If you look for child-rearing instruction from experts out there, you’re going to encounter some terrible advice.
I once received an e-mail with this type of instruction. This is what it said: “By now you probably know how powerless you can feel when your toddler decides to have a full-blown screaming fit in the middle of the produce section. It may be embarrassing, but rest assured that other parents feel your pain.”
I have seen these public fits and winced as I watched the parents “deal” with the problem by blissfully continuing to shop as if everything was perfectly normal. Turns out those parents might not be as ignorant as I thought: They may be scrupulously applying the very newest of new-fangled child-rearing “wisdom.”
The e-mail continued: “Whatever you do, don’t get angry. … Instead, just take your child out of the store (even if it means leaving a cart full of food behind) and sit with him in the car or on a bench until he finishes crying. When the storm is over, your child will feel close to you and happy again, and will be over the feelings that had welled up into the outburst. You can also take some comfort in knowing that eventually your child will outgrow this behavior.”
That is terrible advice.
Another column in a respected national newspaper printed the plea of a mom who actually feared for her safety because of the violence of her son’s tantrums. Her son was 3. The “expert” columnist offered a range of possible causes, from too much sun to food allergies.
Have any of these experts ever heard the term “emotional maturity”?
Our emotions, to a large extent, do not naturally grow up along with our physical bodies! The world is full of emotionally childish adults. Emotions must be trained, even in the youngest children.
A child allowed to throw tantrums will become an adult subject to emotional manipulation from all directions. As Proverbs 25:28 says, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.” This can lead to serious consequences in many aspects of life: relationships, diet, fitness, productivity and overall well-being. Failing to train our children’s emotions and attitudes is setting them up for failure.
Tantrums don’t come from UV rays or pollen. They come from selfishness.
Herbert W. Armstrong’s classic article on this subject is called “There’s a Hidden Enemy in Your Home!”
“The time to start this emotional ‘growing up’ is the same time mental training is begun,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “It should be started in the home, within the first months of a child’s life.
“Parents, study your own children. Remember that training of the emotions involves control and right direction of feelings, tempers, impulses. It means control over anger, jealousy, hatred, fear, grief, resentment, selfishness, vanity” (Good News, March 1985; emphasis added).
Each item on that list is worth contemplation in light of our children’s behavior.
Children should be happy most of the time. “The prince of the power of the air,” as the Bible calls him, does his level best to keep them unhappy by bombarding their susceptible human spirits with selfish, rebellious attitudes. I know—from frustrating experience.
Through plenty of love, laughter, gentle reminders, and confrontation when necessary, we need to drive those attitudes right back out of our homes.
More importantly, we need to teach our children how to do the same themselves. In other words, we need to help them grow up emotionally.
Mr. Armstrong continued, “And since the right direction is the way of God’s law—and since that is the way of love, and love is the principle of giving instead of taking—it means the teaching of your children to use their own minds to understand their moods and guiding them in the direction of giving—of love toward others equal with love toward self.
“Yelling, loud talking, bursts of temper, rudeness—all these are lack of emotional ‘growing up.’ Emotional immaturity is simply letting human nature run sway without any control from a right-thinking, reasoning mind. Teach your children to let their minds direct their natures properly and wisely.”
Now that’s some advice that will help our children actually outgrow bad behavior!
When our children obey, we can point out how happy they are because of it. When they’re frustrated, mopey, fearful, rebellious, selfish or angry, we can help them recognize this and show them the steps to turn these negative emotions into something positive and productive.
“You have a grave responsibility, if you have children,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “in their emotional training as well as their physical health, mental education and spiritual guidance.”
That—is good advice!