Monday, November 9, 2015

For the Days When You {And Your Kiddos} Feel Like Throwing a Fit: Practical Helps for Bad Attitudes and Bad Days

In the last week...two weeks?...she's learned how to open every door in this house, including the refrigerator's.
She can climb up onto her big sister's top bunk bed.
She can light matches.
She has dumped out an entire brand-new bottle of shampoo {which happens to be VERY expensive here}, smeared an entire container of toothpaste all over the shower floor, written all over the schoolroom wall with a dry-erase marker, and covered herself in flour, oil, chapstick, mud, and a few other smelly things that I can't recall right now.
And unless you've had a kiddo with this certain personality type, maybe you can't really appreciate all of that.
Maybe you think I don't train enough, or I don't discipline enough, or I'm inconsistent, or I'm totally negligent, and maybe you'd be right.

When one of these things happen, I'm tempted to be angry.
As if I don't have enough going on, yes, I'd love to clean up another mess.
Sure, I want to jot one more thing on my list of things that have to get done that's already a mile long.
Oh, please, can I give you one more bath today? Because I've got nothing better to do with my time!
And the fear that this time she really IS going to knock herself out/impale herself/cause an explosion adds to the pressure.
But on the days when the list of offenses just continues to grow, or the weeks when the mischief that girl can find seems to have no end, my fuse tends to get shorter and shorter until one day ~ BOOM!
Mama throws a fit bigger than the one the two-year old just threw when she was told no for the fourteenth time in one hour.

So maybe you're laughing and recalling with delight the fact that you are well beyond the toddler years, but maybe you're facing the conflicts with a tween who wants to do her hair her way, a teen who hates to do his homework, or a child that is sure she is old enough to get a smart phone, even though mama knows she isn't ready for that kind of responsibility.
There are days when all of us, no matter how "good" we are at this mothering thing, or how "well-behaved" our children are, want to throw a fit that'll give any toddler's temper tantrum a run for his money.

I remember the Sunday morning I got to sit under the inspiring teaching of a dear pastor's wife at one of the churches we were visiting while in the States on furlough.
She's raised three great children, twins and then a son with Down Syndrome, and has now moved into the grandmothering years, yet she had such practical advice for me as a young mother.
She told a story of a very trying morning when her twin girls were young. They'd done something quite naughty, and she began to yell at them.
As she finished shouting, she realized that she had just done something she'd taught her little girls never to do - shout in anger......and so she sent herself to her room.
Because, as she put it, when mama throws a fit, she should be punished for it too.
Oh, how encouraging and convicting that was to hear.

How often do I respond to my children in the very ways I'm teaching them NOT to respond?
And how quickly I excuse it in my mind, because they are the ones sinning.
If they would just be obedient, then I wouldn't have to react that way.
Sadly, we lose all chance to teach our children truth when we return sin with sin.
It's a bitter pill to swallow, but when I respond in anger to my children's sin, I'm sinning too.
When my little one throws a fit because she has to sit in her chair instead of climbing on the table, I have the opportunity to live out the right way for her to respond.
I can be the example of what she should do.
But when I get angry and yank her off the table, force her into her chair, whack her on the rump, threaten her with punishments I'm not really going to carry out?
I'm teaching her that might makes right, anger gets you what you want, and I don't always do what I say I'm going to do, so therefore, I can't be trusted.

As you may have guessed, these are things that we've been working through as a family for some time now, and no, we don't have all the answers.
But maybe a few of these real, nitty-gritty, I'm-in-the-trenches-too ideas might be a little bit of help for the days you want to throw a fit in the worst kind of way?

1. Step Back ~ When the situation/offense comes slamming in hard, don't react. 
I make sure everybody is safe, and then remove myself from the problem so that I can calm down. Sometimes that means turning around and taking a deep breath, other times stepping out of the room, or even giving myself a time out. I might need to send the offender elsewhere so I can deal with a mess needing immediate attention. But I try not to deal with the situation immediately, because my emotions are never a good guide.

2. Rise above ~ Distance is needed to identify the real problem.
If I'm going to act the right way, I must ask why my child did what she did. Is she hungry? bored? wanting to do her own thing? feeling ignored? just acting like a two-year old? showing that old sin nature?

3. Seek strength and wisdom ~ Wisdom and strength to choose wisely and act justly come from the Lord.
No matter how many parenting books I've read, I'm not smart enough to do this on my own. Regardless of why my child is doing what she's doing, I need to respond the way Jesus would. At times, God's Word will come to mind, illuminating the way I should deal with the situation. Other times, I might need to take a few minutes and search the Scriptures for clear direction.

4. Carry it out ~ Act on truth.
Once I know how I'm going to deal with the situation, I need to carry it out in love. If she needs to be disciplined, I discipline her, not with harshness but with love. If she needs comfort, or food, or a change of scene, I take care of her needs, not with resentment but with love. If I'm expecting too much of her, I change what we are doing, not grudgingly but with love. No matter what the truth may be, I must do it in love.

There are days like today when we swing between crying and giggles.
Sundays are long and today was hot.
Nap time didn't happen, because by the time she could crawl into her bunk, she was overly tired.
For a half hour or so she had to cry it out, because sometimes our babes need to know that life is hard and they aren't always going to get their way.
At service tonight she was grumpy and wanted to fight sleep with everything in her.
As she struggled in my arms, I grappled with the best way to love her and guide her in that moment.
I began to kiss her sweaty neck, right at the sweet spot all mamas of wee ones know.
She began to giggle and then squeal with laughter as I found all her most ticklish spots.
I loved her the best I knew how, until she was gasping for air from laughing so hard.
She then scooched right up into the crook of my arm, popped her fat thumb in her mouth, and drifted of to dreamland with a smile on her face.
No fits on either of our parts necessary.


  1. You caught me! I was one of those who read this and laughed where you said, "So maybe you're laughing and recalling with delight the fact that you are well beyond the toddler years." I was! Oh, especially with one of my kids, they were awful!!! I made so many mistakes, I could fill a book with them. And now, responding rightly to people who act like toddlers is still a challenge. Your steps for doing it better are spot on. Terrific, and very practical post, Patty! God bless you as you parent your precious little girls.

  2. Where what this post 23 years ago when I was dealing with babies? This are great steps for gaining control of a situation. Sounds like you're doing fine and like my youngest who was a wild fire and turned out wonderfully I'm sure yours will too.