel this way as well. But now I believe that I have many more servants than the Proverbs 31 woman had. I have a servant in the form of indoor plumbing that brings running water into my home. I do not have to send anyone for it. I have a servant that does all of my laundry, other than putting it away. My washing machine and dryer would’ve been an incredible blessing to the Proverbs 31 woman. I have convection and microwave ovens that greatly reduce my time spent cooking. I have a gas grill that turns on at the flip of a switch, a fireplace also. I have a servant that heats our home and one that cools us. I have a servant that takes me anywhere I want to go in the form of a vehicle. I don’t need a stable hand to care for my horses. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Yes, the Proverbs 31 woman had to provide portions for her servants. In the same way, our modern servants require maintenance as well. The sacrifice is so little when you think of it that way.
Verse 16 says that she considers a field and buys it. From her earnings, she plants a vineyard.
The Proverbs 31 woman isn’t a 1950s homemaker. She is a real estate mogul and entrepreneur. Having started my own business, I have enormous respect for women who courageously venture into the world of self-employment. There is so much to know. It is so easy to be taken advantage of and to lose money with foolish purchases. Obviously, the Proverbs 31 woman had done her research. She knew land that was best for beginning a vineyard. She had obviously made good investments or income in the past because she used her earnings to plant a vineyard. She had to have researched this process a great deal. Homeschooling moms sacrifice at least potential income that they could otherwise made staying in the traditional workforce. But we do have the opportunity to make money even as we homeschool our children. We can not only make an income, but we can live the dream of hanging out our own shingle or beginning our own business venture. The skill required to become a homeschooling parent serves us well in this area. We know how to study a topic and we have already made the leap into what for many is the terrifying prospect of homeschooling. If you would like to find a way to add to your household income, I highly recommend the book, Money Making Mom by Crystal Paine.
I am going to end our study of the Proverbs 31 Homeschooling Mom here for today. We have enough to think about, don’t we? We want to consider our value as homeschooling moms, how we can bring good and not harm to our husbands, and how we may add to our family’s income. Work through the questions in the free printable I’ve provided for subscribers below. Then join me next week for Part 2 of our study.
A few weeks ago I shared anger lies that keep us in bondage. If you haven’t read that post, I encourage you to get caught up. I believe that’s where victory with anger begins: meditating on God’s truth about our anger. This week I’m going to share 6 powerful ways to overcome anger. If you’re like most people, you will still experience anger that isn’t perfectly controlled. But you can have a huge improvement in this area like my husband and I have.
As a review, anger is a normal human emotion. It’s only sinful when we allow it to hurt us or others with our thoughts, words, or deeds. Oh, that’s all, right? For some of us, expressing anger appropriately is more of a challenge than for others. We need Holy Spirit power to have victory. Praying for change and meditating on God’s Word are the most powerful tools in overcoming anger. But there are six more ways we can seek victory over anger. I will tell you what they are in a moment, but I have to tell you a funny story about myself first.
I read that Teri Maxwell of Titus2.com felt guilty for becoming angry with her children when they didn’t pick up as they were told. Teri went on to say that she had found freedom from this inappropriate anger with her children. As a psychologist, I thought that her anger was a normal emotion and that she needed to cut herself some slack. Teri graciously offered to send me the audiotape “Freedom from the Spirit of Anger” by Dr. S. M. Davis of SolveFamilyProblems.com if I would listen to it. She sent it to me and I planned to listen to it when I was driving somewhere by myself. When I went to look for it, I couldn’t find it. I was embarrassed and guess what else? Angry. I was angry at myself for misplacing it and angry at my kids whom I automatically blamed, too. I did eventually find it — it was right in front of my face, really — and listened to it in the car. After listening, I was fully convinced that anger was a problem for me. I was determined to overcome anger as soon as I got home.
“The problem with that was absolutely everything made me angry.”
Within a few minutes of returning home I was in tears. I knew I had a serious problem with anger. But that was also the turning point for me. If you feel yourself being irritated, annoyed, impatient, or outright angry a lot, know that I can relate. Here’s what I recommend.
#1 Be committed to self-care.
I was exhausted, hormonal, and doing everything for everyone when my anger was the worst. Lack of sleep, no exercise, and no breaks will make you a ticking time bomb if you’re prone to anger.
