Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Pitchin’ a Fit, Day 3

Leslie Basham: Have you ever excused sin because you were angry? Here’s Brook Wayne. 

Brook Wayne: I think patience—and anger—is an issue where we have kind of succumbed to the enemy’s lie that it can’t be overcome, that you just can’t get over it, that it’s just who you are,  it’s in your heritage, or you grew up in a home with yelling or you’re just a loud family. But the truth is, God can help every single one of us—no matter what our background, no matter what our patterns are at the present—to overcome this issue of anger.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of A Place of Quiet Rest, for Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I have to acknowledge when I first saw this book, Pitchin’ a Fit! Overcoming Angry and Stressed-Out Parenting, I wasn’t sure how much I would relate to this topic. I’m not parenting in this season. I’ve never had children of my own, so I’m thinking, This is a good book probably for a lot of other people.

But the more I got into it, the more I realized there were things that I needed to hear! We all deal with stress; we all deal with temptations toward varying degrees of anger and varying expressions of it, so I’m really thankful to have been reading this book myself.

And I’m thankful I know the authors, Israel and Brook Wayne, who are here with us in the studio today to help unpack some of this topic. So don’t go away! If you’re a parent, I know you don’t want to go away, because you’re dealing with this.

No matter what your season of life, there’s something here for you—and for me—and for us today. So Israel and Brook, thanks for joining us here on Day Three of this series on overcoming angry and stressed-out parenting. Thank you for being so open honest about your own journey, and helping us as we’re on ours.

Brook: Thank you, Nancy.

Israel Wayne: Thank you for inviting us. We’ve enjoyed being with you.

Nancy: Again, if you’ve missed the two previous programs, you’ll want to go to ReviveOurHearts.com and follow those. You can read the transcript there, word-for-word, but I’d encourage you, if you can, to actually listen. These are two great storytellers.

We heard a powerful testimony in the last program about a really broken, dysfunctional angry past upbringing, and about how the Lord rescued and redeemed Israel, and is allowing him and Brook, now, to start a whole new family line for God’s glory. You don’t want to miss that!

Brook, you tell a story early on that, I think, Who can’t relate to this?—about Sunday morning on the way to church. My guess is, similar things to this have happened more than once. But you found yourself being pushed and some anger being triggered. Can you replay that story for us?

Brook: Yes. Sunday mornings are difficult for everybody, right? But, I have nine children, so you can imagine the stress that goes into getting ready on a Sunday morning. Somebody’s always missing their belt, their shoes, or their hair’s not done—or something!

As a mom, I’m wanting to have my family be picture-perfect every Sunday. So I’m trying to get everybody ready, I’m trying to get out the door on time. Here we are, running five or ten minutes late, and I’m starting to get stressed.

We pile in our big van, which looks like a bus, and in go the children, in go the diaper bags, in go the shoes that somebody had pulled out at the last minute (they’re dragging them along, and they’re ugly old tennis shoes). Then there’s the crockpot.

Our church had a potluck every Sunday, and I had taken a crockpot full of—I don’t what—some sort of delicious casserole. We pile in. I’m trying to fix the girls’ hair that didn’t get done; I’m noticing that one child’s tights have a hole in them—which of course brings me a great deal of embarrassment.

We’re traveling on down the road, and these two little boys in the backseat are fighting with each other. We go around a curve and that whole crockpot (I have large crockpot), all its contents go spilling all over the carpet. I’m just about to break down in tears at this moment.

So we’re shoving everything back in the crockpot as best we can (of course we didn’t take it in! Don’t worry). And I’m just thinking, My life is so miserable at this moment! I am so stressed about all of this! I am so uptight! I don’t even want to go hear a sermon at this point. I knew this was not a right attitude, so I just stared out the window. I ignored those girls’ hair that never got done. I ignored the hole in the tights that was driving me nuts.

And it kind of occurred to me: This is not why God came—to give me this Pinterest-perfect life. I’m not supposed to take all my identity, all of my joy, from having everything right, from having all my children look decent on Sunday morning (as much as I might like that!).  But, not having everything perfect in my life. 

The real point here is that God came to save me from sins—like this anger that’s bristling in my heart—and I need to get my focus off of these very small temporary things and onto the Lord Jesus.

