How to deal with unruly children in a home or Church setting

I spend each day of my life trying to deal with my 3-year-old son who has temper tantrums all day long. In a typical day, he could have five or more major "fits." My husband and I have tried everything. We took him to a child psychologist. We tried the time-out routine. We tried keeping a record of the times when he didn't have a fit and rewarded him accordingly. We tried spending "special time" with him so that he wouldn't feel like he was competing with his baby sister. Nothing worked. In fact, we've recently noticed that he is worse than ever! I have found myself wondering, "What have I done wrong?"

I have finally come to the realization that there is no magic solution to this problem. However, there are some things that can be done to help get through the day a bit easier. They are the following:- Don't blame yourself for your child's behavior. Spend your energy doing something more productive.

Be an example to your child. You can't expect your child to be in control if you aren't.

Pray to Heavenly Father for guidance. Heavenly Father wants us to succeed, especially when it comes to His precious children.

Have family home evening regularly. When you have a routine, your children will know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Find some time for yourself. Doing something that you enjoy is not selfish. Go on a date with your spouse. Having a break from your children will make the difference.

You can't change your children overnight. It takes patience and perseverance. Heavenly Father's little ones are worth the effort. - Kimberlee D. Hofmaster, Morristown, N.J.

Additional Information

How we did it

Let them help

When I served as Primary chorister, there were a few older children in the group who were frequently disruptive. One idea I used was to ask these children to help me in setting up before the meeting. I was surprised at how pleased they were to be asked to help prepare for Primary. They gradually became more reverent from then on; they seemed to be watching for opportunities to assist.

Another idea I found effective was to make a large poster with all the children's names on it, with spaces next to each name for stickers. I told the children I needed helpers to help me teach the songs, and each time they helped, a star would be placed next to their name, but that in order to be chosen to help, they must act reverently. They became more reverent and sought to be helpers. - M.E. Maughan, Cambridge, Mass.

Start early

My experience as a parent has shown that the best way to encourage proper behavior at home or Church is to start from very early childhood, teaching, enforcing and re-enforcing the principles that will encourage the desired behavior.

For instance, our children knew from a very young age that being unkind to each other was something that would never be tolerated. They grew up loving each other and being best friends; as adults, they continue that love and friendship.

We also subscribed to the philosophy that one's dress does affect their behavior, so our children had "Church clothes" that they wore to Church instead of everyday clothes such as T-shirts, sneakers or jeans. - Patricia Hoffman, Orem, Utah

No `reward'

When our children were fussy and were taken out of the chapel, I would set up two metal chairs in the foyer, where we could still hear the speakers. They could either sit on a chair or on my lap, but they weren't allowed to play or run around. It didn't take more than three times before they preferred to sit in sacrament meeting without leaving. I tried to impress on them that it was a privilege to attend Church. Children shouldn't be "rewarded" for their unacceptable behavior by being allowed to run in the chapel or hallways. - Marvin Morrison, Twin Falls, Idaho

`One, two, three'

While rearing my six children, I used the 1-2-3 method. First, I made sure the child knew what I wanted him to do, such as "Pick up your toys and put them in the toy box. Do it now."

If the child persisted in disagreeing, I stopped all discussion and said, "One." If the action I wanted didn't begin, in one to three seconds, I would say, "two." If action hadn't started or stopped by the time I got to "three," the offender would immediately be appropriately disciplined or be led to time-out-corner.

When the children became conditioned that "1-2-3" meant discussion had ended and discipline was close, I could just look them firmly in the eye and raise one finger, then two fingers, and they just never challenged me to find out what would happen on the third finger. - Therese Aurich, Lebanon, Ore.

Needed attention

When I first joined the Church, I was called as a Star A leader. I had one little girl who spit on others, told me she wouldn't listen to my lesson, told me she hated women and only liked men teachers, stuck her tongue out at me or the other children and was downright unruly to everyone in the class.

I wanted to understand her. Why could she be doing this? She was the sixth child of seven children. She needed attention, which many children need. They don't care if it's positive attention or negative attention. I gave her a small bag of candy, wrapped it with a note telling her I was thinking of her. Her mother telephoned me the next day and told me that she became the most popular child in the family. She shared her candy with her family, but on her terms. She was a totally different child after that - a very sweet and kind girl. I'll always remember this girl. - M. Michele Jones, Pleasant Grove, Utah

Offer choice

There may be times when it is appropriate for parents to patiently ignore noisy or unruly behavior by children. But a sacrament meeting or other Church meetings are not the times to demonstrate to the congregation how "patient" we are as parents by not letting our children's noisy or unruly behavior bother us. Guaranteed, such behavior is bothering other people and disrupting the meeting.

Noisy or unruly behavior should not be rewarded by allowing children to roam or play in the back of the chapel, the foyer, or hallways. Instead, take the child to a classroom. Have the child sit on a metal chair. Sit on a chair directly in front of and facing the child, with your arms folded. Explain to the child that in sacrament meeting, it is necessary to sit still and be quiet.

Give the child a choice. Either sit there on the chair in the classroom facing Daddy, or sit reverently and quietly with the family in the chapel. The child will soon discover that it is more enjoyable and will choose to sit reverently and quietly with the rest of the family in the chapel. - Elmer Zink III, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Write to us:

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Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

How to checklist:

1 Pray for guidance; seek to know child's needs.


Establish routine so children know what to expect.


Be firm when disciplining, but be patient, kind, loving.


Be example; learn to control your own emotions.

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