Get enough sleep. I used to think that I only needed seven hours of sleep. I have to have eight and during certain parts of my menstrual cycle (sorry, guys) I need more. I don’t need a psychological study to tell me that sleep deprivation makes people irritable, do you? Do everything you can to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time. If you don’t get all the sleep you need because a child or something else kept you up, take a nap. That’s an order!
Get exercise. Exercise is critically important for preventing outbursts as well. Exercise releases muscle tension and releases feel-good chemicals in your brain. If you exercise vigorously enough (and you should with your doctor’s clearance), you’ll be too tired to yell. Exercise enhances our self-esteem, too. The better we feel about ourselves, the less likely we are to express our anger inappropriately.
Take a break. Self care also means we take a break. I’m an extrovert. I’m recharged by being with people. But after days of being with demanding, needy little people with no break, I’m at risk of a blow up. I need a friend to watch them, a mother’s helper to play with them, or my husband to take over so I can get away for a while. This isn’t selfish. This is the most loving thing I can do for my whole family. If you never take breaks, you’ll have a hard time refraining from anger.
Self-care includes cleaning up and organizing. Much of the time when I’ve yelled at the kids to clean up, I’m really angry at myself for not being consistent in doing our chores. Pick up, put things away, and declutter because you’ll feel good. The bonus is you’re teaching your children good habits. For more on this, listen to the podcast episodes I did with FLYLady.
After self-care, it’s important to identify your fears. Why? Because fear is an anger trigger for many of us. Many of the times I was angry with my kids — when they were fighting in church, had broken something, or weren’t obeying me — the real problem was my fear. I was afraid that other people would think less of me if my kids weren’t behaving. I was afraid anything that was broken would be very expensive or time-consuming to replace. And I was afraid that I wouldnt’ be able to control my kids. Your fears may be different from mine, but if you don’t address them, you are likely to get angry a lot.
Think of Satan, our enemy, like a Navy Seal instructor. What he does is identify our fear and then uses it to try to make us angry or give up. If we want to succeed in our parenting and homeschooling (which is probably harder than being a Navy Seal!), we have to know where the enemy is likely to attack. We have to overcome our fears. It has taken me years to be much less worried about what other people think of me and my kids. God and my husband’s opinion matters most to me. Veteran parents don’t judge us for misbehaving kids because they’ve been there. If they do judge us, that’s their sin and not ours. My fear of having things broken was just silly. My kids matter so much more to me than my things. But my anger was saying otherwise. They have cost us some money and time in repairs and replacements, but it’s been a small investment that’s just the cost of parenting. I eventually realized that my fear of not being able to control my kids was self-fulfilling. The less in control I felt, the more out of control my kids became. Most kids want to please their parents. Believe that with God’s help you can be the parent your children need you to be. Despite my fears, all my kids are potty trained and know how to read. Believe that you will do whatever it takes to raise your children well and your fear will decrease. What fears are triggering your anger?
#3 Sign a kindness contract.
The third powerful way of overcoming anger is to sign a kindness contract. Agree with your family members on what isn’t an appropriate expression of anger. You’ll want to include yelling, name calling, slamming doors and the like. But you’ll also want to include passive aggressive expressions like refusing to speak or sulking. When you violate the contract, your kids and spouse (if you’re married) will have permission to say, “What did you say?” or “What did you do?” as a reminder that you’re in violation of the contract. Of course, you can also do this with other family members. A kindness contract will create accountability in your home and will help you see how often your anger is being expressed inappropriately.
#4 Assess your risk throughout the day.
The fourth powerful way of overcoming anger is to assess your risk throughout the day. If we have a problem with anger, it’s usually something that seems to come out of nowhere. But if we are introspective at all, we will recognize the risk and can prevent it. Here’s what I mean. When you get up in the morning, ask yourself if you have any risk factors for getting angry. Did you sleep poorly? Does one of your kids seem unwell physically or emotionally? That may tap into fears of feeling out of control or having to take time to take them to the doctor. At lunch time, ask yourself if you’ve had a lot of hassles that could contribute to anger. Did Junior lose his shoes again? Were you late getting somewhere which tapped into fears of looking bad to others? At dinner time, ask yourself how your energy is. Have you had some exercise? Have you had a break? Do you have any worries that could trigger anger?
By staying aware of how you’re feeling, you can prevent the enemy from taking advantage of your weakness. Instead you can take appropriate action.
#5 Take action when you’re at risk.
The fifth powerful way of overcoming anger is to take appropriate action when you are at risk or are already feeling angry.
