I recently drove to my parents’ house in Pennsylvania. While on the PA Turnpike, we passed a billboard picturing a child holding an ice cream cone with the caption, “tantrum averted.” The advertisement clearly communicated that a trip to this particular ice cream store would save you from a dreaded outburst from your kid.
When I saw the sign, I immediately recoiled. Is this really the message we should be sending? But then again, I shouldn’t pretend to be “holier than thou” and act like I’ve never appeased my kids. That said, most would agree that appeasement should be the exception to the rule, not the rule itself.
Unfortunately, appeasement seems to be the norm. And as a result, we have college kids going on strikes and demanding “safe zones” all over the country for issues that may not even exist. One Christian college even had a student complain to the president that he felt victimized by a chapel speaker who had preached from I Corinthians 13, the love chapter. The realization that he needed to be more loving drove the student to say the problem was the speaker, not himself.
You see, the problem with an appeasement culture is that it inevitably becomes an entitlement culture. And here’s the other problem: our world is full of people who have “solutions” to the overall entitlement culture without addressing parenting. There’s a reason the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
In other words, we should focus our attention on properly training our children when they are very young. I am no expert in this area, but my wife and I do work hard to instill discipline and responsibility in our kids. Here’s a few ways we have sought a “tantrum averted” outcome without resorting to appeasement.
- Clear Communication – When we have a message to deliver that our toddler won’t like, I’ll usually hold her hands and say, “Here’s the plan” and then explain each thing that needs to be done. When she knows I’ve taken the time to plan out what will happen and communicate the plan to her, she responds much better.
- Comprehension > Agreement – After giving our daughter the plan, I simply ask her if she understands. Whether she likes the plan, agrees with the plan, or is excited about the plan is irrelevant. By asking if she understands, we reinforce that her parents are the authority, not her.
- Immediate Discipline – If and when our kids disobey, we discipline them immediately. This doesn’t necessarily mean a spanking, although it sometimes does. Immediately responding to disobedience with discipline communicates that obedience is the only acceptable choice.
- Constant Love – Whether we are disciplining for disobedience or enjoying obedience, we are always loving on our kids. This means hugs and verbal affirmation not only after spankings, but also all throughout the day. We will always trust people to the degree we think they love us. By offering constant reminders of love through actions and words, we enable our kids to trust us.
This brief list is not meant to imply that we don’t have issues with kids throwing tantrums. And, there are certainly other good ways to help your kids escape the appeasement culture. Regardless of the methods you use, remember that achieving the outcome, “tantrum averted”, is not nearly as important as how you get there.
What methods have you used to help your kids respond obediently? Leave a comment!