Biblical Womanhood, Book Reviews, Mommyhood

Book Review: Triggers

As a new mom, it can be difficult to imagine that you would, or could ever be angry with that sweet-smelling, squishy little bundle of cuteness staring up at you through their squinty newborn eyes.

I would like people to think I have it all together…as a wife, as a mom, as a Christian. But, I don’t. And, I know I’m not really fooling anyone. But, still, it is a humbling thing to admit that I struggle with anger – sinful, passionate, emotional outbursts and responses – towards these precious children that I prayed and longed for, that God has graciously given to me to teach, train, and treasure. It surprised (and scared!) me to discover just how angry I could get at this tiny little person that I loved so much. And, I am ashamed to admit that there are days when motherhood brings out the worst in me.

While it can seem that way, I know that I am not alone in this struggle. I have been a mom for just over a decade, and my husband has been a pastor for most of that time. And, as both a fellow mom, and pastor’s wife, I have talked with so many moms who struggle in the same way.

But, it isn’t just anger. It is the accompanying consequences of that anger – feelings of shame, regret, discouragement, and hopelessness. These moms know they struggle. They know it is sinful. But, they don’t know how to change. They don’t know if they can change.

They don’t think there is hope.

Oh, mama. There is hope…for change, for peace, for forgiveness, for restoration.

TriggersIn Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses, Amber Lia and Wendy Speake offer a wonderful, biblical resource to help us, by the grace of God, to overcome our struggle with anger – specifically the anger that is directed at our children. Through, personal experiences, practical examples, and biblical exhortation, Amber and Wendy offer hope that we can change from that scary, angry, yelling mama to the patient, gentle, and kind mother that Scripture calls us to be!

This book is comprised of 31 chapters. It is an easy read, in the sense that the chapters are short, and are designed to be read one a day, for a month. But, each chapter is packed with biblical wisdom, gentle (or, sometimes, not) conviction, and hope. It is not a quick-fix list of tricks which will magically change my child’s infuriating behavior…although it does address the behaviors that often “trigger” our anger. It is hope for repentance, for biblical change in my own stubborn, sinful, angry heart (and yours).

Part One

The first section of the book deals with “External Triggers.” These are the childish behaviors, often borne of immaturity, in our children that trigger our anger. Issues like disobedience, backtalk, disrespect, strong-willed children, angry children, whining and complaining, sibling rivalry, ignoring instruction, lying and deceit, manipulation, special needs/learning difficulties, video games, and irresponsible behavior. Do any of those sound familiar? Does even the mere mention of some of those behaviors stir up a reaction within you?

Without giving away too much – because, if you struggle with anger, you need to read this book for yourself – here are a few of my favorite nuggets of wisdom from this first section:

In the very first chapter, Amber deals with the issuer of Disobedience. This one action (or, maybe inaction) on the part of my children triggers my anger toward them more than anything else. But, you may be saying (as I often do), Scripture instructs children to obey their parents. Yes. Yes it does. But… God “doesn’t whack us upside the head continually or deal with us harshly from the get-go.” (pg. 15) When we I am reminded of God’s long-suffering and compassionate patience with us – His children – it brings into stark contrast my own lack of patience and grace with our children.

“As mothers, we forget that our children are immature. Yes, they will also be outrightly defiant at times; but I find that often, we are dealing with our own unreasonable expectations for obedience.” (pg. 15)

After all, Amber wisely reminds us, the goal is not simply to produce obedient children. Their disobedience is also an opportunity for us to be refined, and to become more like Christ.

It can be so easy, in the moment, not only to justify our heated reactions, but to forget the lasting impact that our words, our voice, our volume, and our facial expressions will have on our children. I do not want my children to remember me as a grumpy mama that caused them to walk on eggshells for fear of triggering a flood of angry words…and regret.

Because, my anger isn’t their fault. But their anger?

In Chapter 5, Amber addresses the subject of Angry Kids.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

Yes, this applies to mothers too.

“As moms who struggle with anger, we often fear that we are modeling this hotheaded behavior and that our kids are picking up on it. We may not like to hear it, but we have to begin with examining ourselves to help our kids overcome anger.” (pg. 29)

In this chapter, Amber lists a number of ways that we can exasperate, or provoke, our children to anger, and contribute to their own problem with anger. I won’t list them here…you’ll need to read the book for yourself! But, I will say that it is a convicting exercise to read though it, and prayerfully consider each one.