The first action to take is to leave. Obviously, you have to make sure your children are safe. Some safe ways of leaving are to go outside with the kids, put young children in a crib or infant seat or ask an older child or your spouse to supervise while you go to your room or for a walk. Let the kids watch a movie or play a video game so you can have some time. Don’t drive when angry because you’ll be distracted. But do walk away.
The second action to take is to breathe. Once you have gotten away from people, take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. As you do, notice what you’re thinking. Much of the time we are awfulizing. We are telling ourselves that things are terrible, out of control, won’t get any better, driving us insane, and on and on. No wonder you’re feeling angry! Often our thoughts are related to the fears that we have.
After breathing, believe. What is the truth of the matter? Are things really that bad? What would God say about your circumstances? Is what’s upsetting you really too big for Him? What would your friend say? Take a moment to pray that you’ll believe the truth about your situation. If you can, talk to a friend or your spouse about what you’re feeling.
Go back to the situation only after you feel better. If you have to go back to the situation before you’re ready, communicate to others that you’re stressed and need their support. Say something like, “Mommy’s having a hard day. Can you give me a hug to make me feel better?” If possible, engage in an activity that relaxes you. Order pizza for dinner. You can do this!
#6 Respond to setbacks.
As much as I believe in the steps I’ve just shared, the truth is you’re going to mess up. You’ll yell or sulk or slam a door. The last step is to respond to setbacks. This may be the most important step of all. When we lose our cool, we can believe the lie that we are hopeless, that not even God can help us. We’re horrible mothers. We ought to send our kids to school and just give up. But that isn’t the truth. We gain victory by once again apologizing and asking for forgiveness. We gain victory by determining what went wrong and how we can do better next time. We gain victory for forgiving ourselves. That’s been hard for me. I feel like I should be better than what I’ve been in this area. But I’m human. It’s a weakness for me. By God’s grace I have come so far in gaining victory over anger. I know you can do it, too.
Which of these tips do you think will be most helpful to you? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.
Anger is one of the most discouraging problems for parents. It creates fear, guilt, and even hopelessness. If it’s your struggle, confronting the lies you believe about anger is the first step in overcoming a problem with anger.
I’ll begin with a bonus lie: psychologists don’t struggle with parental anger. Not true. It was one of my biggest battles early on in my homeschooling. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those moms who can claim she no longer gets angry at her kids. But I can say that the improvement has been significant. I have yelled, been overly harsh, and even split my knuckle open after I smacked the counter in anger. I have said things I wish I could take back, made my kids cry, and have felt like an all-around awful parent as a result of my anger.
Right now I hope you aren’t regretting that you’re going to be getting advice from me on this issue! I do believe that every mistake I’ve made helps me to help you. I hope you agree. If you do, let’s get started.
First, anger is a normal human emotion. The feeling itself isn’t a sin, but the way we express it often is. Anger always begins in the mind with our thoughts. If our thoughts aren’t true and we act on them, anger will be a besetting sin — one that exercises power over us. So let’s examine what I think are the most common lies we believe and act on.
#1 They made me angry.
You probably recognize this one from your kids. “He made me mad, so I hit him.” You might have responded with, “We don’t hit, even if we’re angry.” But we have to address the lie, too. No one can make us angry. No matter how horrible junior behaves. No matter how awful the treatment, how big the disappointment, how outrageous the behavior.
No one, not even Satan, can make us angry. The only person who can bring about your sinful anger is you. Why? Because you’re the one who interprets what someone else does. Two days after my first baby was born, my mother-in-law told me I looked like I had another one in there. I did not get angry — even with the emotion of anger. I could have told myself that she was joking. I could have told myself that I did in fact look like I had another one in there. Both thoughts would have helped keep me from getting angry. I could have had thoughts that provoked me to anger, however. “She is trying to humiliate me,” for example. What I actually thought was, “She has Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t remember that it isn’t appropriate to say that. She loves me. I love her.”
People don’t make us angry. Our thoughts do.
#2 I can’t control my anger.
This lie is related to the first. Other people provoke me and I can’t help it. I relate so much to what Terri Maxwell said about this. She noted that she could be yelling at the kids one minute and sweetly answering the phone the next. If we couldn’t control our anger, we would be yelling at everyone — our friends, slow cart pushers at the grocery store, and even our pastor. But we don’t. We save our sinful expressions of anger for the people we love most.
