'Temporary' Temper Tantrums

You have probably heard it in the store, a scream that escalates in pitch and volume.  A harried parent who just told their child “no” relents and the child triumphantly clutches the item he just won with his angry outburst.  The child is appeased, the parent is relieved, and yet, what is the long-term cost of such a behavior and such a response?

If you are a parent of such a child, the counsel you receive for dealing with this problem will vary.  It can be confusing to sort out the proper responseHow then will we understand the anger we see in our children?

The culture calls these behaviors temper tantrums. Psychology identifies these behaviors as a disorder named disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Yet Scripture teaches that “anger is bound up in the heart of a fool.”  (Ecc. 7:19) Who has the right to name our condition?  Who will name it truthfully?

The culture teaches that if we simply ignore the behavior the child will grow out of it.  And yet we all know angry, immature adults.  It seems that maturity is not the inevitable result of the passing of time.

Psychology can prescribe medications such as Risperdal, Zyprexa, or Seroquel to control behaviors that presumably are outside of the child’s control.  The side effects of these drugs are significant for they cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Psychiatrist Allen Francis expresses his concerns about this renaming of anger:  “We should not have the ambition to label as mental disorder every inconvenient or distressing aspect of childhood.”

Scripture says:

“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”  (Prov. 22:15)

“The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother.”  (Prov. 29:15)

As soon as we see God’s prescription for the rod, many of us rise up in our spirits because we see our own tendency or the tendency of others to wield the rod in anger.  This realization in itself should be corrective and bring with it a call to repentance for it is a clear indication that we as parents are infected with the same disorder that we seek to correct in our children.

Scripture is clear as it calls us to train our children (Prov. 22:6).  It sets this training in a context where it is for a child’s good (Heb. 12:10-11) and done in such a spirit that a child is not provoked to anger in response to this correction (Eph. 6:4).  The rewards are tremendous for both the parents and the child, for the child reaps righteousness (Hebrews 12:11) and the parents rest (Prov. 29:17).

 

Self-Examination Questions

  1. Will we name ourselves and our behavior as God does?
  2. Will we obey His child-training directions?
  3. If we have angry children who we must correct, will we examine our own hearts for the same sin?
  4. Will we repent?

 

It is for discipline that you endure;

God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. 

~Hebrews 12:7-11

Check out Cheryl’s personal study questions for addressing anger.