“But, we honestly can’t address our children’s anger unless we first take ownership for our part. THAT is the biblical response to our child’s anger! We must first discipline ourselves, before we consider training or teaching our children.” (pg. 30)

Chapter 6 was on the topic of Whining and Complaining. My kids do complain from time to time. But, as a general rule, they aren’t big complainers. But, oh, the whining! With a 2- and 4-year-old, I hear a fair amount of whining on any given day! In this chapter, Wendy offered 3 things to consider when your children start whining:

First, “[b]ehave right when they behave wrong. It is the most ridiculous thing in the world that we correct our children with the same wrong behavior we’re telling them not to do.” (pg. 33) She goes on to ask, “Do you ever feel like you meet them in their wrong behavior, rather than minister to them from a place of serene authority?” (pg. 33)

Um, yes!

Her second point was the classic definition of biblical counseling! “Use God’s Word like a scalpel, not a hammer.” (pg. 33) I know that I am guilty of the “hammer” approach far too often. And in the heat of my anger, it is not only ineffective, it is hypocritical, preachy, and downright wrong.

She then offers, what I think is probably the most helpful piece of advice in the entire book:

“Do you use Scripture when you’re frustrated and angry? God’s Word was never intended to be a hammer in the hand of an angry mom, but a surgeon’s scalpel used in tandem with the Holy Spirit’s guidance. When we meet our children, in the height of their fit-throwing tantrums, with Bible verses…we wield the sword of truth inappropriately….I’m not saying that we shouldn’t use Scriptures to train them up in the ways they are to go; I’m just saying that we shouldn’t use them to shame our kids in the middle of the battle.” (pgs. 33-34)

As moms we want to use Scripture to train our children. We want them to memorize it, internalize it, and obey it. But, I have seen it too often used as a weapon in the form of punishment, or to prove a point, rather than as a tool of loving correction.

Her third point was to “act like a child of God!” (pg. 34) Too often, as the adults in the situation, we fall into the same sinful behaviors that our children are exhibiting!

What struck me most about this chapter was that, while it was helpful in dealing with and responding to my children when they whine and complain, the suggestions and reminders that Wendy offered are exactly how we are to deal with any of our children’s sins!

Throughout much of the first half of the book, I found myself nodding along in sympathetic understanding as the authors shared their personal testimonies and experiences, and eager to try some of the practical solutions and advice that they offered on how to handle and respond to these different scenarios. And many of them have already proven helpful in my own home!

Part Two

But, the second half of this book is about “taking our eyes of the things they do to set us off, and focusing instead on our own shortcomings, sin tendencies, hard-wiring, and personal trials that cause us to explode all over our little people. Because while some of our triggers have to do with them…most of our triggers have everything to do with us!” (pg. 69) This section covers issues like: Lack of Faith, Generational Habits, Depression, Exhaustion, Running Late, No Personal Space, Going it All Alone, Challenging Relationships, Noise, Roughhousing, Messy Homes, Multi-Tasking, Transitions, Caring for Sick Children and Ailing Parents, Stress, Feelings of Guilt.

So many of these chapters had me uttering Voddie Baucham’s famous line, “If you can’t say “Amen,” you better say “Ouch!” Because conviction of sin is really never a fun experience.

Chapter 19, on Exhaustion, really resonated with me. All four of my children have been born with a tongue-tie, and moderate to severe reflux. This has led to years (yes, literally, years) of entirely sleepless nights…sleeping sitting up…sleeping for 10 minute increments between marathon nursing sessions…falling asleep at the table during homeschooling…standing over the crib of my tiny crying baby, in tears myself. When my first-born was an only child, this sleep-deprivation didn’t seem as hard as it did when my second, third, and fourth also decided to take up the family tradition of insomnia!

As Amber shared about her experience with her own son, I discovered a kindred spirit! I found myself nodding in both amusement and empathetic understanding. “Sleep experts gave us our money back. Chiropractors threw their hands in the air. Friends had no magic formulas, though we tried them all. I’ll never forget the mind-numbing depression of my fatigue during our babies’ infancy and beyond.” (pg. 81, emphasis mine)

Someone finally understands!

