Let’s face it. At some point when you are teaching kids and teens, you are going to find yourself getting angry with one or more of your students. You aren’t a terrible teacher or a terrible Christian because you feel yourself getting angry when a student is ignoring your instructions for the thousandth time or is constantly talking while you are talking. If you aren’t careful how you act when you feel angry though, it can undermine your entire ministry.
Remember Ephesians 4:26? “In your anger do not sin…” (NIV) It’s not feeling the emotion coming from your hurt or frustration that is sinful. Rather it is what you do after you feel anger rising that can be sinful and undermine your ministry to your students. In fact, if it is severe enough, your reaction can make a child want to walk away from God.
So what are some tips to help you navigate those times when you are angry with students?
- Pause before reacting. In our instant culture, we believe everything must be done immediately. Sometimes, your correction is much more effective if you pause before speaking or acting. It also gives you a moment to collect yourself to prevent overreacting. Besides, nothing puts fear into a child more than a teacher who suddenly gets very quiet and does nothing for 30 seconds to a minute!
- Pray. This is definitely one of those “pray without ceasing” times. A quick sentence prayer is fine. If you tend to react strongly when angry, you especially will need God’s help navigating the next few minutes of your class.
- Remind yourself of your mission. Why are you teaching these students? Reminding yourself you want to help these kids get to Heaven, will also help you remember to be careful not to do something that will drive them away from God instead.
- Have well established rules and consequences. If you have previously stated and reviewed class rules with students, you don’t have to launch into a long tirade of why they shouldn’t talk while you are talking. Instead a simple “Let’s remember the rule about not talking when someone is teaching, please.”, may get students quickly back on track. If not, they already know the consequence and you can give it calmly. Remember: Not reacting in anger does not mean students shouldn’t have rules, boundaries and consequences. It merely means you shouldn’t destroy them or make them want to reject God in the process of correction.
- Unless someone’s life is in danger, never speak or act before your anger is under control. If you still want to rage, you are better off letting the behavior slide until you can calm down. When you are in a heightened state of anger, you are much more likely to say or do something ungodly. You may occasionally get away with this with your own kids (although I doubt it), but you can really damage kids who don’t really know you that well.
- If you do overreact, APOLOGIZE. Adults, especially Bible class teachers, need to apologize when they make mistakes and especially when they sin in their anger. This not only helps repair the relationship with your students, but models repentance and forgiveness.
- Reestablish relationship. Even godly correction can put a tiny rift in a relationship. After the correction and consequence, do something to heal the relationship. This doesn’t mean apologizing for enforcing the rules in appropriate ways. This does mean saying you are sorry you and your student had a rough day and hope next time will be better or giving your student a hug or other appropriate reinforcement. At the end of the day, your students need to know you love them – even when they have bad days.
Learning to control your anger with students and react to behavior issues in godly way can actually strengthen your relationships with them. It can also enhance your ministry to your students. It’s worth taking the time and effort to have an anger action plan in place for the next time one of your students pushes you to the edge.