By Peggy Ployhar

Anger has a way of catching us off guard when we don’t understand what causes it, and what decreases our ability to handle it appropriately. Therefore, the second article in my series on Parenting Anger, I will be sharing typical causes and conditions for angry parent episodes, especially for special-needs parents. 

My hope is that this information will help you better understand yourself, where you can easily get tripped up, and what factors in your life can make it harder to deal with your anger appropriately.

Anger is Common and Not Sinful

Personally, I gauge sin based on God’s word. So, during the height of my parenting anger struggle, I found the following verse from Ephesians encouraging, while at the same time completely confusing and discouraging.

Be angry, and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26-27

I had the “be angry” part down pat but getting beyond my anger without sin seemed like an impossible task…especially if my anger had to be dealt with before the sun went down each day.

What time and study eventually revealed to me was I had little understanding of my human condition and what caused me to get angry. But, as I gained understanding, I found a greater ability to make peace with my tendency to get angry instead of always wishing it wasn’t there.

Typical Causes of Anger

All This for Nothing
Parenting can sometimes feel like lots of work that gets you nowhere. Laundry and dishes pile up and fill machines just as fast as you empty them. And, if you’re homeschooling a struggling learner, your efforts in that department can often feel stagnant too. Lack of progression can make your fuse very short, and this frustration can lead to anger.

Life is Not Fair
Unless you live in a bubble, avoid social media, and keep your acquaintances to only people whose lives and circumstances are nearly identical to yours, the comparison trap can be a cruel nemesis. This can be particularly true for a parent of a special needs child. When a child demands more time, attention, and energy, than a typical child their age, a parent can look around and find lots of things that just don’t seem fair. This lack of perceived fairness can cause resentment, which can lead to anger.

I’m Under Attack
Have you ever felt the whole world is against you? It can seem the entirety of the world’s problems have fallen on your doorstep and you don’t have enough within you to even start shoveling your way out of the mess. The daunting pile of therapy visits, medical paperwork, eating protocols, insurance requests, sensory-overloading places your child can’t handle, and all the other things a parent of a special needs child juggles on a typical day can make life seem like a war zone. A parent who lives amidst these attacks can start to live defensively, which can turn everything else in life into something that leads to anger.

If Only
We are not talking about dream vacations or winning the lottery, but being able to use the bathroom alone, or going out in public without your child having a meltdown and everyone looking at you like you are the worst parent on the planet. These deviations from our desired lifestyle can be downright defeating. As you constantly see the life you wish you had slipping from your hands, it’s hard to get back into the game and stay positive. Parents who feel constantly kicked down by life struggle to see anything positive about their child or life in general and this rejection can lead to anger.

Ouch, That Hurts
It’s not enjoyable to be in pain. The fact is, that stepping on a Lego can be just as painful as breaking a bone. Pain is something we try avoiding at all costs, but it is unavoidable in life. Whether you or your child deal with a chronic illness that causes pain, or your child acts out physically and you get caught in the crossfire, physical pain can be elevated in a family with a special needs child, which can lead to anger. 

Circumstances Elevate Anger

Not getting enough rest, exercise, sunlight, or eating a poor diet is enough to easily make life more difficult to handle. Add in larger health issues, sensory sensitivities, and food intolerances and the body’s ability to regulate anger can be greatly diminished.

Living Conditions
Some people don’t mind excessive clutter, noise, or bright lights, but if your living conditions create the constant sensation of “nails on the chalkboard,” then your ability to mentally focus to diminish greatly your ability to regulate anger.

Financial worries can easily undermine anyone’s ability to handle life in a rational manner. Worry can consume your thoughts, drain your energy, and keep you from sleeping at night which clouds your judgment and your ability to regulate your anger.

Spiritual Unrest
Anxiety, fear, mistrust, judgement, unhappiness, hate, and unforgiveness leave us in a state of unrest because we take things upon ourselves that were only meant for God to handle. When we load ourselves up with these burdens, we are unable to carry smaller burdens and they get blown out of proportion. When this happens, anger flares.

Relationship Issues
Relationships can bring great joy, but they can also bring tremendous sorrow. If we have a compromised relationship, we can start to second guess our other relationships, blame ourselves for past relational blunders, and attempt to close ourselves off from life. But when we withdraw from people we also lose our support network and sounding boards. We can be angered about things our friends would have told us not to stress about.

I hope these scenarios I have shared with you have opened your eyes to what may cause anger to rear up in your life. In my next article I will be sharing about the parenting anger escape door God showed me and how it opened my eyes to how God can use anger as a tool for our good, and the good of our children.

Until then, God bless.