Unavoidable tantrums

Friday, August 14th, 2015 at 8:46 am

In the past several years, I’ve seen not a few web articles focused on preventing temper tantrums. The gist of each of these articles is that temper tantrums are generally the result of a child’s unmet need, often biological.

A temper tantrum happens, the expert mother-blogger writes, because your child is hungry or tired or hasn’t been told what to expect. If a mother can just make sure her child is never hungry, never tired, and never unprepared, she can prevent temper tantrums.

I never gave much thought to these articles until recently, when Tirzah Mae started throwing temper tantrums – full-fledged, beat-on-the-floor-with-her-fists, angry temper tantrums. I observed that these did indeed generally occur when she was tired or hungry.

I wondered – are the mommy bloggers right? Are Tirzah Mae’s temper tantrums biological necessities? Are they a result of poor parenting? Are they God’s fault? Are they my fault? Or does she hold some responsibility for her actions?

Then, I found myself having a temper tantrum.

I generally forget about my temper tantrums until they’re upon me.

The thing that has been bothering me all through the month, that I’ve been patting myself on the back for handling so well? Suddenly it’s too much and my blood is boiling.

I don’t need to check my calendar to know what time of the month it is. This temper tantrum – these temper tantrums – the seemingly uncontrollable frustration and anger and disappointment and rage happens like clockwork once a month.

It feels like I don’t have a choice in it, feels like my biology insists upon this temper tantrum. I try to resolve to control myself, to fight against myself. But month after month, I lose the battle.

It’s my hormones. I don’t have a choice.

I can tell myself that, but it’s not true.

Sure, my biology contributes to my tantrum – but my sin contributes more.

It’s my sin that seeks its own, that refuses to see another perspective. It’s my sin that pouts instead of presenting my requests to God. It’s my sin that rages instead of seeking resolution, that harbors grudges instead of forgiving.

So what does this teach me about parenting my daughter?

I think it teaches me several things:

First, I must pray for my daughter.

When the flesh tries to control the flesh, it fails. It is only by the Spirit of God that anyone truly develops patience, kindness, and self-control. If I, a regenerated believer who has been walking with the Lord for over 25 years, still struggle so much with my temper, how much harder must it be for my daughter? Tirzah Mae’s temper tantrums should remind me that she, that we all, are sinners at the core and in need of salvation through Christ. As a parent, I should be regularly be bringing my daughter before the Lord, pleading with Him for her salvation.

Second, I must not excuse her behavior.

Just as I cannot excuse my own temper tantrums. I cannot excuse hers. Temper tantrums must be dealt with. Simply giving in to the demands she makes will not teach her anything – it won’t teach her to control her temper or teach her to go to the Lord for help to control her temper. It will teach her that temper tantrums get her what she wants – and she will continue to have them regularly. As a parent, I need to be teaching my daughter what is and is not appropriate behavior and what will and will not produce desirable results.

Third, I must not provoke my daughter to anger.

Ephesians 6:4 warns fathers not to provoke their children to anger – but I think it applies to mothers as well. While I can not prevent all of her temper tantrums, I can learn how to gently guard my daughter from situations where she feels that a temper tantrum is her only recourse. I can, to the best of my ability, make sure she is fed before she’s ravenous by establishing regular meal and snack times. I can, to the best of my ability, pay attention to her cues and put her to bed before she becomes over-tired. I can pull her out of crowds for a time out when I see that she’s getting overstimulated.

Finally, I must trust the Lord with my daughter.

It’s so easy to think that everything our children do reflects directly on us or to think that somehow we should be able to change our children’s behavior. But it doesn’t and we aren’t. Our children are their own people – and the only One who can change their hearts (far more important than changing their behavior) is God. So we must continue to entrust our children to His keeping.

Reader Comments (2):

  1. Barbara H. says:

    Very good advice here. Though understanding where their tantrums come from helps, we all have to learn not to just give way under provocation. It’s a lifelong struggle but it is so good to begin with baby steps when they are small.

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