Who is in Control When Big Kids Throw Fits?

Last week I wrote aimages 9.07.30 PMbout the parental power of scooping up an out of control child and carrying them to a car rather than yelling at them to obey you and
walk.  A couple moms asked me to discuss the very real scenario where the child is too big to be carried.  What then?

The reality that a child will one day be too big to pick up and carry, should be incredible motivation to work diligently when they are portable to insist on obedience and do the training early.  But frequently big kids have set backs and some kids take much longer to figure out the “way they should go” than others.  Often labeled strong-willed kids, these children are hard-wired to fight for their own way more strongly than the complacent child. So where does our power lie?

As adults, we cannot always control our children.  They may scream, stomp, cry, and say hateful things to us, and we CANNOT control them in that moment.  But we can control ourselves.  We can.  Often if a strong-willed child cannot get what they want because a parent says, “No,” they seek to control us by making us so upset that we lose control of ourselves.

I had a strong-willed first born child.  Nightmare.  We were in constant battle for control of the house and the three younger kids.  He threw a fit–I yelled–he ramped it up a notch– I countered.  Then we woke up the next day and did it again. That is until I heard a speaker at a Hearts at Home conference who shared that the strong-willed child needs control and he “won” the battle if he controlled my emotions.  So when I lost my temper, I actually was rewarding his fit-throwing?  Once I had his battle plan, I was a new mom.

My yelling stopped.  It was quite easy actually, once I realized that I was making his stubbornness worse.  Once I was in control of myself, he was next!  I realized that in the horrible moments, I had little power, but the rest of the time I was THE MOM.  I controlled everything else: bed time, snacks bought, snacks distributed, field trips, dessert, chores, playdates, toys, TV, videos, computer time.  Me.  All me.

But this power cannot be wielded like a weapon–if it is, then we are the enemy.  Instead our power lies in our authority to teach what is true and what is good for them, not just us.  With an older child we can talk about issues that need to be changed outside of the chaotic moments.  We can choose a behavior (or two at the most) and focus our attention on making the changes that will benefit the child rather than just the parent.

▪   “It seems like you are having trouble obeying Mom when you want to do somthing different.  This won’t serve you well one day if you become a boy who demands his own way.”

▪    “Wow, you still are struggling with accepting ‘No’ as an answer.  Mom and Dad will need to help you figure this out before it causes you a lot of trouble in school and with friends.”

▪    “You are still running around after I ask you to calm down.  I need to help you be a boy who has self-control so that you won’t get hurt or be out of control when you are older.”

▪     “When you get frustrated you are still losing control and throwing fits.  You are old enough now to be able to control your emotions so that they don’t control you.”

Now that the issue has been identified, you can set up consequences: skipping snacks because the sugar must be making you wild, 10 minutes early to bed for each incident because you must need the rest, skipping a playdate because Mom can’t trust you yet at someone’s house, extra chores because Mom spent her time dealing with your fit.  Be creative. But we don’t have to wield the consequences over the child as if THAT is where our power lies.  We don’t need to say, “HA!!! Now you will obey because I have so much power over YOU, ha,ha,ha,ha (evil laugh.)”

Rather our power is in our relationship with our kids.  We have consequences because we want to help them grow and mature into responsible, caring adults who seek Godliness. But we will love them even if they choose to NOT change their ways immediately.

If you don’t want firm, pre-established consequences, there is a lot of power in strong statements conveniently articulated like:

▪     “Oh, I wish we could go to Dairy Queen today, but last time you threw a big fit there and I’m not ready to go back for awhile.  I’ll be watching to see if you are getting in better control of yourself.”

▪    “No, Sophie can’t come over for awhile because last time you threw a fit when she was here.  I’ll be watching to see how you are treating your sisters and see when I feel ready to let a friend come over.”

▪      “It’s time for bed, Buddy.  Why so early? Remember today you threw a fit for 14 minutes so I think you need quite a bit more sleep. Love you! Good night!”

You get the idea: So in THOSE moments with the BIG kids who are too big to carry, we don’t have much power.  But we have incredible influence the rest of the day to develop our ratltionship and establish our authority.  So don’t lose control.  Don’t throw out a threat or a bribe.  Simply ask them, “Are you out of control?  It seems like you are so I will wait and keep track of how long this lasts so I can figure out if we have a problem we need to solve.”

What about my oldest who I yelled at day after day until someone gave me another idea?  I have NOT yelled at him in seven years (he turnes 18 next week).  That strong-willed nature is now being used for good rather than evil.  What a joy!

Who is in Control When Big Kids Throw Fits?








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