5 Hidden Reasons Children Lash Out At Their Parents

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One of the most popular posts of all time on Women Abiding has been 5 Surprising Reasons Wives Lash Out At Their Husbands. I personally have been guilty of every one of the reasons mentioned, and by identifying the causes of my irritability, God has helped me tremendously to lessen the occasions of behaving in this way towards my beloved husband.

In place of lashing out, I have found that choosing to serve, love, be gracious and gentle with him has yielded far greater results, and an indescribably better atmosphere of peace and joy in our home.

I thought it may be helpful to delve into 5 Hidden Reasons Children Lash Out At Their Parents.

5-hidden-reasons-children-lash-out-at-their-parents-women-abiding Now, I write this with a little fear of what you may think of me. Since I know full well that a family with two believing parents, and at least some believing children, are not supposed to have episodes where children lash out at their parents. To do so would be disrespectful, dishonouring, and at the end of the day unacceptable. However, having said that, our children are little sinners, saved or not, and until they learn how to handle certain situations, come under the control of the Holy Spirit, and choose holy in place of, well… horrible reactions, lashing out is what we may sometimes expect.

The thing is that just as it helps you as a wife to be able to identify the real reasons that trigger your own lashing out to your husband, and thereby either avoiding or working on those areas, it would likewise be an infinite help to be able to identify the causes for your children lashing out, too – for the sole purpose of helping to avoid the conditions that may lead them into unnecessary sin. Let’s face it, they have enough sin in their lives to deal with, and so why not come alongside and lessen some of those temptations for them.

1. You guessed it… Hunger

This is the most obvious reason. Our children can simply not go without food for as long as we can, and their capacity to be self-controlled under ‘starvation’ is pretty impossible. I have advised several young moms over the years who have asked me for advice on how to deal with their children’s tantrums to make sure that they never get to the point where they are super hungry! And it has helped. I am no genius for coming up with this epiphany, I assure you.

In an article titled, Can Low Blood Sugar Cause Bad Behaviour in Children on Livestrong.com, the writer explains:

As hypoglycemia develops and the brain is deprived of sufficient glucose, your child’s behavior may quickly deteriorate. She may become irritable, bad tempered, depressed, lose concentration, get suddenly sleepy or easily cry.

All that to say, I’m not making this stuff up ☺!

So, what can you do to avoid all this from happening? Easy – make sure that your children are stocked up at all times with something in their tummies. If you’re an hour out from your evening meal, don’t hesitate to give your child a little healthy snack; a fruit, a carrot, just something healthy to keep them going till mealtime.

2. Unconfessed Sin

Okay, so this one is probably not as relevant to your one year old as it is to your 11 year old, but read on if you only have a wee one, because the days are drawing nigh…

What I’ve noticed is that when my children are hiding something, whether it’s a sin that’s been committed behind my back, or even a personal sin that they feel guilty about, their remorse and shame over their sin can be expressed as anger and rudeness. Now, of course there’s no point in suspecting that your child is to blame for some heinous sin which will be exposed in due course. However, if there is no other explanation for your child’s misbehavior, it may be worth spending some one-on-one quality time with them to give them a chance to share what’s on their hearts. You may be surprised at the burdens that your child may be carrying, including sins that they have committed and feel ashamed of that are weighing on them.

Making yourself available for your children to unload the contents of their sweet hearts is a sacrifice that will pay off time and time again, and that will forge a precious relationship that will only grow and strengthen in the years to come.

3. Pride/Rebellion/Defiance

As moms, you and I often try to delve deeply into the corners and crevices of our children’s hearts to mine out their motives. The issue is that God is the only One who can truly know where their behavior stems from. So, one of the many jobs that we have is to be detectives; to ask the questions that lead us to unveil the mysteries of our descendants’ ways.

You see, my friend, behavior such as expressing their anger or any other emotion, is actually a symptom, and as a good physician led by The Great Physician, we need to discover the cause of those symptoms. We need to place our imaginary stethoscope to their hearts and try to hear what they are actually saying.

One reason your child may be lashing out at you may be due to pride.