Nancy: It’s amazing how it all added up to something that felt enormous. When you take each individual piece, they are kind of insignificant things in and of themselves. But isn’t that the way that tension and stress and anger sometimes build up in our homes and our hearts?

It’s not one huge thing (I mean, sometimes there are huge things), but often in the daily-ness, it’s just a whole series of things. I found this happening in my own heart the other day. There were just a series of technology issues and challenges and things that didn’t go the way I had planned or the way I had scripted. 

And it’s interesting for me in those moments, I could feel—I don’t know if I would have called it anger, but—there was irritation rising up in me. I don’t even have children at home, so you don’t have to be a parent to have this happen.

I realized, “I’m wanting to have a world where everything goes the way I say it should go, the way I want it to go.” And if I’m not in charge, if I’m losing control, then I’m going to be grasping and trying to pull it all back in.

And some of this—you’re right, Brook—is concern about how we appear to others, the fear of what others will think if our world doesn’t look all put together. These things can really add up, and then we realize we have reacted in a way that’s totally out of proportion to the offense.

Brook: I’m kind of giving my children at that moment (and everybody else who’s observing) that I’m only happy if my kitchen floor is cleaned, or I’m only happy if things are looking very nice and in tidy order, and I’m organized. That’s not what life is truly about.

Nancy: And the impact, then, on the children is significant. Israel, what happens in children’s hearts if they’re living in this atmosphere where parents are reactionary and controlling and freaking out with the combination of little things adding up?

Israel: Well, you mentioned the word “control.” Sometimes there are so many things in our life that are out of our control: we can’t control traffic. Sometimes we can’t control our technology breaking down on us and failing us in important moments. We can’t control family dynamics with extended family. We can’t control our financial situation sometimes or a health report we may get from a doctor that frightens us. So what parents tend to do sometimes (even married couples do this as well), we try to exert control in an area where we feel like we have some. And that may be with our children.

Nancy: Right!

Israel: And that may be with our children. Since there’s all this chaos going on around us that we just don’t have any control over, we tend to take our frustrations on these innocent little people who are in proximity, that we feel like we can control. The effect on them is phenomenally devastating!

One of the things that I think about is a passage in Ephesians that speaks to fathers: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath.”  Anger is something that’s transferrable, and it’s very easy for us to provoke them to anger through our own anger. 

Then it says, “But train them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (see 6:4). And that word there that’s used for “nurture” in the Greek is nouthesia. It’s the word from which we get “nouthetic” counseling, or biblical counseling.

So you think about what a father is supposed to do instead of making his child angry and provoking him to wrath. He’s supposed to do and fulfill the role of what a biblical counselor would do with a client—and that would be to meet that person’s emotional needs.

Sometimes that does involve correction, but it also means being a safe place for them, and being a place of support. So that anger is supposed to be replaced—according the Scripture—with nurture.

Nancy: If you’re going to deal with the anger in your children’s hearts—not provoking them to be angry—it seems like that means starting with the anger in your own heart. One of the things that I appreciate that you talk about is being aware of things that can trigger anger.

Now, some of those things you have no control over, but there can be some things in your home that create an atmosphere and a climate more conducive to peaceful existence, rather than anger. So talk about some of those triggers. Brook, as a mom or Israel, as a dad or as parent what are the triggers that you want to deal with, if you can, in your home.

Brook: Yes, there are things—as you said—that happen, and we can’t have any control. But some things we can control. When I first started thinking this through I was on my third cup of coffee! I was kind of getting a little bit antsy and a little bit irritated. I realized, “You know, I might be doing this to myself. I am on my third cup of coffee in the morning. I can quit this. This is something I can change. I can cut back on my coffee so that I’m not feeling irritated and—therefore—more prone to bring that out on my children.”

So I started looking at other triggers in my life, and started realizing that, just, my perfectionism. My desire to have the picture-perfect house was a trigger for me. If things didn’t go well, if the baby had a messy diaper that got all over and interrupted my perfect schedule.

I had to realize that, sometimes I need to be willing to just go with the flow and still serve under imperfect circumstances. One of the triggers that has been huge for myself was actually something I had done to myself. I call it “negative self-talk.

