May 19, 2021
By Julia Van Huizen
We have a joke in our family. It surrounds an incident that happened years ago, when I was a young mom, flustered at my three-year-old for his poor behaviour and his seeming cheekiness to me. He wasn’t listening to me. And I was mad.
So, I spanked him.
And he giggled.
So I spanked him a bit harder.
And he giggled again.
And, then, I took my anger out on my son’s bottom, spanking him so hard, I left a red hand mark on his bum.
Shocked, he looked up at me, and with tear-filled eyes said, “Mommy, you hurt my body!”
And indeed I had.
But I hurt more than his body that day. I hurt his heart. And my heart hurt, too. Because I felt awful afterward—guilty, ashamed—and like a horrible mother. I called up my husband minutes after I had “spanked out of spite,” and cried out my guilt and remorse.
We laugh about it today… the saying that my son used: “Mommy, you hurt my body!” But it wasn’t a laughing matter at the time, and it’s certainly not a laughing matter for many moms and dads who struggle to keep their anger in check amidst the day in and day out of parenting.
Author and fellow Dad, Chap Bettis, says in the Family Life Today podcast “Evaluating our Anger as a Parent” that “The home is the hardest place to live out the gospel.” And isn’t that true? Before having kids, you may have never thought yourself as an angry person. But, after kids? You wonder where all this anger was hiding!
Bettis says much of our anger comes from having desires: desires for our kids to obey, desire for peace in the house, etc, and feeling a “right” to have those desires. He says that some of these desires are good, but that it’s important to express those desires in constructive ways, not destructive.
These days, whenever I feel the inclination to lash out at my kids in anger, I take a deep breath. Sometimes I count to ten. Twenty if I have to. Because I never want to leave a negative mark on my kids’ bottoms again.. and I certainly don’t want to leave a negative mark on their hearts.