You see, your child may very sincerely believe that they know better than you in a certain situation or affair. They may see your judgement or decision as incorrect and unjust, based on their own assessment and understanding, and their way of thinking may be so superior and clear in their little minds, that whatever you are suggesting or implementing, in their eyes, is inferior to the point of disgrace. They know better. Or so they think. And in their mistaken thinking, their pride may come out as anger and even condescension.

Our precious, inexperienced children simply need to learn submission and humility. Okay, so it’s not so ‘simply’. You’re right. It takes about eighteen years give or take a couple to teach them this truth, but I encourage you, my sister, not to give up, and not to give in. One realization after the other in which they come to see that mom and dad were indeed right, is a step closer to their trusting you, their submitting to you, and their obeying you.

Learn to identify when your child is lashing out from a place of pride, and lovingly point it out. You may by all means bring up a previous incident in which you were in fact right when your daughter thought she was, in hopes that this will trigger her memory and infuse some humility into the scene.

But in any case, in a loving and kind way, your view as the wiser party is ultimately the one that needs to be heeded, if for no other reason than honouring and respecting you as your child’s God given authority.

4. Feeling Overwhelmed

One unexpected discovery I’ve made over the past few years with my children is realizing that they can become as overwhelmed, stressed, and frustrated as adults can. Too much schoolwork, too high an expectation of chores to be done, and not enough to time to ‘do it all’ can cause even young ones to feel a burden that we often associate with adults carrying.

And you guessed it, while you as an adult who feels as though life is getting on top of you can deal with the piles on your to-do list by knuckling down and doing one thing after the other, by delegating tasks, or by prioritizing projects, children simply do not have the know-how, ability, or experience in doing the same. So they get frustrated. Which accumulates. Which leads to anger. And they vent. On you!

I have take two actions when I step back to assess the situation, and suspect that overwhelm is the cause for the outburst:

  • I wait till peace and calm has returned, I take the child aside or out with me on an errand, and take some time to ask him questions like:

“How is your life going these days?”
“Is there anything that is bothering you?”
“Is there anything I can do to make your life easier?”

  •  Once I have drawn out of the child what is overwhelming him, I inform him of a change we will make.

For example, if he shares that he feels he has too much schoolwork and that he can’t finish it in time to play in the afternoon, I would say, “O.K., honey, how about if you did 3 pages a day in every subject instead of 4? Do you think that may help?”

Now I must point out that if I think that my son is suffering due to his own laziness and sin, I do not make changes to make things ‘easier’ for him. I would tackle his sin graciously head-on, talk with him about it, and pray with him that God would help him to turn away from it.

As a parent, one of the many reasons that you and I are have been placed in our children’s lives is to aid them in their struggles, frustrations, and hardships. 

These do not warrant disrespectful behavior, but identifying that they are feeling the weight of life, whether it be a strained friendship or too many library books to get through, is helpful in dealing with the cause of their venting, and at times assisting them in lightening the load so that they can continue to enjoy being children for a little longer.

5. Laziness and Pleasure Seeking

As humans, smaller in size and shorter in years, your children are sinners. And at the heart of all sin is a dirty four letter word called ‘self.’ Tweet that

At their very core your children want to do whatever it is that they like to do.

If it were up to them, they would most likely sit all day in front of a screen, eating sugar in all of its vilest forms, going to bed later than imaginable, and spending their time with other little people probably around their own age 24/7.

As such, when you as a parent, invade their above mentioned desires with tasks that require them to think, work, and make any kind of effort, it will not, at times, be pleasantly received. Because they want to serve themselves!

I know this is a rather bleak view of these most beautiful treasures that God has given us on the earth, but if you believe in the Bible as God’s inspired Word, as I do, then Isaiah 53:6 is true of our littlies too, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Or how about the well known verse from Romans 3:23:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

If you’re still not convinced:
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (Psalm 14:3)

A meager outlook, would it have not been for God sending His Son to die so that men may be forgiven, changed, and saved for eternity.

When our children are asked to do something that opposes what their hearts desire to do, they can often lash out in disapproval. Whether they are trying to get you to retract your request or simply strongly express their disappointment that they won’t get to do what they want to do, they need to learn that that they have been born into the world to glorify God.

Serving others, laying down their own desires for the sake of others, and seeking to do the will of God above their own are lessons that I am sure you will agree, we as adults are even still in the process of grasping.

