Darcy’s training pants were wet again. Again!
Marching over to my two-year-old daughter, I directed her into the bathroom. As I struggled to pull down the soaking pants, I felt a rush of frustration and a sense of failure.
“Darcy, you’re supposed to come in the bathroom and go in the potty chair. Why can’t you learn?” I continued to berate her. As I began spanking her with my hand, my tension and tired¬ness found an outlet. Spanking changed to hitting.
Darcy’s uncontrollable screaming brought me back to reason. Seeing the red blister on her bottom, I dropped to my knees.
“How can I act this way?” I sobbed. “I love Jesus. I don’t really want to hurt my child. Oh God, please help me.”
The rest of that day I held my anger in check. The next day started out pleasantly. I watched my happy daughter. /How could I ever be angry with you or want to hurt you?/
But as the day progressed and pressures closed in on me, I became impatient. I looked forward to a few moments of peace while Darcy and two-month-old Mark took their naps.
Telling Darcy to play quietly in her room, I rocked Mark to sleep. Just as I laid him carefully into his crib, Darcy burst into the room shouting, “Mommy, I want to color.”
Mark woke up crying. I grabbed Darcy by the shoulders, shook her, and screamed, “Shut up! Shut up! I want him to go to sleep!”
Both Darcy and Mark cried as I shoved Darcy aside, rushed out of the bedroom, and walked through the house, banging walls, and slamming doors. Only after I kicked a kitchen cupboard and dented it did my anger subside.
As the weeks turned into months, my anger habit worsened. At times I grew so violent that I hit my toddler in the head. Other times I kicked her or slapped her face.
As a Christian for ten years, I was ashamed. /Oh, God/, I prayed over and over again, /please take away my anger/. Yet no matter how much I prayed, I could not control my anger when Darcy didn’t perform according to my desires. I turned into a screaming mother wondering whether I might kill Darcy in one of my next rages. In time, I had to be honest with myself–I was abusing her. “Oh, God, no, I’m a child abuser! Help me!”
I was afraid to tell Larry, my husband. /After all, he’s a policeman. He’s arresting people for the very things I’m doing/. I certainly couldn’t tell my friends, either. What would they think of me? I led a Bible study. I was looked up to as a strong Christian woman. But inside I was screaming for help.
One day I realized Larry had left his off duty service revolver in the bureau drawer. Convinced God no longer loved me and had given up on me, I concluded suicide was the only answer. Then I wouldn’t hurt Darcy any more. But then the thought sprang into my mind. “But if people hear a Christian like me committed suicide, what will they think of Jesus?” I couldn’t bear the thought that Jesus’ name would be maligned, even if I wasn’t acting much like a Christian.
Even though suicide was no longer an option, I didn’t have any hope. /God doesn’t answer my prayers for an instantaneous deliverance of my anger, so He must not care/. I was in a pit of despair and depression.
One day, I shared briefly with a neighbor friend about my anger. She didn’t condemn me like another friend had when I’d tried to share my pain. She even indicated she felt angry towards her children too. /Oh, Lord, maybe there’s hope for me after all/, I cried out when I left her house that day.
From that point on, God seemed to break through my despair and little by little revealed the underlying causes and the solutions for my anger. And there were many. I had to learn how to identify my anger before it became destructive. I forced myself to believe God wanted to forgive me-over and over again. Reading books about disciplining children effectively, I became more consistent in responding calmly to Darcy’s disobedience. She became better behaved.
I also copied verses like Ephesians 4:31 and Proverbs 10:12 onto cards, placing them in various locations throughout the house. As I took Darcy into the bathroom, I would be reminded that “Hatred stirreth up strife; but love covereth all sins” (Proverbs 10:12). These verses helped to break my cycle of anger.
Eventually, I had the courage to share my problem with my Bible study group. James 5:16 admonishes us to “admit your faults to one an¬other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” They prayed for me and their prayers indeed had “wonderful results.”
Through a difficult process of growth of over a year, God’s Holy Spirit empowered me to be the loving, patient mother to Darcy that I wanted to be. I learned many principles during that time that I now share in the parenting books I’ve written like /When Counting to Ten Isn’t Enough/ (Xulon Press). I also teach parenting seminars.
I’m thankful to the Lord for healing the relationship between Darcy and me. A beautiful 33-year-old, Darcy has for¬given me for the way I treated her and we share a close relationship
Although I wondered during that unhappy time of my life whether God could ever forgive me for the horrible things I’d done, I know now that He has. As Psalm 40:1-3 says, He pulled me up out of my pit of destruction and set me on the solid rock of Jesus.
Kathy Collard Miller (www.KathyCollardMiller.com) is a popular women’s retreat speaker and the author of 49 books including /Women of the Bible: the Smart Guide to the Bible (Thomas Nelson).