Why is that? Because the people we love most tap into our greatest fears and frustrate our deepest desires. We don’t trust people outside of our home to forgive us our angry fits, but we do trust that we’ll be forgiven by our spouse and kids. Just because that’s usually true doesn’t mean we should continue to sin against our family with our anger.
The lie that we can’t control our anger stems from the lie that we can’t control our thoughts. Perhaps like anger, an initial thought cannot be controlled. With my mother-in-law I might have had an initial thought that she embarrassed me. But I wouldn’t have to hold on to that thought and add to it. The biggest lie in thinking that leads us to anger is that we know what someone else is thinking.My child is trying to make me miserable. He doesn’t care. They think I’m a slave. We do not know what our kids are thinking. Our kids don’t even know what they’re thinking. It’s pointless to ask why a child did something wrong because they honestly don’t know. Do you know why you do things you know you shouldn’t do?
2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Obviously, we can control our thoughts. Colossians 3:8 reads, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Obviously, we can control our anger, too. Jesus is our example who gives us the power to control our anger. The New Living Translation of Isaiah 53:7 reads, “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word.”
#3 I have righteous anger.
This lie is usually justified by pointing to Jesus’ example in getting angry and overturning the temple merchants’ tables. The problem with this argument that we have righteous anger is that it must only be about how God is being dishonored. If we are honest, we will admit that our anger is about us. We have been kept from getting something we want; we’ve been humbled; we are feeling guilty; we are afraid. James 1:20 says that our anger does not bring about the righteousness of God. Even if we did have righteous anger, God frankly doesn’t need it. He has done a very good job of handling people who dishonor Him from the beginning.
We sometimes mean by righteous anger that we are justified in being angry or that anyone would be angry under the circumstances. That belief doesn’t mesh well with Matthew 5:22: But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
Our anger is most likely not righteous anger.
#4 Anger is the only thing that works.
When I was practicing as a psychologist, I heard this a lot. I still do. The only way I can get my kids to obey me is to yell, to get angry. Reb Bradley who did an interview with me for the Homeschool Sanity show said in essence that if that’s the only way you can get your children to obey, it’s because that’s what you’ve trained them to do. Kids know they don’t have to listen to you because there will be no consequence UNTIL you blow your top.
A quiet voice can work to discipline your child. So can consequences, positive and negative. But you have to use them consistently. For most parents, anger seems easier. I will explain in an upcoming episode how to make discipline easier so you don’t have to get angry.
#5 Venting is a good thing.
When I first began practicing, I believed this lie. We worked with patients who suffered abuse. We encouraged them to vent their anger. We had them scream and rip up old phone books or punch pillows. There is some wisdom in asking patients to stop denying their feelings. But the research and experience tell me that venting is not effective long-term. Patients who had a great venting session weren’t any better in the days that followed. In the hospital, venting didn’t hurt anyone. But in our homes, venting can hurt the people we love. In our selfish desire to get everything off our chest, we may leave family members unable to get our hurtful words out of their heads.
Don’t think that venting to other people about your family members is the thing to do. Have you ever had the experience of retelling what your spouse or child did that made you mad and you find yourself getting angry all over again? Venting this way not only keeps you angry but can tarnish other’s view of your family members. There is absolutely a way to ask for prayer and advice without venting or dishonoring your family members.
There is also a way of expressing our needs and feelings in a positive way. I’ll share more about how to do that in part 2 on anger. But I’ll leave you with this Scripture that should have taught me venting isn’t a good thing. Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
#6 Anger is no big deal.
One of my favorite resources for dealing with anger is Dr. Davis’s Freedom from the Spirit of Anger. In this video. Dr. Davis describes a father who only loses his temper every couple months. Dr. Davis said that for his family that was like living next to a volcano that only erupts every couple of months. Anger is a serious problem that can lead to divorce, emotional problems in children, and even death. Anger may increase the risk of heart attack.
Freedom from the Spirit of Anger DVD
By Dr. S.M. DavisThe most destructive force in family life today is the anger of one or both parents. But rebellion in youth seldom goes away until parents deal, not just with anger, but with their spirit of anger. MANY PEOPLE WITH A SPIRIT OF ANGER DO NOT REALIZE THEY HAVE IT. James and John had such an intensive spirit of anger that they wanted to call down fire from heaven and destroy an entire village full of people. Yet they were deceived so that they didn’t know that their spirits were putting off such a spirit of anger.A spirit of anger is also very contagious. Proverbs 22:24-25 explains how fathers or preachers who are blind to their own angry spirits develop followers with the same spirit. Here is an explanation of why ALL of man’s anger is wrong. Here also are 10 STEPS TO FOLLOW TO GET FREEDOM FROM THE SPIRIT OF ANGER. One father testified, “All my life I had a problem with anger. I finally dealt with it when I heard the Spirit of Anger’ message. Three weeks later my wife pointed out to me that my little boy no longer had a problem with stuttering!” “Freedom from the Spirit of Anger”is the second of 5 Sermons in the “Anger Series.”
