I had a mom-friend text me last week, asking how we handle tantrums at our house.
I wanted to say "oh, what on earth is a tantrum? My children never rebuttals against what's asked of them!"
But that would be a giant lie with nothing being farther from the truth.
Because just like any 2, 3, 5 year old....all of my kids have their "moments".
Yeah they have moments of peace, joy, sharing, kindness....moments that make me beam proudly as a mother. But for the majority of "moments", they whine, complain, question, refute, debate, and argue.
I was told somewhere along the droads of parenting advice, that if we as parents, were consistent with what we did, said, conveyed....that 95% of our discipline training would be complete by age 5.
Which I am so excited to say, (even though it's only been about 5 weeks since our oldest turned 5) has proven to be true.
The tantrums, the outbursts, the disobedience from McKenna has dwindled to a fragment of what it was. That doesn't mean she never goes against what's told of her, but she is coming into a new season, where all of our hard work as parents-
The telling them "no" 100 times in 5 minutes.
The walking over the remove them from the escalating situation 100 times.
The discipline, by whatever means the circumstance warrants, over and over and over 100 times.
-Is paying off. It's working.
The days are long, but the years are short, and I am rejoicing in the new season where McKenna is "growing in stature and wisdom and favor".
So this is my little plug that has nothing to do with this post: keep up the good work mommas! Being consistent pays off! And the time is coming when your littles will get it. When they will listen. When they will oblige with joy, whatever task you've asked of them!
So my friend asked- amidst a tantrum at her house- "do you allow tantrums at your house?"
Allow? No. Absolutely not.
Do they happen? Heck yes. More than I would like to admit.
So what then? When the crying begins because you said "no". Or sometimes "yes", like when it's cleaning their room, or gathering their things, or going to bed.
I want to preface the rest of this with: my posts are primarily for the believer. The self-proclaimed Christian, who uses the Word of God as a moral compass and standard. If you aren't a Christian, I can't give you much of an answer, at least that is guaranteed, because there isn't one.
I'm still waiting for the "guaranteed, fool-proof, money-back promise" that there's a way to train and raise kids on our own, that gives the exact results promised in the end, in every situation, every walk of life, every household-regardless.
So keep that in mind.
As believers, we turn to the bible as our instruction book.
Praise The Lord.
I don't know about you, but my kids - in both my hospital births and home birth- did not come with an instruction booklet, manual, or library -as would seem more fitting.
The idea of parenting is a gamble.
But the bible gives us a promise to hold on to.
Proverbs 22:6 says "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
That is good news for us as parents! It's a promise from the word, that we can take to the bank!
So what does that look like? Well....I will tell you this: training doesn't mean taking your kids to church. Training doesn't mean mentioning a bible verse every now and again. It also doesn't mean praying for meals. That's religion at its finest, and I guarantee your kids will be repulsed by it, and run far away when they are able.
Train means to teach (a person or animal) a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time. Or point or aim something, typically a gun or camera, at.
To train our kids, means pointing then to Jesus, over a period of time, teaching them skills and behaviors through practice and instruction.....over and over an over again.
Every. Stinking. Day.
That sounds like lots of work.
Parenting is lots. And lots. And lots of work.
But the promise and guarantee, of the bible, is that hard work will pay off.
Is there an element out of our control? You better believe it.
That's why as parents we need to be praying and seeking and fasting for our kids, on our knees, stretched out on our faces, day in and day out, beseeching the throne of the Most High, emploring Him to draw them to Himself in due time.
Please don't underestimate the power of either portion. It's our hard work, coupled with His grace and sovereignty, that bring about Jesus-believing-following-living kids.
My part as a mom is to work my butt off, training my kids in the things of God, and praying that God will do His part- and then trusting He will, even if it doesn't look like redemption at first.
So what does instruction, and teaching look like at 3,4,5? How do we do that? I mean obviously, we need to, but are they too small to be instructed from the Word?
I say no.
The Bible tells us in Psalm 119:11 that if we hide the Word in our hearts, that we won't sin.
Then my goal as a parent is to get the word in the hearts of my kids.
I have to show them, tell them, teach them, instruct them, model to them.....to get it in their hearts.
They can learn their ABC's and "sing it by heart".
They know the latest theme songs to their favorite shows or movies "by heart".
So why can't they learn the bible down in their hearts?
I know and understand that memory is not revelation....but I have to trust that one day they will make those connections based on life experiences. I cannot bring revelation to them, that is up to the Holy Spirit.
So back to tantrums as the example.
I'm going to use Teaghan as my example, because she has a dramatic personality that lends itself to tantrums easily. More than any of the other kids, we have to work with her on how to handle emotion. She will be my diva for life, and with that comes certain pains and gains.
So let's say, someone is playing with a toy that she had about 10 minutes ago, and although she put it down and wasn't actively playing with it, in her little mind she thinks "I had that first".
This is a real example that happens almost everyday at our house.
Laugh it up!
So Teaghan's natural response is to scream out at whoever took it, stomp her feet on the ground, start crying, sit her bottom on the carpet, and kick her legs and pound her fists.
Classic tantrum right there.
So I'll get up, walk over, and pull her away from the situation. I'll say something like "Teaghan, please come with me".
So she's away from the situation that's causing her frustration.
Usually, this happens in the girls' bedroom, so I'll use my bed as the place of retreat- but on the off chance the incident happened somewhere else, she goes to her own bed.
I'll tell her to take a few minutes and calm down. (Insert verse about a soft answer turns away wrath).
She isn't allowed to get up when she's calm. I'll come in to talk with her once she's calm.
