By Sarah Evans
We all feel frustrated from time to time.
Merriam-Webster (2015) defines Frustration as the following:
‘A deep chronic sense of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs’.
Life is full of challenges that come our way, and sometimes these challenges appear to be too big for us to overcome and we begin to panic (and feel frustrated). The interesting word here is ‘appear’ because while we trust in our limited understanding we are unable to see clearly, and so often do or say things that we do not mean, and that we will later regret.
But as soon as we realise that God is in control, and that ‘in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Romans 8:37), we begin to settle down, recognise our need for His forgiveness and place our trust in Him.
Think about a time when you had a ‘bad’ day at work or at home. Something did not go your way, and anxiety and frustration entered your heart. Your joy and peace were both stolen from you. Who did you end up taking out your frustration on? Did you yell at your spouse, for something insignificant? Maybe you started screaming at your children for no apparent reason. Or perhaps you took out your anger on your dog!
Either way, we all have the tendency to find an outlet for our feelings of frustration. And most of us take our frustration out on those who are closest to us; on those we love. And children do the same. God’s word tells us:
‘In your anger do not sin’ (Psalm 4:4)
And so our job as a parent is to be a good role model for our children, in helping them express their anger without committing a sin. We need to ask God for His help when we experience frustration, and help lead our children to Christ during their own time of need.
There are many times when our children come in from school, and they are in a ‘bad’ mood. They start whining and maybe even yell at us, and all we did was ask them about their day. Often we become so destabilized by their lack of respect for us that we begin to argue back and lecture them on the importance of showing us the respect we deserve. In doing this, we miss the point.
They are not angry with us! They have had a frustrating day at school, and so they are taking this frustration out on us because we are the ones who love them the most.
Last year, I had the privilege to listen to a learned lady who was teaching professionals on better managing students who have severe behavior problems. She opened my eyes about this subject. She explained that when a child returns at the end of his or her day, there is a lot of ‘pent-up’ frustration that they bring with them. She also explained that often this frustration will ‘tumble’ out once they enter the home, and will often be expressed in an inappropriate manner (yelling, screaming, rude and insulting words like “I hate you”, “leave me alone”, “you don’t care anyway” etc…). And so in this case, the parent is not the cause of the frustration but merely the buffer, to help them release what they have been bottling up all day.
She also explained that if a child does this, it essentially means that they feel ‘safe’ with their parent because they know that no matter what they say or do, their parent will not reject them.
However, children who live with abuse or neglect do not feel ‘safe’ in their homes to express their feelings of frustration, and so often release their feelings with other significant ‘safe’ adults, for example, with a teacher in school.
So the good news is that if your child takes out their frustration on you, it is because they feel safe enough to do so! However, it does not excuse their inappropriate and sinful behavior. But by understanding that there is more going on than meets the eye, we can show more compassion and understanding, and help them make better choices in the future.
Next time, I will give some tips on how to better help guide our children through times of frustration, in learning to express their feelings without doing or saying things that they will later regret. And how we can help our children to take their cares to Jesus.