Basically, it came from a time when I was about thirteen years old. Whenever I would make a mistake, even if it was very small, I would kind of mentally beat myself up and say, “Oh, Brook! I can’t believe you did that!”

As it progressed, in my mind (never outwardly, but in my mind) I became more harsh on myself. If ever anything was not just so and I hadn’t lived up to my own ideals, if I’d made a mistake, I just beat myself up mentally, verbally in my mind.

It probably wasn’t until I heard somebody say that what you do, or how you speak to yourself in your mind, will come out eventually to those around you. That made such a difference in my life.

I realized that was happening. How I spoke to myself when I would drop a dish—or any little thing—was how I was prepping and practicing. I was going over and over how to speak it to myself. So when my child dropped a dish, those words came out in harshness, way over-the-top for the situation. That was a big trigger for me.

Nancy: Interesting. So how did you replace that?

Brook: I had to back up and say, “For the sake of my family, I need to stop talking to myself this way—not because I’m so great (I might even deserve that), but in Christ I am His creature. I need to stop saying all these harsh things to myself so that I don’t say them to my children.”

Saying, “I am wrong,” was a part of that. “I am wrong to do this,” helped so much.

Nancy: So you’re really counseling your heart according to what is true. Then you're letting what comes out to your children be things that are worthy of praise and admiration and the things that we’re told in Philippians 4 to think about and talk about. 

This doesn’t mean that you don’t ever have honest conversations about things that need to be changed or fixed, but you’re doing it from a godly and biblical point of view, not from your own emotional overreaction to something. 

I think for all of these areas, if we don’t nip them in the bud and deal with them at the thought level, then they become bigger thoughts. Bigger thoughts come out in words. And more words come out in louder words. And then we get to this subject of yelling.

Now, I know nobody listening to us today probably ever yells at their kids, right? Wrong! A lot of homes have, I think, just a lot of relationships (you see this a lot on TV and in movies) where you see a freedom to be explosive. We see a lot of it in the culture and it makes it seem like it’s more normal or more okay.

Israel, is it okay just to let things out? What are the implications of that?

Israel: I think the implications vary, obviously, depending on the habitual nature of it. There has probably been a point in every parent’s life where they had a bad day and yelled at their child. I don’t think those moments—if they’re isolated—tend to be tremendously devastating in a young person’s life over the course of time.

But, when this is the habit, when this is pattern, when this is the lifestyle, it has a very definite deteriorating effect on relationship, and it demoralizes the child. We all want to have influence with our children; we all want to be able to encourage them and inspire them, but unfortunately, what we tend to do, sometimes with our words, is that we tear them down.

Jesus talks about how it’s out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks. And so, when we find ourselves speaking words that we’re not proud of, boy, that’s a really good time to go back to Christ in prayer and say, “You know what? This is on the inside of me. This is not something separate from me that I’m doing. This is an expression of me on the inside. I don’t like it, and it’s not okay! I need You to change me. I need You to fundamentally deal with my heart so that I don’t despise my children!”

You know, there are so many parents whom I hear say, “I don’t like my children.” That’s a condition of the heart. Maybe you can’t snap your fingers and just decide to like your children, but Christ can do a work in you to change your heart.

Nancy: I wonder if some of this is set up by ignoring training issues. I’ve watched this in some families, and it’s almost as if the children are trained not to listen, not to pay attention, not to obey until the parent escalates and has had it—now we’ve got anger there. Are there some ways to avoid getting to that point of intensity?

Brook: There sure are. A lot of times I think, as moms, we act like, “Well, they’re not hearing me, so I’ll say it louder. They’re not obeying, so I’ll just say it louder.” It’s not an issue of volume. It’s an issue of, have we trained them in just the quiet simple moments to come when they’re called, or to follow the mom and dad’s lead?

A lot of times we take that emotion of anger when it crops up, or when we see a child being disobedient. We say, “Okay, we’re going to apply anger to this to try to get them to obey.” And sometimes there’s actually a little bit of fruit. Like, here’s the mom yelling and that child knows, “Oh, this means number ten!” Then they’ll come running very quickly.

So it seems like it has worked, temporarily. And yet, through the long process, all they have done is sown seeds. That emotion of anger could be applied to other emotions as well, like fear. 

