Oct 242013 4 Responses

On Throwing a Fit (Lessons in Parenting and Leadership)

Silas was slow in getting out of the car after I told him to do so. I asked the question I always ask, “Silas, are you obeying or disobeying.” Exasperated, he said, “Disobeying. Go ahead and throw your fit.”

Throwing a fit is a part of childhood, but it’s also a part of parenting.

In part, parents throw fits because we are imperfect people. We lose our cool, overreact, and act no differently than the children we are trying to parent.

But parents also throw fits that are important. We don’t think of them as fits, but our kids do. Sometimes we freak out over the wrong things, but sometimes we freak out over the right things. Parents should show passion about the important things in life.

Silas knew he was disobeying and that a fit was possible.

Parents throw fits; kids throw fits; yet there is one key parenting rule regarding fits—never throw your fit when they are throwing theirs.

Too often parents throw their fit in response to their child’s fit. It’s pointless. The child is in no place to learn and the parent is in no place to teach. It’s an emotional explosion with no purpose and no positive outcomes.

The challenge of parenting is to calm down when our kids get fired up. The more emotional they become, the less emotional we need to become.

It’s not easy. No one is perfect. Every parent will fail a hundred times. Yet we must recognize what is happening.

Whenever we emotionally lose control in response to our children losing emotional control, we are sending two wrong messages:

1. We are telling our children that they control our emotions.

2. We are telling our children we do not have the ability to control our emotions.

Neither is a positive message.

In contrast, whenever we remain calm while our kids throw a fit, we are teaching two important truths:

1. You control you, but I control me.

2. I choose my emotions, they are not determined by my circumstances.

This is what we want for our children. We want them to hold their temper on the playground, show respect in the classroom, and to be able to obey even when they are upset.

We want this for our children, so we have to model it for them.

This is true in parenting, but it’s also true in every area of life.

When people are in an emotionally heightened state, they are not in the right mind-set to be reasoned with or learn. Lessons might need to be taught, but it is no use teaching them in those moments. It will frustrate us and not be useful to them.

When someone is throwing a fit, it is better to listen, stay calm, and wait until a different moment to communicate what you want to say.

Our natural tendency is to match the emotional state of whomever we are speaking with, but it doesn’t work. Responding to a fit with a fit serves no purpose.

Next time a customer or co-worker throws a fit, recognize it, pay attention to your breathing, work hard to stay calm, listen, but don’t try to make a point. Consider the point you want to make and then find a better time to make it. Do this and see what happens.

Next time your child throws a fit, refrain from throwing your own. Hold them accountable to proper boundaries and enforce consequences for bad decisions, but do not match their emotion with your own. Stay calm, stay in charge, and model for them how to properly respond.

And when your child tells you to “Go ahead and throw your fit” just laugh, because it’s funny. Then put the child in timeout because while he might be funny, he was still disobeying.

4 Responses to On Throwing a Fit (Lessons in Parenting and Leadership)
  1. mike Reply

    What’s funny is how you would reward disrespect by laughing at it. Disrespect is just as bad as disobedience. It’s easy to disobey someone you don’t respect. But, you should show control over laughing (though it was funny) and kill 2 birds with 1 stone…

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Mike, you make a good point. We would never want to reward disrespect, but I didn’t sense any disrespect in the moment. It’s hard to read via text, but he was dejected when he said not disrespectful. Only being 5 he didn’t realize what he was saying could be disrespectful. He actually said it in a resigned tone showing me he knew he deserved punishment. If he says the same thing at 7 I will not laugh, but at 5 he didn’t fully understand what he was saying so I could laugh.

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