Here we were again…me exhausted, desperate and disheartened. He was red-faced, red-bodied, fists clenched, feet-stomping, throw-himself-on-the-floor, bang-his-head, screaming MAD. I wasn’t sure what to do! This whole ordeal which seemed to happen every day when he didn’t get his own way was getting old. We have tried ignoring, copying, disciplining…all sorts of tactics popular parenting experts have suggested. None worked. None of their pieces of advice stopped the behavior from happening time and again. There really was nowhere else to look. But, there was one source I was overlooking. This is what I learned about what to do When Your Child’s Temper Flares.
My son has always been a little comedian. His facial expressions were always cracking us up…they still do. He was about 4 in this photo. Don’t let his cuteness fool you…when he got mad, he got MAD!
Anger and Rage
Anyone who met my son would never guess he had such a temper. He was, and still is, very quiet and gentle. That is until he became angry. Such strong emotions coming out of a tiny body!
When we were camping one summer, we had an ‘episode’. He was about 3 and still needed a nap every other day. On this particular camping trip, he also wasn’t feeling well. I had to give him Tylenol at one point and he was not happy about it at all. And he made sure I knew it.
Then it was time for him to go rest in the tent. Well, he was not going to have any of that! He screamed and he cried. He was MAD! I had to go in the tent with him and hold him in bed. That didn’t go over too well.
He was in complete meltdown mode. Kicking, fists thrashing, red-faced, struggling to free himself from my arms. Oh boy!
It was a wonder no one nearby – or throughout the campground for that matter – called social services on me. I am sure people all across the grounds could hear his screams.
After about 30 minutes, I needed a break. Marcus came in to relieve me. Matt was still in a full throttle tantrum.
Another 30 minutes slowly ticked by…and Matt continued with his meltdown. I went in to relieve Marcus. Eventually, Matthew fell asleep and he woke up from his nap a happy boy.
It is so stressful dealing with this kind of behavior.
A Change Was Necessary
I knew something had to change for our family, but I didn’t know what to do. I was so confused. This kid would become so angry that he’d throw himself on the floor and hurt himself; making him cry and scream all the more – and grow even angrier.
Corporal discipline rarely worked for him because he was incredibly strong-willed.
When he was in full rage, reasoning with him was completely out of the question.
Time outs? Ha! Not likely.
I was at my wit’s end.
Finally, I just started praying and asking God for wisdom and insight.
And He answered.
Why are we always so surprised when God answers us? Why is He the last One we go to sometimes? Or most of the time? Maybe even pretty much all the time.
He wants the best for our kids. Even more than we do. He wants to be a part of our parenting journey. Why are we reluctant – or forgetful – to let Him in?
He promises to give wisdom in abundance to all who ask of Him.
And He is the One with all the wisdom, He is the perfect Father!
Ask the Perfect Father for His perfect wisdom.
Perhaps we fail to turn to Him for help because we know it will require work and effort. It will mean change for us. We will have to acknowledge the fact that we actually do need help and we can’t do this life on our own. We have to give up control. And who likes to do that?
And we may actually hear something from Him that makes us uncomfortable. We may feel His holy conviction on our own lives. Are we ready to address our own contribution to the problem? Or is it more comfortable for us to continue blaming others?
I was ready to make a change – whatever it took. Including changing how I handle the problem.
So, what did He tell me to do? What did the Almighty, omniscient Father speak into my heart?
His Faithful Answer
He said this:
“Aimee, your son feel terrified when he is angry. He is scared of that emotion. I want you to take him into your arms when he gets angry. I want you to hold him close so he feels safe. I want you to speak gentle words of love to him. When you hold him, pray for him out loud. Bring him to Me.”
When my kid is in full swing tantrum mode, the very last thing I want to do is calmly cuddle him!
But that is what I did.
And I was amazed at the result.
I was finally able to ask him if he felt scared when he was so mad. He said he did feel that way. However, being so little, he didn’t know how to fix his problem. He didn’t know how to stop getting so angry. And because I am his mother – the adult here – I had the responsibility to help him fix his problem.
I asked him if he wanted to change how he reacted. He responded with a firm ‘yes’.
I taught him how to pray to God about his feelings. I told him that feeling angry was ok – it wasn’t wrong – but when we are angry it isn’t ok to hurt other people or himself. He understood. We talked about healthy ways to vent anger. I promised him that I would help him through this struggle. But he would have to do his part as well.
And that little boy prayed. He prayed and he prayed for healing and help.
And gradually, over time, he stopped becoming so angry. He learned how to manage his emotions in a healthy way.
He is 11 years old now. He doesn’t have tantrums anymore. Does he still get angry? Yes, he does. Does he sometimes say things he shouldn’t when he is angry? Yeah, he does.
But so do I.
And we must apologize and ask for forgiveness. Yes, I ask my kids to forgive me when I have done something wrong! I don’t make excuses or justify – or blame them. I apologize! That is a topic that is very important to me – perhaps a blog post for another time.
I want my kids to know it is a good thing to be responsible for their behavior. That means I also must lead by example and show them I am responsible for my behavior. They aren’t responsible for how I act. Part of taking ownership of my own ‘stuff’ requires me to apologize to them when I have sinned against them and to take the necessary measures to enable me to turn from that sin. I suppose that can be a post topic for another time, too.
If you are dealing with an angry child, I pray that this will help you. I don’t know if my solution is one that works for every child – our God isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ kind of God. He knows you and He knows your child. Trust Him to direct your path of parenting. Maybe He’ll direct you to seek additional help and support outside of your family.
Be encouraged. God is on your side and He is for your child. Invite Him in.