Over the past couple of months, as we work with at-risk children in the after school program, one word comes to mind over and over: Anger. I have been wondering, “Why are these kids so angry?” and . . .
- What causes the moments anger?
- What sustains the anger?
- What will end the anger?
The Moments of Anger
As a generality, there seems to be so much anger in their lives. It is shown in a number of ways:
- They get frustrated when they are told “no” and don’t get their way.
- They yell and fight back when they are bothered. (And “bothered” can mean anything from touched, to spoken to, or to looked at.)
- They get mad when their peers do wrong and get away with it (or at least appear to get away with it).
- They get mad when others do wrong and they all suffer for it.
These are times when the anger is manifested, but I know that these stimuli (being told “no,” bothered, etc) are not the root causes. The anger is rooted in bigger circumstances than what that moment brings.
Bigger Issues Sustain the Anger
There are bigger situations in their lives than what happens in the after school program. When you look at their surrounding environment — school struggles, family dynamics, scarcity of resources, and more — it’s no wonder they exhibit anger. They have a lot to be angry about.
Sometimes (like with one 8-year-old girl who was being grumpy one day last week) they’ll tell me, “I’m just having a bad day.” I have no idea what it was about, but I believe it.
Even more, their anger is rooted in their hearts. We can help them manage their behavior, but ultimately, they have a heart issue. Their outward actions and words are the fruits of their heart conditions — hearts that fail to worship and trust in the Savior.
What Can End the Anger?
From a practical level, we can teach the children some basic life skills and thoughts, that can help them manage their anger. These children need to learn to:
- Submit to authority;
- Trust in the authorities above them;
- Be concerned about their own short-comings, instead of pointing out others’ faults;
- Know that nobody is perfect — not them, not others, not the leaders.
But we have to go deeper than this. These are great coping strategies, but they don’t address the heart. We need to teach these principles, but our ultimate purpose in Allendale is bigger than this.
What they really need? They need us to give them a hope.
They need a hope that their lives can get better. They need a hope for success. They need hope that the things that make them angry can be overcome.
Mostly, they need hope that there is a God who can redeem the circumstances in their lives.
Because when it comes to the conflict between Angry Kids and a Gracious God, you know who will win every time.
image courtesy of Varavas via sxc.hu