Temper tantrums are exhausting, for parent and child. They're annoying for bystanders. They can be pretty humbling when they happen in public. We had a recent episode in the grocery store checkout. That was not fun. I had a full cart of groceries, and I wasn't about to ditch my cart when we were so close to being done. I needed said groceries for an evening community group event, and there was not another time to get them. So Big Brother A screamed and cried it out (under the watch of very gracious bystanders) until we got to the car and could address the issue.
So why do I love temper tantrums? Here's why. I'm in this to see my baby's heart turned towards Jesus. I want him to see forgiveness, redemption, and a God so loving that he is worth "being good" for- and so gracious that he gives us the strength to be good, even when we are tired or hungry or sick.
If I reflect on my own heart, I must admit that my own temper tantrums and hissy fits haven't totally disappeared. I whine inwardly; I complain; I do the right thing with the wrong attitude, or get frustrated when I feel like my "good works" are going unnoticed. I face the same temptation to react wrongly to my situation as my son faces.
Soon enough, my child will learn how to look good on the outside. We're working on expectations in public, and on the right ways to express needs and wants. He'll learn how to comply. He'll learn how to perform. But I believe from the bottom of my heart that that is not enough. Being good is not enough. He cannot get to heaven by good works; the Bible is clear that all of us sin, and that sin keeps us from God. I cannot train my boy to be good enough to go to heaven.
My goal is not merely to gloss over his behavior as quickly as possible. An outwardly well-behaved boy isn't any closer to God's presence because he is able to follow directions. I'm in this to fight for my baby's heart. I won't allow or encourage negative behavior, and we do follow consistent consequences when he acts out.
But I want to always remember this: Toddlerhood is a unique window of time. We get to see, hear, and experience everything our babies are thinking and feeling, before they learn to cover it up. There is not a better time to dig into heart attitudes, motivations, and thought patterns than right now. There is not a better time to make Jesus real, to make him make sense, to help our babies know that they need him, and to share the joy of Jesus's sacrifice that can cover up our "I can't be good enough" with "I am part of God's forever family".
Next time I'm in the grocery store with a screaming toddler, I'll be trying to remember to thank God for an amazing training opportunity while my child is still unashamed enough of his sin to display it on the outside. I'll be trying to think of how blessed I am to be able to walk with my child through the weight of his sin and help him to see the light that is Jesus.
If you happen to be in the checkout behind me- I'm sorry. And please remember to pray for the mommies and daddies who are battling for their babies' hearts.