We don't entertain the outburst. We don't allow it to continue. We don't allow an audience. Usually kids break out for attention, and I don't want to give them any attention for negative behavior- or I'm reinforcing that attitude.
So I'll walk away, and she will calm down.
There have been days when I have to go back in and remind her to calm down. Or days she gets up and I have to go back in, take her hand, an make her sit back down. But being consistent is key.
There are days, and usually, they're when I'm in the middle of a poopy diaper elsewhere, or using the restroom myself- when I can't get to the tantrum immediately. It happens. And sometimes- it's rare- but sometimes things have gotten so far out of control, that she is screaming and crying so hard, she's gagging herself, or swinging he arms, or won't sit down. What then?
On those days, she needs assurance that someone is on her side.
That someone understands.
So I'll sit with her, tightly wrapped in my arms, until she breaks her will and calms down.
I think in five years of parenting I've had to do that maybe- 3 times. So it's rare. But our kids get overworked sometimes, and need assurance that regardless of how out of control they are, that we will be there with open arms to embrace them during their worst moments.
If I teach them that lesson at 3, when they are 23, and have screwed up, they will retreat back to my arms- or hopefully- to the arms of their Heavenly Father, who will always have His arms open to them.
So now she's calmed down, and I'll go in, sit next to her, and talk calmly.
I might say something like "Teaghan, we don't have an attitude like that at our house. We don't scream like that. We do not kick our legs or stomp our feet when we are angry".
Get specific. They're kids, and they need to know what- specifically- they did wrong. If I say "we don't act like that". I've left too much to be assumed by a 3 y/o and I'm not doing my best to train her.
Then I'll give her specific instruction on what she should do. "Teaghan, when you're angry, you need to stay calm". "when you can't do it, ask for help". "If someone does something you don't like, ask nicely" or "come tell mom". Giving her specifics on what she should do the next time.
If she's screaming still, she isn't going to catch any of the things I'm saying. That's why it's so important to let them cool off first.
Now I can let her go.
I could say "ok, we are done here."
But the next time the incident happens, I haven't equipped her with the tools to change her heart.
I've merely taught her how to monitor her behavior.
What a dangerous world we live in, where people have learned to monitor behavior, over attitudes of the heart.
It's why we see pastors forsaking their families for homosexual relationships. It's why politicians cheat on their wives. It's why the most holy of families seems well for years and years, and then suddenly, sin that is large and prominent, takes over.
We've learned as a culture to "act" a certain way, all the while our hearts are "deceitful and wicked, who can know them?"
I have to give my kids the moral reason why, in order to equip them with the tools for later.
At three, they may not actually change their heart. But my goal as a parent is to give them the moral reason why, like a library catalogue in their conscience. So that one day, when they're 10, 11, 12...or 31,32,33....they can pull that reasoning down from the shelves later in life, when I'm not there to give them the answer.
The only way to do that is with THE word. Not my words. Not James Dobson's word....the Bible.
So for Teaghan, right now....she's been learning "do everything without whining or complaining". She knows it. And every chance I remember, we say it together. Even when she doesn't need it. When she wakes up, in the car, at the store, before bed, at dinner time....and then when we get to a tantrum- she knows it. It's in there. She can say it "by heart".
Here's a few of my favorites, which we use at our house OFTEN:
We "prefer others" (Philippians 2:3) so we need not be selfish, greedy, rude, or anything else that doesn't prefer another over self.
We "obey our parents in The Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1) so we do what mom and dad ask.
We "love one another"(John 13:34) so we need to love everyone we meet, our family, and friends.
We "do everything without whining or complaining" (Philippians 2:14) so we don't need to whine about small things.
We know that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind", And "even though I walk through the valley of the shadows, I will not be afraid, for You are with me" (psalm 23:4) so we don't need to be afraid of shadows and the dark.
We know that "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" (psalm 23:1) when we are at the store, and want things we don't need.
The list continues.
So what about issues that come up, where I don't know what the bible says? That's a perfect opportunity to get in the Word, and find out.
Training our kids in the way of following Jesus, will require us to follow Jesus ourselves.
It's a lot of work. I get it. But it's worth it. Because there will be a day, when our kids can reach up into their moral compass- their personal library" of books and knowledge- that we've stored away for years and years, and pull them out and use it....which translates to wisdom.
And I want my kids to ultimately grow in wisdom.
The bible says that the fear of The Lord, is the beginning of wisdom. So to teach my kids to honor and respect Jesus is first. We do that by praying before we eat, not running in church, closing our eyes and joining in while we pray, and putting Jesus first in all we do.
But secondary to that, I need to give them the information to know right from wrong when my physical presence leaves in moments as they get older.
The moments in school when other kids are cheating on a test.
The moments at a movie, when inappropriate scenes are displayed.
The moments when they're given a chance to compromise and give excuses and lie and steal and disrespect another.
In those moments, the words that I've worked so hard to put in their little hearts, will grow like a seed, and flourish, for them to use the principles of the word of God, to make the right choices in the face of the enemy.
I hope this post was helpful in more ways than one.
I know for the specific person I was talking with, her son was much older than my 3 y/o.
At an age where they're able, teach them to look up what the Bible says on their own. Have them write it down. Post it somewhere everyone will see it, often. Maybe on the door frame, or on a mirror in the bathroom. Every time you pass is, say it out loud.
Let your older kids take ownership of their spiritual growth.
But most importantly, we have to model it. We can't expect our kids to live as Christ, if the primary example they've seen has been wishy-washy and not consistent.
Be consistent in your discipline.
Be consistent in your promises.
But mostly, be consistent in your faith.