I walked in the front door and heard screams coming from the kitchen. Our eight-year-old daughter wasn’t getting what she wanted, and was determined to make life miserable for my wife. When I walked into the kitchen everything stopped!
I asked my daughter to go and sit on the couch and Rosemary (my wife) and I sat at the kitchen table. Rosemary looked exhausted and she asked the question, “Why doesn’t Torrey (our daughter) throw tantrums when you are not here? What am I doing wrong?”
There wasn’t anything she was doing wrong. There were many possible reasons why Torrey threw temper tantrums around mom and not around dad. One reason might be that she is more confident in moms love and forgiveness. Or, it could be that our daughter saw dad’s love as more performance oriented.
It’s dad who cheers for performance victories like kicking goals. Moms are there to bandage a knee. But, mom is often the one person a child seems to treat the worst. It’s a very back handed compliment to mom. “I know mom loves me. I don’t have to work hard at treating her well.”
This is where dad comes in. Mom and dad are one. The Bible actually called it One Flesh (Genesis 2:24). It was time for me to go into the room where Torrey was, and let her know that when she talks to mom like that she’s also talking to me. Our marriage makes us one person and there will be a consequence for outbursts no matter which of us are at home.
The next step was for me was to tell Torrey to stay on the couch until she was ready to go and apologize to her mother. “And if you leave the couch without apologizing to mom you will be going to bed right after dinner.”
“But dad,” she protested, “I can’t go to bed after dinner, I have soccer.”
“Then I guess you will be deciding whether you go to soccer or not by whether you apologize or not. It’s up to you.”
Outbursts like temper tantrums, or verbal outbursts like talking back, all need to be dealt with so the child will learn enough impulse control to be able to respond properly to a teacher, coach or eventually a boss.
It all starts at home! Begin thinking through the long term impact of some of the unacceptable behaviors we seem to accept in our children.
Tomorrow: Thinking through the right consequences for my child’s outbursts.