Temper Tantrums

A young mother asked me this question:

Discipline is something I have been confronted with lately. It seems like my son's little sin nature appeared overnight. When did you start disciplining your children? What methods did you use? How do you tell the difference between a temper tantrum scream and an over tired cranky scream, etc.

An infant cries because he needs something. Either he's hungry or wet or just needs some cuddling time. As a child gets older, his will begins to show itself, and soon you'll see his cries changing.

I've seen a baby as young as three-four months throw a temper tantrum, but it usually doesn't appear until after seven-eight months, when he is old enough to eat solid foods and play with toys. It usually peaks around age two.

My theory is that suddenly he is aware of his desires, but he is not old enough to communicate with others...thus the frustration that turns into anger.

I know that simple sign language motions help with the communication, but you have to teach it to him consistently and respond when he uses it. Most children develop their own sign language, and if you pay attention, you should be able to learn what he is "talking" about.

Talk to your child. Explain what you are doing. Identify objects. The more words he hears, the better he'll be comprehend and learn to speak. When he start talking, don't use his baby words (although you should praise him for trying to talk). Let him know that you are understanding him.

If your child says, "Bah-bah", respond by saying, "Would you like your bottle?"


Sometimes we have to say, "no".
That's when the temper tantrum often begins.

When a child deliberately rebels against your authority...when you have just told them not to touch something, and they look you in the eye and reach out to touch it in defiance...when they say "NO!" to you...when they start scream and kick... that's outright rebellion and sin, and it must be punished.

Proverbs 22:15
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child;
but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

A spanking should be administered on the behind (where they have built-in padding) Give 3-4 swats and not with a hard object, but with something flexible, that won't injure them. Some people say not to hit with the hand, but sometimes that's what is most available at the moment.

Don't make them wait until you get home or for Daddy to come. A small child will have forgotten all about it by then. Connect the punishment to the crime and have it all over with and done.

Most importantly, be consistent. Don't punish one day and just nag the next. Don't let guests or being in public let him get away with being naughty. If other people are about, find a place to be alone. Use a bathroom or your car or some place where you can deal with it immediately. I tried not to spank or speak of it in public because of the controversy it creates, but the same people who thought I was a horrible mother for spanking my children also commented on how well they behaved. You do what you know is right, let God take care of the rest.

After the punishment has been applied, allow the child some "quiet time" in a chair or time-out spot. When he has settled down, hold him, love him, pray with him, and remind him of why he was punished. As he gets older, have him say he is sorry and then forgive him. All this teaches him to deal with his sin before God.

At our house, my children loved to sit in their father's recliner. I also found it to be the best time-out spot. The "authority" of that place was part of the punishment. I would set the timer for five minutes after they stopped screaming. They had to sit quietly until it "dinged" then we would talk. My oldest son seemed to be there a lot. Once I peeked to see if he was still in the chair and found him standing on his head.

Being punished for sin and being forgiven teaches a child about God. He needs to learn there is a penalty for sin. He needs to feel sorry and seek forgiveness.

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.


Joanne Sher said...

Great post, Vonnie! Good advice for all of us.

Hannah Wiley said...

This is fantastic advise. Samantha is definietly learning how to assert her will, and it's nice to hear some Godly advice on how to deal with that. I appreciate your time that you've taken to share your parenting wisdom with us beginners (me). Thanks again.


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