Parenting Help: Use Lemon and Sugar to Talk to Kids about Anger

two containers, one of lemon juice and one of sugar

I don’t know if it’s just a boy thing, or if our culture in general has programmed children to be angry. The fact that we teach our kids they’re entitled to everything certainly has to be a part of it. Either way, the anger that I see in the boys is some days just plain over the top.

What really frightens me is when I see and hear them start to act bitter. I know from personal experience with someone how that can turn out, and I don’t wish that kind of life on anyone.

Last Sunday during church, inspiration hit. When we got home, I pulled out a bunch of medicine measuring cups. I filled half with sugar, and the rest with lemon juice. Then I gave one of each to every member of the family, along with a toothpick.

First, everyone tasted the sugar. Next, we all tasted our lemon juice. Then I explained: we are like the lemon juice and God is like the sugar. (For the purposes of the discussion, I said that lemon was bitter-even though it’s actually sour.)

I explained that when we’re angry, we can get bitter. Bitterness leads to all sorts of problems in life and most bitter people end up alone. What we all need is some sweetness. Everyone added their sugar to the lemon juice and we taste tested until the concoction wasn’t bitter anymore. It took as much sugar as lemon juice to make it at least palatable.

Granted, this wasn’t the most complete metaphor in life, but it did start a good conversation about anger and when it’s appropriate to actually be angry. To be honest, I don’t yet know the definitive answer to that question. But we’re doing a study on the matter, and at least the conversation has gotten started.

Have you dealt with anger in your kids? What do you do about it?

Earnest Parenting: helping parents teach kids to control anger.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • Deb Tribbett December 10, 2011, 12:18 pm

    Honestly, I have found the best “cure” for anger in my kids is to get it out of my life. When I stay calm, it does wonders for the situation. On the contrary, I have seen a situation get completely out of control when I add my own fuel to the fire. Thankfully, my children are very forgiving when I am humble enough to apologize.

    Thanks for your article!

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