For those of you who scratch your heads and wonder what all this talk about temper tantrums and anger and defiance has been about, I can only say that for some parents with some children, it is a daily struggle.
This will be our last post about dealing with anger in our children. Next week we’ll be moving on to a series called The Box.
This is a letter I sent to my daughter in response to her crying out for wisdom concerning her almost-two year old son. I didn’t intend these words for anyone but Elizabeth and maybe that’s why I’m able to give them to you now. This is my own heart pouring into my own daughter as she guides her son- my grandson- into a life of flourishing faith.
This is a question that I want to take a little time to answer here… I’m all curled up in my big chair with a steaming cup of tea. By my side is a pile of great biblical parenting books, along with my Bible.
What you are encountering with Duke is his version of simple rebellion. We call these “temper tantrums”. The Bible often uses the phrase “outburst of anger”. Basically, your darling little baby is growing up and asserting his drive for dominion.
He craves absolute control- not unlike the first Adam and the first Eve who chose to override God’s desire for them.
Left unchecked, this rebellion will lead to his death- if not physically, at least spiritually and certainly relationally. He will hurt and alienate people he disagrees with and he will be unable to gather the strength it takes to submit to the authorities in his life.
By dealing with this problem early in his life, while his will is just emerging, you are giving him the great benefit of learning to control those surges of willful rebellion.
If you think a 20 month-old’s outburst is brutal, wait until he’s 3… or 13…or 30. Every time you discipline him now you are enabling him to build a wall of protection around his will so that someday he will have what it takes to do that agonizing submitting of his will to the Father.
Take a peek at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane… sweating great drops of blood in a fight against His will to avoid the hell He was facing. Hebrews 5:8 says, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”
In the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp says this, “The rod of correction brings wisdom to the child. It provides an immediate tactile demonstration of the foolishness of rebellion. Properly administered discipline humbles the heart of the child, making him subject to parental correction.”
What he is talking about is that softness that happens after the spanking is given. That is the beautiful moment when his heart beats with yours and you speak words of approval as well as correction to a gentled will.
That 1/2 hour you spent comforting him was easily as weighted of a moment as the couple of minutes it took to spank him. The two go hand in hand to complete the goal of training him to submit his will by an act of his will, and then to experience the peace and reconciliation that comes as a result.
So you see? As loathsome as this is, you are imprinting on his heart a condition which he will gravitate back to for the rest of his life. He will someday transfer the intentional submission of his will to you and Brook into an ability to intentionally submit his will to the Father- and he will instinctively know God’s peace and approval in the process.
As to how dramatic and difficult it is right now, I think that has to do with a couple of things.
1. His personality/mission
Leaders have a lot of will to learn to conquer. They are not naturally compliant people. They can be pushy and assertive and insistent. Therefore, his response to having his will denied is going to be loud and pushy and insistent.
2. His age
Duke is just finding his voice, just realizing that he is “ME”. He has very little capacity to understand “will” and “no” and “quiet”. Dreadful as it may feel to one as gentle in spirit as you are, he must learn these things the hard way
Some of these outbursts may be happening because you are catching it just a tad too late. After all, this temper has just started, it is a new reaction. The quicker you recognize what is happening, the less drama involved.
Most of the time we do the opposite. We wait until it gets REALLY BAD and then we set out to spank. I have found over and over again that spanking early enables the parent to spank a whole lot less and with much clearer results.
So… hang in there. Keep at it. You are building one brick at a time.
Keep filling in the spaces with verbal instruction, lots of time to play, physical affection and plenty of freedom to unleash some of that pent-up man-ness.
And don’t take it personally, dear daughter of mine. He is not rebelling against you so much as against anyone and everyone who would dare stop him from doing exactly what he wants to do.
Your job is simply to obey God, even at great cost to your own comfort.
One more thing- Pray! Give these outbursts to God. Partner with Him to shape and mold and shine up Duke’s spirit. I don’t know why we so often forget that part! We jump right into the “I don’t know what to do”, when the Father is on the sidelines waiting for you to ask.
James 1:5 is the best prayer for parents that I know. Ask God to soften Duke’s outbursts and quickly bring his heart into an understanding of submission.
Long, long answer my dear. I wish I could make it easier- wish there was a tidy formula to wrap it all up in ten days or your money back.
I do know that in the process of representing the loving but fearsome Father to Duke, you are involved in a high and holy calling. And I also know that it will take every bit of your intelligence, wisdom, understanding, and resolve to accomplish the task.
But I also know who is with you in this. Can’t you just seem Him nodding in agreement with a great smile of approval on His face? I can imagine a whole crowd of witnesses actively standing on their tippy-toes, praying for you, hoping for you, cheering you on. Maybe Duke even has ancestors in that group, Grandpa Comer perhaps?
I love you! And am so proud of your will to persist and determination to learn.