Your five-year-old daughter has gotten in yet another tiff with her younger brother. You break up the fight, but she walks away muttering, “It’s no fair!”
Photo Credit: Luis Marina
You follow her to try to reason with her. She just gets angrier.
Her attitude escalates to the point where you close the door to her room, but you still hear her throwing toys and yelling, “IT’S NO FAIR!”
What happened to your little angel? When did she become this fuming, ill-tempered, tantrum-throwing version of the sweet girl you once knew?
The answer won’t be found in psychology or social science. Only the Word of God gives a satisfactory explanation for what’s going on.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. — Psalm 51:5
Your child is infected with the same disease all of humanity has inherited since Adam and Eve made that fateful choice in the garden.
Sin may not have reared its ugly head while your little one was crawling and giggling and cooing, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t already at work.
So how do you approach this new and challenging phase of life? How should you handle temper tantrums? First, let’s discuss what NOT to do:
- Don’t give comfort when discipline is needed. The popular but misguided notion that putting a calming hand on your child while she gives full vent to her anger is not helpful. Your job as a parent is to instruct your immature child that pitching a fit is inappropriate.
- Don’t get angry or get even. An angry child can provoke you as a parent. Quickly ask God for help so you don’t just lash out. Exercise your God-given authority with calm but firm resolve.
- Don’t rely on reasoning or “why” questions to solve the problem. Your child can’t articulate the fact that she is a sinner in need of grace. You are responsible to instruct her about her own nature and need.
Here are some big-picture things to do instead:
Instruct your child from the Word of God. As an ongoing conversation, teach your child what the Bible says about unrighteous anger. Consider doing an age-appropriate study through Proverbs together to find verses on anger.
Or look at the New Testament passages that list sins like unrighteous anger or fits of rage, such as 2 Corinthians 12:10, Galatians 5:20, Ephesians 4:31 and others. Discuss Jesus’ serious words about anger in Matthew 5:21.
Keep in mind, though, that cut-and-paste Bible verses will not transform your child’s heart.
Explain to your child that she needs Jesus to rescue her from her sin.
Tell her about the problem every human heart has — that we all want to be little gods instead of serving the True God. We want our way, and that’s why we get angry.
Then tell her the good news that Jesus is willing and able to forgive us and help us overcome our anger. Lead her in a prayer of repentance when she has given in to rage.
Show her Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Encourage her to memorize this passage and reward her for it. Let it be the topic of dinner conversations. Talk about times when God helped you respond with self-control instead of anger. Your testimony is powerful.
Finally, keep the long view in mind. Your child’s behavior won’t change overnight. This is an ongoing journey requiring you to lean into Jesus for the patience you need.
The good news? Your child’s temper tantrum is a perfect time to apply the gospel to her heart.
photo credit: Luis Marina <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/55282649@N05/15547142333″>Grrr!</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>