By Mike Augsburger
This scene is a cliché in many movies and TV shows: The terrorist holds a detonator in his hand for a nuclear weapon poised to wipe out a major American city. In his other hand is a phone by which he talks to the President. “Meet my demands or else!” The President doesn’t flinch and replies back in a foreboding voice, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists!”
Why would a nation operate by a policy to not negotiate with terrorists? Because once you go down that road, there’s no stopping. If terrorists sense a weakness in policy, they will exploit that weakness, and the list of demands will grow and never be satisfied.
This month we are focusing our content toward parents, families, and back to school issues. The purpose of this piece is to look at difficult current events and help to locate the root of the problem—well, at least part of the root.
You see, we can watch TV shows about terrorists and feel steel in our spines toward people trying to blackmail our nation. At the same time, we are housing our very own little terrorists under our roofs. Let me illustrate.
Before I had kids, I was an expert in parenting *sarcastic voice implied.* After parenting now for 10+ years, I look back with amusement at my naïve, younger self. Even in my youthful ignorance, however, there was one principle I knew purely from common sense: don’t give a child what they want when they throw a fit. For a child, throwing a fit is an act of terrorism. It can make even the strongest parent acquiesce to the demands of the screaming child.
I distinctly remember watching a friend trying to navigate a situation with his son. My friend and I were having a conversation, and his son came up and demanded, “I want a donut!” My friend responded and said, “No donuts right now.” What happened next is all too familiar: the child collapsed into a pile of flailing appendages screaming, “I want a doooonnnnnuuuuttttt!!!!!” My friend looked up, flustered and helpless, and said to his wife, “Can you get him a donut?”
Again, I was not a parent yet, but everything inside of me screamed, “Don’t give him the donut!” Why? Because by giving him the donut you are ostensibly rewarding him for throwing a fit. He’s getting what he wants, but not only that, he’s being trained to get what he wants by misbehaving.
Here are three results of fit-throwing:
It breeds ungratefulness
When children are allowed to throw fits, it is an expression of ungratefulness, and it will foster more ungratefulness. Thankfulness views a blessing as undeserved, whereas a fit sees a blessing as expected. Thankfulness is a right response to a blessing, whereas a fit is a demand for a blessing.
It breeds entitlement
An entitlement is something a person believes they deserve as a reward for existing. When a child throws a fit for a donut, that child believes that he should have the donut simply because the donut and he exist in the same room. If those attitudes aren’t pruned when the child is young, you will release a monster on society.
It limits the freedom of others
Moms, you know what this is like. Think of the panic you feel when your child starts screaming in the line at the checkout because she wants some candy. That panic you feel is your freedom being limited by that little terrorist! Ungrateful, entitled people become a burden on everyone else in society, thus limiting the freedom of others.
In closing, I’ll quote a line my daughter learned in preschool, “You get what you get, so don’t throw a fit!” In our home, throwing a fit receives swift discipline, and I would admonish you to do the same. I try to make it clear that fits will never get you what you want. Fits will only get bad things in return. In so doing, I’m making clear that I do not negotiate with terrorists. As Christian parents, let’s bless our culture by raising children who fear God, respond with grateful hearts, and who love others enough not to throw fits.
Mike Augsburger (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is lead pastor of Soteria Church, West Des Moines, Iowa. This article first appeared on the church’s blog, and is reposted here by permission.