It’s naptime and the other children are asleep, and you’re almost dancing with excitement, anticipating all you will accomplish (and all the forbidden snacks you might eat) during this golden one and a half hours. But your remaining dearest little child has begun a new phase in which she battles hard when she wants her way, and your two year old is resisting her nap with violent force that you didn’t even know a 25-pound body could muster.
You try everything. Of course you’ve tried to reason with her and hold her, but she writhes away and screams. You’ve disciplined her, to no effect. You try to sing and pray above her screams, but she just screams louder. Her face is turning almost purple and you’re utterly clueless. Finally you close the door to her bedroom and sit in front of it, preventing her from escaping, just putting your head in your hands while she romps around angrily. It’s been at least thirty minutes and you’re at the point where neither of you knows what she wants.
All you can think about is how deeply you wish you could be doing something else. How insane and pointless it is trying to deal with this toddler when she’s so frustrating! But as you’re mentally repeating your whiny mantra of “What a waste of time!”, may a different thought sweeten the air:
“This is one of the most important moments in her life. And yours.”
Here are at least three ways tantrums can be defining moments:
1) This moment---assuming you persist in loving her and do not succumb to her rebellion---you are teaching her that she is not her own God. She is learning about the emptiness of self-reliance and how sin ruins everything. Even if you don’t tell her anything about Jesus in this time, sin is showing itself to be a harsh master, and the good news of Jesus will fall on ears more primed to hear it.
As Jesus said, it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. By not downplaying the wrongness of what your child is doing, you are trying to rescue her soul!
2) This moment she is learning that you love her. Handing her the iPad, throwing her some fruit snacks, or allowing her to skip the nap, will likely calm her down and give a sense of peacefulness between you. (I would know, because unfortunately I’ve taken the easy way out many times!) It would even modify behavior.
But changing how your child acts is not parenting. That does not prove that you love her.
On the contrary, even if all your attempts at reaching her in her tantrums are wrong, at least she knows you’re trying. She needs to know that no matter how frustrating she’s being, nothing can separate her from your love for her. Nothing can mar your affection. And sometimes the best way to show affection to your child is to discipline her. (The Lord disciplines those He loves.)
3) This moment shapes you as a person. Guiding a hurting and angry little heart is an enormous privilege, and though it would be great if all your guidance could happen while you’re having a happy conversation at breakfast, that’s not how life works. Usually the biggest opportunities for loving your kids will come in crucible-scenarios, and in those tricky times, you’re probably growing as a person more than she is. Anything that shows you your need for the LORD is a good thing.
Remember that God is sovereign over all things. Even when a huge tantrum comes as you’re heading out the door for church or you’re in the checkout line at Target, just remember that He loves you and is giving you good providence. Thank Him for it. Ask for His help. Goodness and mercy are following you all the days of your life!
Photo by Bethany Petrik on Flickr.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a rad guy, and raising three little people ages 1,3, and 5...and I'm now expecting my fourth. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today