It needs to come to a point of saying, “Oh! This is an alert to me as a parent. I need to examine the training that needs to take place to overcome this disobedience that is happening.”

Israel: One of the things that we like to say is, if you find yourself yelling at your children, or you find yourself repeating yourself frequently (where you say, “I’m telling you for the third time . . .!”), that should be a red flag to you as a parent that you do not respect your own words.

If you as a parent do not respect your own words, why would you expect your child to respect your words? What the child knows is, they don’t have to act until a consequence is applied—until there’s some sort of negative action that they don’t like.

When that negative action is applied, then all the sudden they get motivated! So when the parent hits that certain decibel level or begins to get up out of their chair (or whatever it is), the child is in tune to that.

They’ve got you figured out. They can read you like a movie. They know exactly when that moment is: “Okay, now I need to obey!” And they’ll say that, “Oh, okay, I’m putting it away. I’m doing it, mom. Look, I’m doing it!”

What you are doing is, you’re basically allowing them to train you to yell. You don’t have to yell; you don’t have to repeat. What you have to do is you have to have predictable boundaries—that the child knows where the boundaries are. You have to have predictable, known consequences for what will happen when the child crosses those boundaries, and then you have to have absolutely consistent follow-through.

And if you do that: you have predictable boundaries, predictable consequences, and consistent follow-through, you don’t have to do the hysterics, you don’t have to do the drama. The child will learn how to obey.

It really cuts down on the chaos, it cuts down on the frustration, it cuts down on the yelling if you learn that your words mean something to you and they should mean something to the child!

Nancy: Okay, so that sounds like really good “theory” parenting training. Show us what that might look in the Wayne household. You have children, nine of them, from sixteen down to a nine-month-old baby, at various stages of learning, responsiveness, and obedience.

But with one of your little ones—or older ones—what might that look like?

Israel: We had a child just yesterday who was playing with some Legos on the floor. I told them they needed to put the Legos away, and they needed to follow me into a different assignment. They continued to sit there and play with the Legos and just acted as though they didn’t hear me.

So I called them over and asked, “Why did you not put the Legos away when I asked you to?”

And they said, “Because I didn’t want to.” It was very clear that this was a defiance issue. They weren’t screaming, they weren’t yelling, but they had an agenda; they had a desire.

So what I have to do as a parent is, I have to implement discipline in such a way that makes that be something they don’t want to do next time. People have different methods or approaches—maybe we’ll put the Legos away and they won’t have Legos for a week—or whatever the consequence is.

But it needs to be that they know that there’s not a second and third chance on these situations. When they have crossed the known boundary, there will be application of that consequence the first time.

When you do that over time, they just realize that it’s not to their advantage to continue to defy you.

Nancy: Then things don’t have to escalate to the screaming and yelling. In a sense, when you do get to that point, you feel that the children are the ones who are really controlling the temperature, the parents, the situation. Then the child becomes the enemy, and it’s a battle of the wills. At some point, as a parent, you start acting like a child!

Brook: Yes, it’s so true. I think sometimes we act like our children are these creatures who come up with all these bizarre temper tantrums and so forth. If we looked in the mirror, sometimes, we might see that they actually learned it from us.

Nancy: So, Brook, speak to the woman—the mom—who’s thinking, I just don’t have patience! These kids step on every last nerve I have; they push my buttons; they’re triggering me all day long!

“I’m tired when I get home from work, and then I’ve got all these kids underfoot . . .”—you can just imagine many different types of circumstances. A mom is saying, “I just don’t have patience!” Is there hope for that woman?

Brook: There sure is! One of my favorite verses is in the Psalms. Psalm 118:15, where Scripture talks about “shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous.” And then the passage goes on to say that God’s mighty hand has done this.

I think patience—and anger—is an issue where we have kind of succumbed to the enemy’s lie that it can’t be overcome, that you just can’t get over it. It’s just who you are. It’s in your heritage, or you grew up in a home with yelling, or you’re just a loud family. But the truth is, God can help every single one of us—no matter what our background, no matter what our patterns are at the present—to overcome this issue of anger.

As we talked about in a different session, sometimes He does that all at once. But sometimes it’s a slow, painful process where we need to say, “No, this is wrong.” There are a lot of little gimmicks that parents sometimes do: “Okay, every time I’m angry, I’m going to go into another room, and I’m going to sing a hymn.”