Once we have observed that the root of our children’s anger is laziness or seeking their own pleasure rather than obedience to the authority that God has lovingly placed in their lives, we can use it as a teachable moment to lead them once again to the Lord.


My friend, the bottom line is that children should not lash out at their parents. Anger in itself is not a sin. It is an acceptable and often understandable emotion. However, given the right training, channeling, and opportunity, children need to learn to use self-control and to share what they are going through, or at the very least to say, “I’m feeling so angry right now!” and proceeding to deal with their emotions while still respecting you as their parent.

I know it’s easier said than done, but if we look at the long term vision and aim to either anticipate what our children’s perspectives are, or what could be leading them to expressing anger, we could try to prevent it, help them manage it, and ideally take it to the Lord in prayer.

We’re all on this journey together, dear mama. My children are so far from perfect, you wouldn’t believe!

In many ways we are students of our children, and I still haven’t figured out when we graduate and what degree we achieve at the end of it all. Tweet 

But as we lie in the trenches, faces muddied, clutching to our God for wisdom, strength, understanding, and grace, may our minds, eyes, hearts, and hope be ever on His goodness.

May His all-encompassing Word be your compass and steer you and your children to lives that are lived unto His glory alone!

I’m rooting for you!!!

How are you doing in the trenches, sister? What wisdom can you add to either insight on why your children lash out, or ways to deal with the situation when they do?

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Tehila is an Israeli, God-loving, husband-serving, child-nurturing mom of five sweet little ones whom she homeschools. She resides in beautiful New Zealand from where she blogs at Women Abiding – Encouraging women to abide in God and His Word.
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About womenabiding

Tehila is an Israeli, God-loving, husband-serving, child-nurturing mom of five sweet little ones whom she homeschools. She resides in beautiful New Zealand from where she blogs at Women Abiding – Encouraging women to abide in God and His Word.
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38 Responses to 5 Hidden Reasons Children Lash Out At Their Parents

  1. Jen says:

    Such a great post! Have never thought of #2. Sin…hhhmm…you are absolutely right! Just like Adam and Eve, sin can make children withdraw and respond inappropriately! Thanks for these great lessons in parenting found at UNITE! ~ Jen @ http://www.richfaithrising.com

  2. Good insights! I find that figuring out the CAUSE of the behavior is a very important step in fixing it.

  3. Jen Ferguson says:

    I think these are all really good reasons – I find that my youngest daughter often lashes out when she feels like she has had control taken away from her – that she cannot direct her life as she sees fit. #5 hit home!

  4. Julie S says:

    This is spot on and I really like that last quote, that we are students of our children!

  5. Sometimes I forget my kids are people too. The same kinds of things that frustrate me can frustrate them. It’s a simple perspective, but one I need to be reminded of. Thanks for doing that in this post. And thanks for linking up at #ThreeWordWednesday.

  6. Jann Olosn says:

    You really nailed it! If I added any other reason it might be attention starved. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

  7. Sylvia says:

    Thanks for sharing your ideas at Faith, Hope, and Love!

  8. Mary Geisen says:

    I got a smile on my face when you wrote our children are little sinners. Aren’t we all? You laid out five areas or causes for why our children act in not such angelic ways and gave us practical steps to overcoming those areas with our own children. Mine are now grown but I remember those days vividly and appreciate you sharing this for other parents of young children. Blessed to be visiting you from Weekend Whispers.

  9. Mari-Anna says:

    I hear you. Also fatigue is a catalyst, I think. All and all, routines help. Thanks, neighbor. Blessings to you and yours!

  10. Barbie says:

    Great post! I especially notice that this in my children when they are hungry or feeling overwhelmed. Thank you for sharing at Weekend Whispers.

  11. So true! Thanks for linking at Women With Intention Wednesdays! 🙂

  12. Sandi Dunham Griffin says:

    Interesting, aspiring, pleased to have been given the opportunity to see the website and the blog.

  13. Gabby says:

    These are things I need to know just for babysitting! I will definitely have this in my back pocket when I have kids! thank you for linking up with us at the Tips and Tricks Link Party! Come on back this week! We love seeing all your creations.