I never thought of myself as an angry mom…until my second child was born. He was that child that never slept, never napped, and no one could really explain why…or make him sleep. I was utterly exhausted. All the time. And, I had zero patience. I felt constantly on edge. Worn out. And utterly exhausted.

“When we are tired, we must dig deeper, speak slower, think more carefully, and move about more gently than ever before, because we are so much more prone to lash out in our weariness.” (pg. 82)

I find it funny that she quotes the very verse that I have repeated over, and over, and over to myself in the past several years: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NLT)

It is helpful to be reminded that I cannot change the circumstances that are making me weary. To be reminded not to give in to the lie that I just can’t do one more hour, one more day. To be reminded that,

“We may not get the refreshing or reviving that we need to feel 100% each day, but that has no real bearing on our ability to respond biblically tin the hard moments that will come our way. Be exhausted if you must, but give your kids your best self anyway.” (pg. 83)

For me, the chapter on Exhaustion seemed to go hand-in-hand with chapter 21, No Personal Space.

I am not, by nature, a people person. I like my space. But, with 4 children, three of whom are still very young, personal space and quiet moments alone, seem to be a thing of the past…or, of the far-distant future. It’s not that I would change these years for anything. But, sometimes, it does seem as though all I ever do is nurse, change diapers, and serve as personal jungle gym for 3 young children. And, my oldest, at 10, is not as physically demanding as her younger siblings, but she has her own needs. And, as Amber shared, “Some days, the physical demands and lack of personal space can get to me.” (pg. 88)

And, in these moments, it is easy to throw myself a pity party, and become frustrated and angry.


“I don’t really have to get angry. I don’t’ really have to be quick to anger and lose my self-control. I don’t really have to tell myself that I deserve to have peace and quiet. And I don’t really have to give in to the temptation to think that in those harried moments, my life would be better if I could just have my own space.” (pg. 89)

She points us to Matthew 8 and 9, and the life of Christ, as our example in these moments. He knows what it is to have others demanding of His time and attention, and pressing in on His “personal space.” And yet, He had compassion on the people.

“The Christian life is the servant life. It’s not a life where personal space rules; it’s a life where pouring out ourselves for others reigns.” (pg. 90)

So it is with motherhood. We must reflect to our children the kindness, sacrifice, and compassion of our Savior.

One Caution

There is so much good in this book. So much that is biblical, helpful, and encouraging. And, I hesitate to bring up the one concern that I had in reading this book for fear of causing moms to shy away from an otherwise outstanding resource. It is a relatively small thing, in the sense that it is only one sentence, in the middle of one chapter. But, the issue itself is not a small thing.

In chapter 19, on the topic of exhaustion (a chapter, that, as a whole, I found extremely encouraging), one of the authors makes this statement: “Eventually, I heard God whisper to my heart…”

This type of talk sends up all sorts of red flags for me. It seems as if almost every author, speaker, and church-goer today is claiming to receive special, audible messages, visions, or revelations from God. It lends an apparent authority or undisputable credibility to their message. But, I think we need to be very, very careful about claiming any sort of audible messages or revelations from God. While I think I understand what the author was trying to say, I simply think it could have been worded, or approached, differently.


This struggle with anger is not exclusive to moms in the throes of the “terrible twos.” And, moms of moody teens or pre-teens do not have a monopoly on it either. Each stage and season of motherhood brings its own unique challenges and triggers to our battle against our sinful anger. And, this book offers practical and biblical wisdom to all moms, in every season and stage of motherhood.

Not every chapter will apply to every mom. We do not do video games – in any incarnation – in our home. And, we do not have a child with special needs or disabilities. I have not struggled with postpartum depression. And, my parents and in-laws are still, thankfully, in good health. But, that isn’t to say you should skip chapters you feel do not apply to you. Maybe these will never be part of your experience. Maybe they just aren’t part of your life yet. Or maybe you will find, in those pages, a way to encourage and counsel a friend who shares that she is struggling with anger in those areas.

Mama, if you are fighting what seems like a losing battle with anger, I would highly recommend this book. It will prove a useful weapon in your arsenal.


Triggers is available today!

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{This post contains affiliate links. I was given a copy of the book, Triggers, free of charge. All opinions shared are my own.}