See part 1 of this article on raising toddlers.
See part 3 of this article on disciplining children.
4. Ok, you’re walking with God – you’re a wise and prepared farmer! You are home with your children- you are a diligent and involved farmer. You know your child and you want them to be all they can be in Christ. What next? Toddlerhood is the time to set your child on a lifetime path to obedience to Christ. Don’t underestimate your toddler! Little kids are smarter than we think and they can understand more than most people give them credit for. It’s time to begin planting seeds, helping them grow, and pulling weeds out of your child’s garden! Training-
According to dictionary.com, training is to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of (a child or other person) by discipline and instruction
Exactly! That’s what we want to do. We want to form habits, thoughts, and behaviors in our toddlers lives by discipline and instruction!
How do we do it?
A. Planting seeds- In order to grow the right kinds of things in your garden you need to plant the right kinds of seeds. Give careful instruction. Sometimes it’s easy to expect kids to do the right thing when we haven’t told them carefully what the right thing is. First we let children know what we expect of them and why and the why always comes from God’s Word.
There are many methods of doing this, this is how I do it. I make sure they are looking at me. “Look at Mommy.” I tap my nose when I say that so that they understand clearly that I want them to look at me. Don’t give instruction until you know you have the child’s attention! It’s easy for kids to say, “I didn’t hear you.” “I didn’t understand.” We need to give instruction in such a way that they no longer have these excuses.
So we tell them clearly what we want them to do, “Mommy wants you to come here.” Begin with simple instructions and help them understand that when you give an instruction, you expect them to obey. Usually my husband and I work on this together. One of us will tell the child to come and the other will help them get across the room to the other parent. We do this a number of times until the child seems to understand.
B. Instruct them in God’s Word so that they will get the idea that all authority comes from God. We tell them, “God says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. God wants you to obey Mommy and Daddy. When Daddy asks you to come to him, you need to walk to Daddy. Here, let’s try it to make sure you understand.” Then Daddy goes across the room and says, “Come to Daddy.” Mommy helps baby across the room to Daddy. “That’s right! Daddy said to come and you came to Daddy! Good job!”
C. Give him a chance to obey on his own. You remind him, “Remember, God says you are to obey Mommy. Mommy wants you to come here to me. Come to me.” Wait a moment and give the child a chance to come across the room to you. If he comes, praise him strongly. “Good boy! You obeyed Mommy. God tells children to obey your parents and you obeyed God by obeying Mommy. Very good!” Give hugs and kisses.
Or, the child will not obey. From early on, we want our kids to begin evaluating their own responses so that they will recognize sin and learn to repent, so we ask questions. “Does God tell children to obey their parents? Did you obey Mommy and come to Mommy when she told you? No, you didn’t obey Mommy and that makes God sad. Now Mommy needs to give you a spanking.”
D. Spanking? Really? Anyone who has ever had a farm or a garden knows that the hardest part is keeping the weeds out of the garden. If a gardener is diligent, she pulls out the weeds when they are tiny and when their roots are small. These weeds come out quickly and easily. Once a weed gets hold in the garden, the roots get longer and deeper and they become almost impossible to pull out, and certainly they take much more work to pull up. We need to pull the weeds of sin in our children’s hearts by discipline. To complete the training they need to know that obedience brings blessing and pleasure but that sin/disobedience brings suffering and pain.
God says in His Word that a parent who loves his child will discipline him with the rod. But many psychologists say that spanking is harmful to children, don’t they? This is a chance to choose whom we will serve. Will we listen to God’s wisdom or to the world’s wisdom? This is what God says:
24 He who spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
3 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish him with the rod , he will not die.
14 Punish him with the rod
and save his soul from death.
15 The rod of correction imparts wisdom,
but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.
Training is two-fold- we use the Word of God to train their hearts and the rod of reproof to correct outward behaviors. Spanking without the training from the Bible may change outward behavior for a time, but it is the Word of God that changes the heart. But using Scripture without the physical discomfort of a spanking only gives a child part of the picture. They need to understand that all sin brings pain and has negative consequences. They can learn early through a spanking from a loving parent or later they will have one of “God’s spankings”.
In Scripture, God teaches us to deal with sin swiftly, to pull those small weeds early rather than letting them strengthen and grow deep roots. “Eccles. 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, the hearts of the sins of men among them are given fully to do evil.” We need to help our children deal with their little sinful hearts when the sins are small and easier to pull out. This means we need to discipline quickly after an offense. We need to be quick to recognize sin patterns. A wise farmer doesn’t look at a little weed growing in his garden and think, “Oh, look, isn’t that little weed cute?” No, he knows that weeds quickly grow and multiply and that soon they will overtake his little plants and try to choke them out before they ever have time to grow. This is where spanking comes in. I want to get down to the practical how to’s so there is no confusion about what I’m teaching.
I suggest not using one’s hands to spank a child. Mama’s hands should be sources of love and comfort for them. God calls it a rod and we use a small stick to spank. We pull down the diaper and give several firm swats that sting to the padded area of their behinds. It needs to hurt so that they get the idea that sin hurts. Just as a farmer pulls the weeds but nurtures the plants, we then nurture the child by followed up with loving hugs and kisses. “Mommy loves you and wants you to learn to obey Jesus. When you obey Mommy you obey God. I forgive you. Now let’s pray about this.” Then take time to pray with the child, asking God to help them learn to obey God and his parents.
E. Then give the child another chance to obey. This is where a lot of parents fail in their parenting and where a lot of gardeners fail in their gardening. We might pluck off the end of the weed but not get the roots. The roots of sin are left to grow stronger and deeper. Parents often don’t persevere until the child will obey. That strong will never submits itself to the parents and therefore to God. After the spanking, we would say again, “Ok, remember, God says children are to obey their parents. Now Mommy wants you to come to her. Come to Mommy.” If he obeys, give praise, encouragement and physical affection. If he doesn’t obey, discipline with a spanking, pray, and give another chance to obey. This part of the process may be very difficult. One of our children once took six hours to obey! (Tell that story but finish with the encouragement that ever since that day, she has been a very happy obedient child who almost always does as asked the first time.)
F. This brings us to the difficult fact that training takes time. Probably the most difficult area of child training is consistently taking time to do it well in the midst of a busy life. Farming is a full time job. In every season there is work that must be done to build up a productive farm. Parenting is the same way. To give careful instruction takes time. To discipline takes time. To pray and reconcile with the child takes time. To continue giving the child the chance to obey until there is success takes time. We often have to stop doing what we’re doing and turn our total attention to our children.
Basic premise of training is that we want our children to obey us the way we want them to obey God when they are older– Instantly, cheerfully, and completely…. Give example. We are setting the standard for a lifetime of obedience to the Lord. When they are toddlers, we are their visible representatives of God. They are learning habits which will carry over into their adult lives. How much better to learn good habits of cheerful wholehearted obedience that they can transfer to their loving heavenly Father as they come to know and understand Him.