Periodically, questions are submitted to this blog by email. Since this Q&A interchange will surely help others, in addition to the one who posed the question, I will sometimes post answers here in generic form. Here’s a few questions from a young couple concerning child discipline issues and the counsel that was given.
“We just finished reading HELP! My Toddler Rules the House. Good book! I am comforted by the fact that my wife and I have at least tried to implement most of the principles you discuss. I can say that I think you are right-on scripturally and would agree with everything you put in the book. I do have a couple of specific questions about how I may handle situations that seem to arise regularly with our 4-year old daughter.”
QUESTION: When we are at the store, or somewhere else in public, is it child-centered to leave the store immediately during a tantrum in order to avoid the embarrassing “scene?” How could we handle the tantrum in the store, continue with our plans (and not hers), and then correct her tantrum at home?
ANSWER: If defiance in public is your current parenting battle then before even entering the store let your daughter know what will happen if she is disobedient. It is not child-centered parenting to leave the store. It is good parenting and other shoppers will appreciate the fact that you are actually dealing with the problem. Just let one of the workers in the store know you will be coming back to finish your shopping and leave your cart near the checkout. If necessary put the frozen items back where you got them (my wife likes to get those items last so that they are on the top or not even in the cart yet if this sort of thing happens). It will only take a few times and your child will learn that it doesn’t pay to disobey. It will send a huge message to your child that you care enough to stop shopping and lovingly take her home to deal with the situation, if necessary. It is important for her to know that her obedience is more important than your convenience. Driving all the way back to our house is not always a possibility, so if my wife needs to take care of a problem, she will sometimes leave the store and go somewhere else to take care of the necessary discipline. Always return to the store—if you don’t the child has won the battle and you’ve failed to give her the opportunity to obey. Once you return be sure to gently remind your child that if the same behavior happens again the same correction will be administered. If she is really stubborn she might test you several times…so be prepared. My wife carries a small paddle in her purse. Often times just pulling the handle out enough to show the child will be enough to change an attitude.
QUESTION: Our daughter, as sweet as she is, is an angry screamer when she is disciplined. We do see that it is our fault that we did not catch this quickly and correct her when she was two. We let her get this way and now have to help her change. I (the father) have had to apply repeated swats on her little bum before getting her to stop screaming. What are your thoughts and suggestions on this? In addition to screaming she jumps, runs away (within the room) and hits herself immediately after the correction. I can see in her face this is anger more than anything else.
ANSWER: Angry screaming is a sinful response to your God-given authority and discipline. We explain to our children that if there is angry screaming (as opposed to normal crying) then he or she will get additional discipline. Sometimes getting the child not to scream before the spanking takes place—in order to help him or her to humbly receive the discipline—takes more time and effort than the application of the spanking itself. If anger is displayed then the heart issues are not being dealt with and another spanking is in order. If she runs away, tell her to come. If she will not come to you then go to her, administer discipline, then go back to where you were and repeat the original command. If she will not come to you then repeat this procedure until the battle is won and submission to your authority is humbly honored. Hitting herself, or any other form of self-injury, is also a sinful display of anger. You must hold her accountable for her attitudes and help her learn to control her anger. This is a way for you to serve your daughter by acting in her best long-term interest.
I know it seems that you may have to deal with some pretty serious spanking sessions. It can be exhausting, I know. You may have to walk away for a little while if you find yourself tempted by sinful anger. Simply send her to the room you use for discipline and have her wait for you to come to her. Most often at times like these my wife, or I, shed tears. But the time and effort it takes to train your child to submit her will to your God-given authority is worth it in the end.
Remember the promise to obedient children given in Ephesians 6:1-3. Parenting is often a battle of the wills. You will be doing your child much good by taking the time to win those battles while she is young. Learning to submit her will to yours is the beginning of teaching respect for God’s authority structures and opening the door to submit to the command of the gospel.
[The booklet mentioned in the questions from this couple is reviewed here at Discerning Reader].