Dealing With Tantrums

IMG_0702I 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

What Spanking Is Not

If you’ve seen the video of the Texas Judge, William Adams beating his daughter with a belt, you were most likely appalled at this man’s sense of cruel justice. If you haven’t seen it, please be warned that it is a disturbing 7-minute scene of a father relentlessly whipping his 16-year old daughter.

It’s tragic when parents empty their rage upon their children, and then call it a spanking. The Bible is clear that spanking is an effective tool used in disciplining our children. But ‘spanking’ has been so closely attached to child abuse in our culture, that many parents forbid the thought to enter their parenting philosophy.

As a mother who successfully uses spanking in her parenting, I’d like to clarify that spanking is not smacking, intimidating, or abusing. What occurs in the video of the Texas Judge is abuse, not spanking.

Spanking is not a beating.

The number of spanks or swats depend on the severity of the crime. Usually for typical disobedience it will only be one. But if it’s something severe, like maliciously attacking a sibling, it will probably be more. It’s not “losing it” on your child. You should verbalize the number of swats your child will receive so that they know what to expect. They should recognize a consistency when it comes to the number of swats and the severity of the offense.

The point of a spanking is to give a quick sting. If spanking “doesn’t work with your kid,” it’s probably because spankings are given too inconsistently, or because it doesn’t hurt them. By giving them a quick sensation of pain, you are teaching them this message: Sin has negative consequences. They can’t comprehend this at a young age, and that’s why Proverbs says:

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him. Prov. 22:15

The pain should not be severe, as it’s not punishing them for their sin. Christ has already paid for their sin on the cross. It’s just a quick sting, to help correct their thinking; to train their behavior.

Spanking is for small children. Not for teenagers. Hopefully we have enough of our children’s respect that by the time they’re 16, all we need is to have an “I’m disappointed in your behavior” talk.

Spanking is not bullying. 

Don’t intimidate your child into submitting to you. It’s just mean, and they will hate you for it. No one likes it when authority figures to push their power into your face. Don’t “beat them into submission.” Be a humble disciplinary. Don’t spank to control your child’s every action. Spank to help them make good decisions. For their sake, and for the good of their own future.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering.  Colossians 3:12 

Spanking is not getting revenge. 

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Who’s really going to want to admit that they are seeking revenge when they spank their child? Perhaps it’s revenge for making you so angry, ruining your stuff, or embarrassing you in public. We know revenge has become part of our disciplinary process when we don’t care if the child has learned his lesson. We just want him to pay for what he did.  It’s crucial to realize that it’s not our job to punish them for their sin. We believe all our sin was punished in the body of Jesus. Spanking isn’t payment for the child’s sin. It’s a tool to train their behavior.

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Spanking is not for satisfying your anger. 

Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah Psalm 4:4

You’ve had it up to here, and your child still just. won’t. listen. There will always be that temptation to take your anger our on him either verbally or physically. Don’t do it! You will wound your child’s trust in you. If your patience has been exhausted, it’s better to let them get away with it than to angrily punish them.

A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back. Prov. 29:11

A spanking should be given by a patient and calm parent. Would you believe that it can even be done with a smile on your face? Not a smile because they are finally getting what they deserve, but rather, a smile that looks forward to how these little corrections are going to shape them into the responsible, considerate people they will grow to be!

There’s no perfect parent. We’ve all lost our tempers, and done things we regret. If you are thinking that you’ve really screwed up in this area, just say you’re sorry. First to Jesus, and then to your child. I am convinced that the best thing you can do after a mean-mommy moment is to apologize for losing your temper. Their hearts will be healed as they see your remorse and humility.

Behaving In Public


Teaching your kids to obey in public starts with teaching them to obey at home. Keep the standard high at home. That way they know what’s expected in public. It’s not fair to them to let them talk back, disobey, or disrespect things at home, and then get angry when they act the same way in public.
If they see you keep a low standard at home, and then suddenly see you raise the bar when your friends around, they are going to become confused and frustrated with you.

If you don’t want them to jump on the couch and throw things when you’re invited over to a friend’s house, don’t let them do that at home. If you don’t want them to run away from you in the grocery store, expect them to come each time you call them at home. And if you want them to respect you in public, shower love on them at home.

It’s true that even though you have a high standard at home, children will still push the limits in public. It’s almost as if they know that you are powerless to enforce your authority in isle 10 at Target. In that moment you could take them to a semi-private place to try to discipline them, like the bathrooms, or back to the car. But for me, I’m hauling 4 little ones every step of the way, so I try avoid as many detours as possible. So when my children misbehave in public, I will usually get down to their level, and quietly tell them their consequence in their ear. It may be a spank, a time-out, or a privilege taken away that will occur when we get home. My kids usually respond by loudly protesting their future repercussions. By that time, it’s more important to hold your ground than to keep them from embarrassing you.  The objective is not merely to keep them quiet; it is to teach them respectful behavior.

For this method to work, they must believe you. And in order for them to believe you, you must follow through. When you get home, remind them of what they did wrong while in public, and give them the consequence. After a few times of practicing this, they will have more respect for your warnings.

The last time I had to do this, my 5-year-old’s behavior changed immediately. Even though she knew her impending judgment, she determined to not rack up any more negative points while we were out. Two hours later when we were driving home, she was the one reminding me that she needed a consequence when we returned.

Also, before you enter a public place, give your kids the low-down on what’s expected of them. Remind them what behavior is expected, prohibited, and what consequences will occur if they transgress your rules. Before entering a grocery store, I usually have a conversation with my kids that sounds like this:

“Okay everybody, we are going into the grocery store now. How are we supposed to act?”

“Be calm and obey,” they respond.

“Can we touch things that you see without permission?”


“Can you cry if you don’t get what you want?”


“What happens if you break the rules in the store?”

“We get spankings or time-outs.”

“How are you going to choose to act when we go in?”

“Be calm and obey!”

“That’s a good choice!” I affirm with a smile.

Your children long to please you. You can help them succeed in doing that by clearly outlining what is expected of them. And if your expectations are clear, you will be more confident in disciplining and rewarding your children.

The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Proverbs 29:15