Home School Court Report
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No. 4

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Temper Tantrums and Other Behavioral Issues

Being a family physician sure is a challenging job. My partner calls it “a humbling profession.” We are asked to fix lots of deep-seated and longstanding problems with a tincture of something and a few 15-minute visits.

Yesterday, a woman brought her 4-year-old into my office at the request of his preschool teachers. It seems that this young boy is not obeying his teachers&mdah;often throwing temper tantrums, occasionally banging his head on the floor or the wall when he doesn’t get his own way. He does well with the schoolwork . . . when he wants to.

His mother was beside herself. “He’s been like this his whole life," she sobbed.

The young child flitted from one thing to another in the exam room, pumping up the blood pressure cuff, opening the drawers and peering inside, ignoring his mother’s request to get back on the exam table. She and the child’s teachers hoped that I could deliver a quick solution to what has been a lifelong problem. But I shared with this mother an old adage of the medical profession: “If something takes a long time to develop, it will likely take a long time to correct.” Certainly, correcting the character issues manifested by this child’s behavior will take time, patience, and a different approach to child training than has been employed to date.

Those of you who are experienced homeschooling parents will recognize that there is little hope of educating this youngster unless he learns to obey. Teaching a disobedient and undisciplined child is an effort in futility. One of the beauties of homeschooling is the opportunity to deal with behavioral issues at the point of disobedience in a loving and decisive manner. I am convinced that one of the reasons homeschooled students do so much better academically (on the average) than public schooled students is the character education that occurs during the typical school day.

It is so unfortunate that many parents relegate the job of educating their children to the public school system precisely when their children most need to be at home. In frustration and despair over a child’s lack of obedience and cooperation, many parents cave in to the mistaken notion that somebody else—anybody else—will do a better job than they can. If the pace of academic work in a homeschool is forced to vary with life’s circumstances or a child’s uncooperative behavior, don’t be discouraged. In truth, the character education that is occurring is laying a foundation for accelerated and efficient education in the future. The public school system is nearly powerless to accomplish this character development. They have neither the tools, nor the will, to get the job done. During times when our frustration is intense, it is well for us to remember Galatians 6:9: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (NASB).

Are you looking for some help negotiating these turbulent and hazard-ridden waters of child discipline? At a curriculum fair many years ago, I stumbled across a book entitled What the Bible Says about Child Training by J. Richard Fugate. My original copy of this text is now dog-eared and marked from stem to stern. It is simply the best volume I have encountered on the subject. What makes this book so unique is its lack of opinion or comment on recent child discipline studies. The author has instead taken Scripture verses pertaining to child training and, often working from the original language, fleshed them out to make practical application to our everyday lives. I have given away many copies of this book to friends and family at the birth of their first child.

Well-behaved children and educational achievement are worthy goals, but it behooves us to remember that if a child’s heart is not right before a Holy God, it is all vanity. Tedd Tripp’s book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, addresses this important point in a concise and easily readable form and is also well worth your study.

I wish I could say I have arrived when it comes to training up children, but my kids will be the first to tell you that I’m not there yet! However with God’s help, and resources like those listed above, we should continue to strive to do good for our children. Resisting the temptation to grow weary, it is a comfort to know that in due time we shall reap the benefits of our labors.

About the author

An HSLDA board member since 1997, Dr. Rodger Sayre is a family physician, and his wife Mary is a registered nurse. They live in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania, and teach their 11 children at home. Dr. Sayre received his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and maintains board certification in family practice. A Geisinger Medical Group associate with a busy practice in Nicholson, Pennsylvania, he is a member of the Christian Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Sports Medicine.