Confession: Sometimes I watch the show Hoarders. It totally freaks me out and yet I watch. I don’t know if it inspires me to clean my house or I just like freaking out over a house filled with cats. Anyway, the other day I was watching it and a 40–year-old woman threw a total, out of control tantrum, complete with yelling and screaming and stomping of feet.
Now here’s the thing. I’m around two-year-olds a lot. And when a two-year-old throws a tantrum it’s not pleasant, but I will admit sometimes it looks so silly that I smile a little bit. Especially since it’s not my child. When you’re two, it’s expected that there will be an occasional melt down. No real harm done.
But when a 40-year-old woman pitches a great big ‘ol fit. It ain’t cute. Somewhere along the line she didn’t learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. She didn’t learn to communicate effectively when she was upset. She didn’t learn self-control.
When you’re two and you pitch a fit, you can’t cause too much damage. When you’re two and you throw yourself on the floor you don’t have too far to fall. When you’re so mad at your mommy that you want to call her names, the worst you can do is “stinky face.”
But when you’re 40 and you throw yourself on the floor, or you throw anything for that matter, someone is going to get hurt. And your words, when unleashed in anger can cause damage to those around you that can never be undone.
Self-control really matters. And the best place to begin strengthening that muscle is when you are a kid. It’s so much harder when you’re 40—and so much more ugly.
When your child is two, you can expect a lack of self-control. It’s who they are. They are immature. While understanding that it’s appropriate for their age you’ve got to start guiding them toward self-control. One of the best things you can do with a young child is to make sure that they DO NOT get what they want when throwing a fit. If they want attention, ignore them. If they want a candy bar at the grocery store and melt into a screaming puddle, leave the store.
Don’t let their lack of self-control benefit them in any way. Easier said than done when your little darling turns into a fire-breathing monster, right?
As your kids get older, begin teaching them how to push that pause button, take a deep breath and make a better decision. So, when you see it building in them, and you see them about to blow a gasket, call a time out. Teach them how to recognize how they’re feeling, take a deep breath, gather themselves and choose their actions instead of letting their actions take over and choose for them.
By the time your kids are heading to their teen years your hope is that they are practicing a lot more self-control. Your goal is that they are able to think through the consequences of their lack of control and make better choices. They’re still learning. Mistakes will be made. But you should see a lot of progress from when they were two!
Teaching your kids to have self-control starts when they are young. It’s an important job. And even though you and I both still struggle with aspects of self-control, I hope I don’t ever see you or any of your kids pitchin’ a fit on an episode of Hoarders!