Recently, we have been working a lot on anger management with Aiden. He is definitely a bit of an "intense" child, and sometimes that can be hard to deal with. I often remind myself that this intensity and depth of feeling will serve him well someday, allowing him to commit to things with passion and really serve God with vigor. Right now, though, it is our job too help him learn how to harness his intensity and learn to use it for good. That sounds kind of super-hero-ish somehow. It kind of fits in the way that God gives each of us gifts that, when combined with His supernatural power, can be used to further His kingdom in a powerful way.
So, when trying to figure out how to help my little guy learn to manage his emotions I of course turn to scripture. I know that this is a lesson I am not really ready to teach him on my own... after all, I am no poster child for managing my emotions! A friend who has had her own experiences raising an intense child directed me to Ephesians 4. This whole chapter is a good one to red when it comes to raising children. The first section deals with unity and maturity in the body of Christ, and as parents that is really our main goal, right? Helping our children learn and grow in love for our Creator and Redeemer, and love for His people, is what it is all about. We want them to become mature and live in unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the hardest parts of dealing with intense anger in a child is that it threatens the unity of the family. I think that this is a passage that has food for thought in that area.
When it comes to the actual emotion of anger, though, I focused on the next section of this chapter - specifically on verses 26-27:
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
This is the verse that Aiden has been working on memorizing and then calling to mind when that bubble of anger starts to grow. We use the visual of a bubble that needs to be popped before it gets so big that it bursts. When that bubble starts to grow, we want to make sure to address it so that we don't "give the devil a foothold." He really grabbed on to verse 27 in particular. My little Christian soldier is definitely aware of the need to see the devil as a real opponent. So, I wanted to give him a way to really put an experience with that verse that would illustrated what it meant to have a foothold.
I immediately thought of the climbing wall at the park. So, one morning we headed over there for a little object lesson of sorts. I asked Aiden to stand at the base of the climbing wall, and had him recite his verse. I focused in on verse 27, and asked him what it thought it meant to have a foothold. I asked him to attempt to climb the wall without using his feet. He tried a couple of times, and of course was unable to make any progress. Then, I asked him to use the footholds to climb the wall. He scrambled right up the wall to the top without any problem. This, I explained, is what it means to have a foothold, and how easy it is for the devil to get to us when we let our anger control us.
Of course, as I sit here writing this post I think of how I could have expanded the lesson. He got the point, and we had a great talk about how we want to keep from giving the enemy opportunities to climb into our hearts the way that he was able to climb the wall. I wish now, however, that I had then asked him to climb one more time, thinking of examples of specific footholds with each step of the climb. We could have included things like angry words, slamming doors, growling, hitting, etc. as specific footholds. Maybe we will do that soon to reinforce the lesson and address some specific behaviors.
I really want to emphasize here that we are very careful to explain to Aiden that feelings are not specifically bad. Being angry is not sinful God Himself is known to get angry. His is a righteous anger, but it is still anger. Feelings are indicators, and it is important to recognize them as valid and natural. It isn't the feeling that we focus on... it is how that feeling makes us behave. There are healthy ways to deal with even the most negative feelings. This is why we talk a lot about the beginning of verse 26: In your anger, do not sin. It doesn't say "don't get angry." It tells us that when we are angry we need to be careful not to let it cause us to respond in sinful ways.
We have also discussed with him that remaining line of this passage: "Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." This line could lend itself to a whole different lesson, but one thing we have talked about is that while there is a good literal application of this line (making amends before the end of each day) there is also perhaps more to it. We have talked about how Jesus is the Light of the World, and how He lights our path. When we give in to anger to the point that we are driven to rage, we are falling into darkness instead of clinging to the light of Christ. When we let the sun go down and the darkness win, this is a dangerous place to be.
This topic is one that can certainly be heavy and serious. I liked that after we had a good talk we were still at the playground and he was able to run and play for a while. I love when object lessons are further enforced by being tied to an enjoyable experience. A park day is always a bonus!