Anger leads first and foremost to anger. Angry parents tend to have angry kids. Anger from one spouse leads to anger in the other. Proverbs 22:24 says, “With an angry man do not go.” Angry people are dangerous. Short of that, they’re no fun to be around. God takes anger very seriously. Psalm 37:8-9 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.” Anger can lead to a multitude of evils. We want to overcome sinful anger through the power of the Holy Spirit.
One step to take now is to download a free printable of the truth about anger. You can meditate on these truths and accompanying Scripture each day to help you stop believing this lies about anger. This resource is made available free of charge to subscribers to Psychowith6. Click the image below to claim yours.
Which of these anger lies has been the biggest problem for you? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.
I met Mandy Kelly of Worshipful Living through Periscope and got to know her through HomeschoolScopes, a Facebook group for homeschoolers who enjoy live broadcasting. I got to meet Mandy in person at the 2:1 Conference in 2015, worked with her in sharing one another’s materials, and enjoyed keeping up with her on Facebook. On Tuesday morning, March 21st, 2017, I heard the news that Mandy and three of her family members had died in a house fire. It was a shocking tragedy that had everyone who knew her (and even many who didn’t) reeling.
A friend told me what a pastor had said at her husband’s funeral after his tragic death:
“Let’s not focus so much on how he died that we forget how he lived.”
Those words are so appropriate to Mandy and her family. To honor Mandy’s memory, I want to share with you how she lived and what I learned from her about worshipful living.
#1 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 2 Timothy 2:24
My first impression of Mandy was that she was a kind lady. I watched a broadcast she did on what to wear to the 2:1 Conference. At first blush, that topic doesn’t seem very spiritual. But Mandy was trying to make nervous newbies like me feel comfortable by telling them what to expect. She also clearly communicated that she would befriend us there if no one else would. Mandy was a teacher — a kind teacher. It’s my desire to share the kindness of Christ with others in my teaching the way Mandy did.
#2 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
Mandy was a Christian woman, a Christian blogger, and a Christian speaker at a time when Christianity is becoming less and less popular. While I shrink from sharing my faith on Facebook (where it is often reviled), Mandy let her light shine for all to see. She could because there was no hypocrisy in her. I aspire to be the light that Mandy was.
#3 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
Mandy’s post on Jesus having a quiet time reminded me that my time with God needs to come first each day. The truth is that too often I don’t wake up thanking God and seeking prayer first, but my phone and social media. I am living worshipfully now first thing in the morning, thanks to Mandy.
#4 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
I saw Mandy go through the disappointment of infertility and an adoption that didn’t happen. But I didn’t see Mandy give up hope. Her article on biblical joy and her attitude in trials has taught me to persevere in tribulation, too.
#5 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11
I am so inspired by the way Mandy blessed her daughter with these words on Instagram. It is my prayer that they will comfort her daughter and guide her all her life. I do try to bless my children with my words, but I’m not sure I do it to this level. It’s my aspiration to spend more time blessing my children and just listening to them instead of always being in a hurry.
#6 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21
I hadn’t seen Mandy’s Periscope on finishing well until after she had gone to heaven. She explained that when we are face to face with God, we know that death is better than life. I so often live like this life is the best there is, when that is at odds with the truth of Scripture. Mandy’s eternal perspective (which is so like the apostle Paul’s) has reminded me to stop sweating the small stuff. I know that I will see Mandy again. I will be able to rejoice with her at how her time spent here (thought short) glorified the Lord in a mighty way. I will be able to thank her for all she taught me.
I am tempted to feel sorry for myself that Mandy has gone home. But I choose instead to focus on gratitude for having known her. I encourage you to spend time on Mandy’s Worshipful Living website and her Periscope channel. Mandy with her kindness, light, glory giving, patience, child blessing, and eternal perspective will teach you worshipful living just as she has me.
Please read what other blogging friends of Mandy’s have learned from her.