Every Saturday my children had chores. No one was excited about doing these chores. No one ever went to bed on Friday night cheering that tomorrow was chore day. My daughter Torrey’s chore was to clean the bathroom she and her brother shared. There were ten things in that bathroom that had to be done.
The plan was, when the job was completed, she would stay upstairs and call us to come and inspect. Instead, Torrey continually came down stairs and said, “You can go look at the bathroom now. It’s done.”
It was never done completely. After inspecting, we would have to call her back upstairs to point out what one thing wasn’t finished. It would have been easier to just let it go but we weren’t trying to get a job done, we were trying to get the training done.
Torrey had learned not to talk back with her mouth. There was a consequence for that. But, being the smartest one in our family, she learned how to talk back with her feet. She would stomp up the stairs when she didn’t get her way.
The question Rosemary, my wife, and I had to decide was whether the stomping was something that needed to be dealt with. Was stomping up the stairs acceptable behavior? Was it inside the boundaries of impulse control or “talking back … with your feet?”
Once we decided that this was unacceptable, because it would be unacceptable to her teacher or boss, we then had to pick a consequence.
The best consequence has two ingredients. A consequence should never include the parent or the withdrawal of the parents love. If possible, the consequence should be able to relate to the violation. In this case, we decided the consequence for stomping up the stairs in non-verbal disapproval would be to immediately send her back down the stairs and have her walk back up without damaging the arches on her feet.
Temper tantrums come in many forms. They all show immaturity and lack of impulse control. Whether a parent wants to deal with them or not is not the question. The long-range training question is, when a boss hands a report back to my adult child and she is upset that he wants more information so she leaves the office stomping and slamming, how will that affect her chances to succeed.
Torrey was embarrassed at having to be corrected about the bathroom and walking back up the stairs was causing her even more embarrassment. After several episodes of having to re-climb the stairs, she chose to control her impulses. That’s the goal.
The charge for us as parents is not the stair stomping. The stair stomping actually provides the opportunity. The opportunity to train them up in the way they should go so that when they are old they won’t depart from it. (Proverbs 24:6) It’s not for today. It’s all about their future.
Tomorrow: Don’t become the consequence.