I saw a poor woman yesterday in the grocery store. It’s the same woman we all see and pity. Her child is on the floor. Defiant. Screaming. She’s embarrassed. Trying to maintain an appearance of control, she impotently orders her child to get up. “Stop it. Let’s go. I mean it. Stop it right now. Get up. I’m going to leave. Fine, I’m leaving now. Bye. I’m leaving! Stop crying. Get up!” But her child’s behavior reveals who has the control.
Tantrums. You have got to get on this one early. They’ll start at age one, and you have to stay on top of it for years. The best thing I believe you can do is tonot allow them. That’s not to say they won’t happen. But your children should know what will happen each and every time they attempt to throw a tantrum.
My one year old screams when his siblings take his toy away. And he doesn’t stop until he gets it back. He may have been wronged, but if I don’t deal with his reaction now, he will learn it’s perfectly acceptable to throw a fit every time he finds something unpleasurable.
The issue in his heart is selfishness. He wants what he wants, and if he doesn’t get it, he’s going find a way to make me give it to him. It’s the selfishness that you want to teach him to control. His selfish reaction maybe annoying now, but it will grow with him. By time he’s 18, if I haven’t taught him how to deal with his selfish heart, he’s going to be a very hurtful, destructive man.
The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Prov. 29:15
Children are like cars with a brick on the gas. If someone doesn’t crawl in the car and grab the wheel, they are going to destroy themselves and others.
You won’t get far explaining selfishness to a one year old, but he’ll get the idea if you deal with him swiftly. As soon as I see him begin to scream, I calmly tell him in his ear (because he won’t hear me over his own screams otherwise) not to scream or he’ll get a spanking. He continues screaming, so I take him into a private place, and give one spanking. I then tell him what to do instead of throwing a tantrum. If you don’t instruct along with discipline, your kids will keep screwing up because they will always know what they are doing wrong, but never know what to do right.
“Don’t scream,” I tell him. “Say, ‘Can I have that back please?’” He does his best to parrot what I instructed him, and I reward him by granting his request. I praise him for responding calmly and unselfishly. “Good job! That’s right! That’s a nice way to react!” Make a big deal about his obedience; give him a hug and tell him you’re proud of him.
As their comprehension grows, you can actually teach them what selfishness is. My older children understand it as “not sharing.” We’re steadily moving from that concept to “not throwing a fit when we don’t get what we want.” Give them alternatives to freaking out. Instead of crying, talk normally. Instead of screaming, ask politely. Instead of hitting, go find an adult.
Keeping children from throwing tantrums is a 24/7 job! I will reiterate my point from earlier. You have to correct them every time they throw a tantrum. Let them know every time that it is unacceptable. If you ignore it, because it’s too unpleasant or inconvenient to correct them, I assure you that they will become increasingly demanding before bedtime. If you go days or weeks without correcting tantrums, you will find yourself dreading taking your kids into public. If you go years, your child will be on You Tube as an adolescent throwing a tantrum because his video games got taken away.
One last powerful point is to appeal to authority. Tell them, “We don’t throw tantrums because Jesus wants us to be thankful. It dishonors Him when we are selfish. If we love Him, then we want to obey Him. Being thankful is saying ‘Thank you’ to Jesus for everything you have.”
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalms 100:4