  14. Enlightening! Kids can’t convey their feelings the same way adults do, so they act out. Thanks for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things.

  15. Stasia says:

    These are spot on… thought mine also lashes out when she is tired!!!

  16. MB says:

    This just reminds me of how loving and patient my parents have been (and still are really!). And yes, it does take about 18 years if my example is anything to go by! I’m still learning that my parents really do know what they’re talking about… Oh dear.

    • womenabiding says:

      I love your comment, because you’re right, it was only once I grew up that I truly appreciated all the hard work that my parents had put into raising me! God bless you today and always 🙂

  17. Great post! Goes along with Stephen Covey’s “Seek First To Understand”…when we walk a mile in our children’s shoes, it helps us to be able to help them find better choices. Many blessings to you!

  18. It’s not easy not knowing why is your child Lashing Out At you. Having a starting point in trying to determine the reason is a great thing. Great POST.

  19. I’m stopping by from #TellHisStory, thanks for these great words of wisdom. I have a 4 & 2 year old, and the hunger thing is something I forget about all the time.. so much need for preparation on that one for me and then the grace on the other side for all of us when I’ve forgotten to have some carrots on hand.. thanks for the tips!

    • womenabiding says:

      Lol! You’ve made me smile, Devi… often it truly does take forward thinking on our parts to prevent breakdowns… so true! Blessings to you as you train and nurture your adorable little ones… (You may wanna take a look at my latest post: A Letter to the Mothers of Young Children. I pray it encourages you today!) xox

  20. Melanie Redd says:

    What a great post!

    Isn’t it amazing how those things that are most practical can cause the greatest problems in our homes! When my kids are tired, hungry, stressed, or “found out,” then they lash out most!

    They are both in college now, but I still see those same patterns. Makes me think of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 when Elijah was so upset. God sent him rest, bread, and water. So practical.

    I found your post on Raising Homemakers today, and I’m glad to find your site. I also pinned you here: https://www.pinterest.com/melredd/blog-link-parties-and-blog-link-ups/

    Hope you have a blessed day today~
    Melanie

    • womenabiding says:

      I so much appreciate your comment, Melanie. I can see now how even when our children grow up, they can still lash out and sometimes don’t even know why… Really loved your biblical input, too… You’re a blessing!

  21. I do have a 1 year old and an 11 year old! This is a great list, I have definitely found all of those to be the case from time to time.

  22. Oh, yes … in a house full of teenagers, all saved … and mom and dad saved, too … we definitely have some lashing out times … And for all of the above reasons … Lately, I keep saying to myself, “their sweet frontal lobe just isn’t fully developed yet …” (!!) lol. Seriously, though … these are great reminders that we are all human and experience frustration. It’s good to consider what’s going on behind the behavior. Thanks for all this!

    • womenabiding says:

      Your comment has served as an incredible blessing to me, Dianne! I love how you are further on the road than I am and how you’re saying that ‘It’s OK that these things happen even in a believing home!’… Very reassuring and comforting… God bless you! xoxo

  23. Lux says:

    This is so honest. Oh truth. Often parents who complain that they have a difficult kid is because they have difficulty in relating with their kids to begin with. There are so many unspoken words behind the lashing out and the anger.

    Thanks for this thought provoking post. I hope more parents could read this and learn from it.

    • womenabiding says:

      You are so right in your beautiful, deep thinking, Lux! We shouldn’t look just at the anger and outward expression of our children’s behaviour. It really does pay to delve deeper and get to the heart of what they don’t know how to express differently… So lovely to have you here at Women Abiding! xoxo

  24. Holly Brown says:

    I love that you include so much about the need for redemption in our kids as all behavior stems from the heart. Thanks for sharing this with us at Grace & Truth!

  25. Thank you for your honesty in this post! My sons are definitely guilty of the hunger one and trying to hide something. Thanks for sharing with #SocialButterflySunday! Hope to see you link up again this week 🙂

  26. Love the blend of physical and spiritual reasons behind behavior you wisely point out here. Thanks for giving me something to think about with my tween and teen! Stopping by from Soul Survival.

  27. Thanks again for linking up at Mondays @ Soul Survival! Hope you are having a blessed Thanksgiving week-end.

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