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Christian Parenting Tips: Teach Your Kids to Control Emotions

There's one item on my list of Christian parenting tips that you will want to put into practice as early as possible: Teach your kids to control their emotions.

Here's a story that illustrates the point:

Three men were walking on a wall — Feeling, Faith, and Fact.

When Feeling got an awful fall, then Faith was taken back.

So close was Faith to Feeling, that he stumbled and fell too.

But Fact remained and pulled Faith back, and Faith brought Feeling too.[1]

Because uncontrolled emotions can pull one’s faith down and wreak havoc in one’s life, it is critically important that we as parents help our children come to grips with their emotions and keep them in proper perspective. This can be a daunting task — and it can take a long time — but with consistent effort, you will see results.

Learning Self-Control

A Principle to Remember: Instead of being controlled by our feelings, God wants us to learn self-control over them.

Biblical Basis: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control” (Proverbs 29:11).

As one reads through the book of Proverbs one gets the distinct feeling that Solomon has personally experienced agonizing depressions as well as ecstatic joys in his life. Through it all, God imparted tremendous wisdom to him regarding the emotional makeup of man.

Solomon sought to pass this wisdom on to his “son.” His goal was to insure that this “son” would learn that insofar as emotions are concerned, wisdom urges self-control (Proverbs 29:11).

~ Shortcut to Understanding ~

Sheryl Bruinsma has come up with a great way of talking to a child about self-control over emotions. (Have a thermometer on-hand for this illustration.)

Can you tell me what this is? It takes your temperature. It is called a thermometer. When would your mother or a doctor use a real thermometer with you? When they think you are sick.

If your temperature is too high, you have a fever. How can this thermometer tell if you have a fever? There are numbers on the side that say what your temperature is. Does anyone know what your body temperature should be? About 98.6 is normal....If you have a fever, you might run a slight temperature of 99 or 100. If it gets to 101, 102, or 103, it gets more serious, and something needs to be done about it. If it gets over 104, it is very serious. You are very sick.

You have an emotional temperature also. Emotions are your feelings. If you are feeling calm and happy, you do not have an emotional fever. You might get a slight case of irritation or get mad about something for a minute or two and then get over it. You might cry about something and then it is all right again. That happens.

If, however, you get very angry, and your emotional temperature continues to build, that’s not good. You don’t want to let your emotional temperature climb and climb. You need to do something to get it lowered. You need to talk about what’s making you feel bad. You need to solve the problem. You need to get your feelings under control. If you let your emotions get hotter and hotter, you might explode and do or say something you will regret. Just like a fever of 104 or more, an emotional fever is dangerous.[2]

Solomon provides us with numerous gems of insight regarding the types of things that give rise to different kinds of emotions. Talk to your child about some of these points.

• Those who make a habit of living in righteousness typically enjoy a life characterized by joy and gladness (Proverbs 10:28; 29:6).

• Those who promote peace have joy in their lives (Proverbs 12:20).

• A key to contentment is maintaining a continual reverence for God (Proverbs 19:23).

• Jealousy can virtually consume a person and, if unchecked, can lead him or her to get out of control (Proverbs 6:34-35, 27:4).

As you share these insights with your child, try to provide real-life examples that illustrate them.

[1] Bible Illustrations for Preaching, electronic media, Hypercard database, 1991 by Michael Green.

[2] Sheryl Bruinsma, Object Lessons Using Children’s Toys (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), p. 62.

— Dr. Ron Rhodes

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