That might work for some folks. For me, it was a steady process of repenting—and not just to the Lord, but to my children. Every time I spoke harshly, every time that I raised my voice or just spoke and I knew it was anger coming out toward them, I spoke those words of truth to my children: “I was wrong!”

That’s such a humbling process to do, and yet, they know you’re wrong. It’s no surprise to them. So don’t think like, “Oh, they’re not even going to know if I just kind of slide out of this and get on with my day.” Your kids know, and they need to hear you say the truth.

I think those are the first steps: we need to walk in humility with our family and to the Lord. Then we look to the Lord to fill us with patience. I used to think of anger as something on a sliding scale, like, if you’re a five, you’re doing okay, and if you are really starting to lose it, you might getting down to a three. If you’re really very patient, you might be a might be a seven, eight, or even a nine.

And I always wondered, What happens if you sli-i-ide down that slippery slope on the scale and you get down to zero. What happens? Do you just blow up? I began to realize that you either have patience, or you don’t.

You have this fruit of the Spirit that Galatians talks about. (see Gal. 5:22–23). You have what He’s cultivating in you, or you don’t. The way to get it is not to try harder or to tie yourself in knots or do these little gimmicks we like to impose on ourselves.

The thing to do is, turn back and say, “Lord, I repent of this. I was wrong. I need the fellowship of your Holy Spirit to work inside of me.”

Israel: In Galatians chapter 5, where we have the parallels of the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh, anger shows up in the works of the flesh column. The fruit of the Spirit is love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and meekness and goodness and self-control. That’s what looks it like when the Spirit is living in and through us.

The key, pivotal verse in there is verse 16, which says, if you walk according to the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. So the way you overcome anger is not to wake up on Monday morning and say, “Okay, I’m going to try real hard. I’m going to stop being an angry person.” 

You will fail in the same way that you’ve failed every other time you’ve tried that. The way you stop being angry is to allow the Holy Spirit to saturate your life in such a way that you are renewed by His nature.

In John 15:5, Jesus talks about the vine. He says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” What kind of fruit? Galatians 5 “fruit of the Spirit” fruit. You don’t bear that fruit because you try really hard to bear fruit. It’s being attached to Jesus—that’s what produces the fruit!

Nancy: Wow. I want to just take a moment to pray for our listeners, many of whom are just hearing these words, and they’re hearing them as hope that it could be different—but not in their own striving, not in their own effort, not in their own righteousness, but in the righteousness of Christ.

And so, Lord, we turn to You, each of us with our own battles, our own temptations, our own propensity to blow it in different areas. In thinking particularly of this issue of anger in our marriages and in our homes. Lord, I want to ask on behalf of every family represented by every listener today. Would you send an infusion of Your Holy Spirit, Your grace, Your peace, Your power, Your light, Your life? We humble ourselves. We say, “We need You!” If you leave us to ourselves, we are going to blow it every time.

But You haven’t left us to ourselves! And thank You for the hope that we’ve heard expressed here today. I just pray that You would show each of us how to reach out to You for that grace, how to repent, how to preach the gospel to ourselves, how to let You change us from the inside out by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Oh, Lord, would You do that work? Would You be infusing grace into hungry, humble hearts right now?

And when we blow it again—which we will—help us to know where to turn: not to Mt. Sinai, where the law was given, but to Mt. Calvary where Jesus shed His blood for sinners like us.

Give us Your grace, O Lord. Change us. Change our homes for Your sake, that others may see how powerful You are. We pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: That’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She’s been talking with Israel and Brook Wayne about how our parenting can be marked by grace and not by anger. Maybe the temperature in your home gets too hot too fast.

Maybe hearing this program is an opportunity to say, “It’s going to change. I’m not going to be ruled by anger.” Israel and Brook have written a book to help you make that kind of change. It’s called Pitchin’ a Fit!: Overcoming Angry and Stressed-Out Parenting. It will show you how to get to the heart of issues without blowing your cool.

We’d like to send you a copy when you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Ask for the book Pitchin’ A Fit! when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue exploring how to parent out of love and not out of anger. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth shows you practical ways of living out the gospel. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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