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August 15, 2008

My wife and I have read your books, and we are training up our children. We just were blessed with our 4th child in 4 years. Our two-year-old has reached the age where we need to discipline him. But when we do, he has a tantrum. I don’t know what to do except to be consistent and pray for help. – Bruce

Tremaine Answers: I remember observing a woman and her child in a mall food court. Her son was screaming his head off for one reason or another. His mother just sat there eating her meal as if the child’s actions didn’t bother her. BUT, it sure bothered me.

A tantrum is a manifestation of anger. It is a means of control. This sort of behavior usually comes when a child has had a history of not being consistently denied what he wants (when he pitches a fit). He has only received token swats that were as soft as cotton balls, which only proves to irritate the kid and convince him that authority is of no consequence, making his desires the supreme force. Such behavior in a child can be very provoking to you as a parent, so it is important that you maintain mental and emotional control of yourself. An emotionally out-of-control parent can’t hope to bring emotional control to the child. Children are far more capable than we suppose. We unconsciously know this…which is one reason it “bugs” us so bad when they have a tantrum. We know that it is innate selfishness on their part, not immaturity.

So, when your child of any age starts throwing a tantrum, NEVER, NEVER…
I repeat, NEVER give in to their demands. Your denial of their lust, coupled with a good stinging swat or two, will cause the child to see the futility and helplessness of his demands. When your child is convinced by your consistent response of enforcing negative consequences for negative behavior, he will cease his vain and tiresome behavior, employing some other means to achieve pleasure.

Fits are just high-pressure demands falling slightly short of violent action. It is not a stage or something they will grow out of. It must be dealt with decisively.

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4 comments on “Tantrums”

  1. I really need help with this. My 3 1/2 year old is very stubborn and has been throwing fits since the birth of the new baby. It's definitely related but she does get plenty of attention. She has never once gotten anything when she throws a fit and even after a good solid spanking she still throws a horrible fit. She then gets another spanking but this most times goes on for an hour lately. We only go to her calm and in love but firm at the same time. She has started to throw fits occasionally in public as well and even goes as far to hit and kick me. It's so embarrassing! I have started to take away things as well as spank her. She never sees this attitude at home and I have been extra careful to make sure the way were responding to everyone is a good example of what she should act like. A few months ago I had a very obedient well behaved child who always did as asked and responded well to correction. She was easy and well tempered and it's like a something went off inside her and she is this whole other person. Were consistent, we use a rod, she is still sweet and easy tempered most all the time but at least once a day now she is responding in a huge fit and with rage. I sometimes have to go to my room to calm myself down to make sure I am calm with her. It's just getting worse and I have let her know she can no longer go to the grocery store or to the library with mom but must stay home with dad and I will take the other children until she has a heart change. It's gotten where I can't trust her to be ok all the time in public. It's putting a huge stress on everyone in the family including the other children who don't want to hear her. I worry about my 5 month old picking up on bad habits later on if we don't fix this soon. Just feeling overwhelmed with keeping up with the level of correction she is requiring lately.

    1. Are there other changes that have occurred concurrent with the pregnancy? Especially maybe in your behavior or interaction with your husband. Children can be overly perceptive to such changes and it reflect in their attitude and behavior. If you were overly emotional during your pregnancy or postpartum (which is not uncommon), she may be reacting to this. If the newborn is disrupting the schedule and causing more stress between you and your husband, she may be reacting to it. I suggest exploring these (and possibly other) external factors and then go and try the training and consequences that were previously effective.

  2. I too need help with this. I have recently read the books "Created to be his helpmeet" and "To train up a child." But, I fear I have missed something significant. I ordered the "Child Training 101" DVD in hopes that hearing Mike would shed some light, but not yet. My son is almost two and has been very receptive to training in the past and to correction now that he has gotten older, but over the last few weeks, I can't seem to understand what is happening or how to deal with the situations. He has not been sitting still or quietly in church and if reprimanded, he tends to lash out or begin arching his back and whining loudly. He is taken out, the reason for the spanking is explained, and he is spanked. When any crying or whimpering has stopped he is taken back in to sit, but lately he has continued to be disruptive and repeatedly. Another situation has been whining at home; he wanted something for breakfast but before I could get it ready, he was whining. I told him he could no longer have that item and could have only his cheerios instead. I held my ground, but his father came home and did not understand. I felt this deterred from the effectiveness. The final area I am in desperate need of help in-- We have a routine before our son goes to bed. He is allowed a small glass of milk while we read 3-5 books and sing a few bedtime songs. Then we brush his teeth, pray with him and put him in bed. He is told to "lay down and go 'ni-night'." Lately, he has been rolling around and then defiantly standing in his bed while crying. I have told him that he will get a spanking if he does not lay down when I tell him to. Usually it doesn't take more than a swat or two, and not every night, before he submits and lays down. Today has become more typical; he stood crying, I told him to "lay down" and he would not. He received a spanking and became very emotional. This process continued until he was too emotional to submit and I was becoming angry. I don't know what to do so that he does not become so emotional or how to train him to control his emotion and to obey the original command before his emotions get out of hand. Please help me. My husband and I have begun doubting our disciplinary techniques and have begun to deteriorate in our relationship.

    1. Dear Tabitha,
      I would create a structured bedtime routine for your son. Pt him into bed to read the books. Sing quietly together. Lay your hand on him in a soothing way and pray. (Make it a long prayer and get him sleepy.) Then say goodnight. (you might enjoy this video clip of Mike demonstrating "How to put Johnny to Bed" Though directed towards younger children, this article may prove insightful in developing a bedtime routine:
      Cheerful, authoritative consistency is key in child training. Read this article for some more advice in the areas you mentioned: