It’s an all-too-common scene to be in the aisles of Wal-Mart and find that you’ve become an awkward witness to a child’s emotional breakdown as she makes her demands through shrieks, stomps, and tears. The seemingly helpless mom looks around with her face growing increasingly red by the moment, with the embarrassment of knowing there is an audience developing. Often, the mom will give in, and the child will happily cling to her new prize- the reward for an act well played.
Have you been there? Have you been the parent? Better yet, have you been the child?
If you’ve ever been in a public place with a child throwing a tantrum, I’m sure you’re familiar with the emotions that go along with such a situation. Embarrassment, anxiety, helplessness, frustration…. It doesn’t take much for panic to start to set in, so the result is often that the child gets his way in an attempt alleviate the anxiety of the parent. Unfortunately, what this does is teach the child what behaviors are effective when he sees something he wants. This lesson is then reinforced time and time again if the pattern is not consciously altered.
As adults, if we’ve learned to get our way through manipulating the emotions of others, we will run into conflict after conflict. Because we know God as our Heavenly Father, we naturally expect Him to act in ways similar to our earthly parents because that is the model of a “parent” we have been given. When we see something we want, even if it’s not good for us, we think we can stomp and cry and throw a fit until we get it, if that’s the method that has always worked for us in the past. When we still don’t get our way (or if we do and decide it’s not what we want), it is easy to conclude, “Well, God must not love me.”
God, as our Loving Heavenly Father, gives us very clear expectations and firm boundaries. He lets us know what is expected of us and what will happen if we don’t meet those expectations. THAT is what we, as parents, need to be modeling to our children. Children need to know clearly what is expected of them and what will happen if the expectations are not met – because we love them and want good things for them. If children are allowed to manipulate and gain control over their parents, they won’t have the maturity to know what to do with that control, and may develop behavioral problems, anxiety and depression, a lack of self-discipline and a lack of understanding of God’s wise, loving guidance.
In the same line of thinking, beware of your own spiritual temper tantrums. If you find that you are angry that God is not meeting your demands, maybe it’s time to get up off of the floor, brush yourself off, and thank God for giving you boundaries based on His infinite wisdom. He knows what is good for us and is not going to give us something harmful.
New International Version (NIV)
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
What have been the most embarrassing locations for your children’s temper tantrums? When was the last time you threw a spiritual temper tantrum?