Everyone likes to give the impression that they have it all together. It feels good. Makes us feel less like a failure. Parents especially struggle with this. We want our kids to “make us look good” as parents. There is nothing quite as embarrassing as having your child misbehave in public. Yet, there is nothing quite as unnerving as having your child throw tantrums all day long — even in the privacy of your own home.
I have been “blessed” with three strong-willed children. Our littlest had me fooled for a while, making me think that she was going to be the easiest “little” we had — making me feel like I really did know what I was doing with this whole parenting thing.
But I guess God knew that I needed more practice with patience, kindness, self-control, & gentleness. I thought that my first strong-willed kiddo was all I needed to be refined. But I was wrong. The good Lord knew better. 🙂
Are you “blessed” with a strong-willed child? I say blessed, because I try to keep the big picture in mind. A strong-will is not a bad thing if it is used for good — not for tormenting parents.[Tweet ” A strong-will is not a bad thing if it is used for good — not for tormenting parents. #strongwilledchild #raisingclovers”]
How I Handle My Strong-Willed Child's Temper Tantrum?
Here are three helpful steps I've used when handling my strong-willed children's temper tantrums:
Stop, Drop, & Roll!!
- STOP! I first stop myself before I get too upset and lose control of my temper and my tone.
It never helps for me to lose control along with my out-of-control child. If anything it only reinforces the behavior. This is probably the hardest part for me! It makes me angry when my kids throw tantrums — the loud, toddler kind or the silent, sulking, teen kind. I take it personally. I'm a “people pleaser,” so tantrums totally go against the way I'm wired. I think, “If you loved me, you wouldn't treat me this way or speak to me that way.” Then the other side of my brain thinks,”Do you know all that I do for you?!”For those times when I do blow it and lose my temper, I try to apologize immediately. Sometimes I've done it right after I rant, “You're driving me crazy!” or “You get back here and speak to me with the respect I deserve!” The Lord convicts my heart that I am guilty of the same sin as they are — lack of self-control & disrespect. (I know, I'm blowing your impression of me right now, huh? I'm not perfect. The secret is out.)I try to remember that I'm supposed to “model the behavior” I expect from them in stressful situations. So, I STOP myself before a word comes out of my mouth, take a deep breath, say a little prayer, & then try to handle the situation in a more calm fashion. When they can't ruffle your feathers, it won't be as rewarding for them.
- DROP! I drop what I'm doing and take action immediately!
The longer I let things things go, honestly, the angrier I get. So, I've already lost the battle if I let myself start out angry.I love the police officer example that Dr. James Dobson uses. When we break the law and get pulled over, the officer does not start yelling at us for all the things we did wrong or reminding us of all the other violations that we've already taken care of (okay, an officer will let you know if you have outstanding violations). 🙂 No, the officer calmly tells you what you did wrong and hands you a ticket. Done! Calm consequence delivered!
When I respond immediately to the situation, I increase my odds of staying cool! It also shows them that consequences come quickly. 🙂 Consistency is key! If your child gets away with things, then they will continue to try to get away with things. If your child trusts that you will consistently give them a consequence for wrong behavior, then you are training them to make better choices.
(I'm a huge Shepherding a Child's Heart & Heart of Anger fan, so I know that there is more than just correcting behavior. The heart must be addressed as well. You will not have any lasting change until you help your child understand where the feelings are coming from and how to respond correctly. I HIGHLY recommend both of these books!)
- ROLL! Learning to roll with the punches helps.
That strong-will will come out again, and again, and again, and again! Don't be surprised by it.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child…” Proverbs 22:15
Never be surprised by your child's foolishness — & for that matter, don't be surprised by your strong-willed child's defiance. Just think of it as another wonderful opportunity to point them to the Lord, His Word, and your love and grace! 🙂
So, roll with it & pick your battles, and when you pick one — WIN! [Tweet “Pick your battles, and when you pick one — WIN! #strongwilledchild #parenting #raisingclovers”]
Stop, Drop, & Roll!! in Action
So, here's a little example of how I use “Stop!, Drop!, & Roll!” in real life when the “will” surfaces.
Just this morning my daughter was screaming at the top of her lungs in her bedroom. It had already been a long day of tantrums, we were nearing lunchtime, and I was pretty much at my peak capacity to handle another temper tantrum. Keep in mind that she is three, and there is no true “reasoning” with her.
STOP-I took a deep breath, prayed AGAIN!, & I thought through my game plan
DROP-I dropped what I was doing and walked into her room. I should admit that I probably wasn't totally immediate with my actions since I do tend to tune out the tantrums from time to time.
ROLL-I rolled with it, not surprised by her tantrum. They happen. She was frustrated with not being able to get a shirt off the hanger of her closet. It was too high.
ACTION=I did a little “Parrot Parenting” — at least that's my name for it. I'm a firm believer in showing our kids what to do and what to say.
- I told her that I could understand that she was frustrated (I gave her the word for her emotions -“frustrated”).
- I explained to her that next time she needs help and is frustrated all she has to do is find me and I'd love to help her.
- Next I took her through the steps of what to do next time = Role Play!
* I told her, “Oh no! I can't get my shirt down. I'm going to go find Mommy.”
* I took her hand and lead her to the room where I was and said, “Mommy already told you where she was, so let's try this out the right way.”
* We walked back to her room and role played. I positioned myself where I was and said, “Hello sweetie! Is there something I can help you with?”
* I told her what to say to me (“parroting”), “Mommy, I need help getting my shirt down. Can you please help me?”
* She had to “practice” what I just said. I should point out that I over-dramatize things to make it a bit silly. Laughter helps the brain to snap out of the bad behavior.
* Then we walked together to her room and got the shirt down.
- I told her that now she knew what to do next time she got frustrated like this.
- I had her apologize to me for her tantrum.
- We hugged, prayed, & reviewed a memory verse (with silly hand motions to make her smile).
“Even a child is known by his actions by whether his conduct is true and right.” Prov. 20:11
Using these three steps has helped me deal with the various tantrums or attitudes that take place in my home. I pray they will help you, too. Like I already said, I'm NOT perfect! I mess up a lot. I'm just so happy for the grace I'm given by my wonderful Savior — and I try to remember that when my kids need some grace extended to them.
I hope that this helps you as you parent your strong-willed child. Above all else, know you are not alone! Give yourself grace for those times you don't handle situations with, well, grace. Saturate yourself in God's Word and don't forget to ask Him for wisdom, discernment, and help.
* For the record, when my little princess is not allowing her strong-will to get the best of her, she is the sweetest, most loving little person! She is kind and helpful. But the reality is that we all have a little sour mixed in with our sweetness. 😉