The below article takes a look at what the Bible has to say about raising toddlers. It is written by my mother (Pat) who draws upon years of experience raising 8 children. Many people have noticed her successes in raising “good kids” and have wanted to know the “secret”. This article shows the principles behind her methods for teaching, disciplining, and raising children. Enjoy!
Article on Raising Toddlers Biblically
Cultivating the Garden of Your Toddler’s Heart
Raising toddlers- what a fun but challenging stage of parenting! Watching these little ones who are in the age of discovery and who make you see life in a brand new way with their excitement over small things such as flowers or bugs! And yet these darling little people are beginning to exert their sin natures, challenging mom and dad, requiring constant vigilance and lots of patience. No matter what they do during the day, when they’re sleeping in bed at night and you peek in at them, they always look like angels! I’m convinced that God made toddlers so cute to get us through the moments when we struggle with their “dark sides”.
I named this workshop- cultivating the garden of your toddler’s heart because I think sometimes if we have a real life picture to apply to a situation, we tend to understand it better. Because I love to garden- grow and nurture living things- I like this picture of how to be God’s instruments in helping mold and shape a little life from a small seed into a beautiful garden which glorifies God.
So, how can you best mother a toddler?
1. Just as a healthy farm depends on the character of the farmer, a child needs parents who are wise in the ways of God to help him grow in grace. Don’t neglect your own personal walk with the Savior.
2 Tim 2:15
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Live your own life in a way to please the Savior first.
If a farmer knows nothing about the principles that make life grow and thrive, he is unable to make wise decisions in cultivating his land.
John 15:5 says that apart from Me you can do nothing. As mothers, we have the amazing privilege to help our husbands teach our children to love the Savior and obey Him. Children learn best by example. If we live lives of cheerful contentment and obedience, our children will be more likely to be cheerfully content and obedient. I remember once when I had three little children and I was instructing my second child who was a very bright 2 to 3 year old, in obedience. After listening and responding, he asked me, “Mommy, doesn’t the Bible say you need to obey Daddy, too?” Ouch! Children are quick to spot and even point out hypocrisy in our lives. We especially can’t teach them that God teaches children to obey their parents if we’re not living under the authority of our husbands, respecting them, loving them, and submitting to them. So before we can teach what is right, we need to walk in righteousness. Deut 6:4-7
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children.
2. Farms need constant attention. In Proverbs we read about the farmer who is foolish enough to neglect his property. Prov 24:30-34
30 I went past the field of the sluggard ,
past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment;
31 thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
32 I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest —
34 and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man.
In this same way, parents must be with the children in order to teach them God’s ways and to help prepare the soils of their hearts in order to receive God’s Word.
Be with your children, teaching them God’s Word continually.
Let’s continue the Deut. Passage with verse 7-9
7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
So in this passage God is telling the Israelites to impress His commandments on the hearts of their children. How? By diligently teaching them when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we lie down, when we get up…. Child training is a constant responsibility. Many people today assign others to raise their children. The Bible teaches that it is Mom’s and Dad’s responsibility to raise their children. God did not give your children to their grandparents to raise, or to an ayi or to a kindergarten. A good farmer knows his land. He knows what grows best in what spots. He knows the amount of sunshine and water necessary to bring the best growth. As your child’s parents you know them better than anyone. You love them the most. They need your guiding hand continually throughout each day.
As Christians God tells us that we should be making disciples for Christ. When Jesus chose the twelve disciples, the Bible tells us in Mark 3:14 that He chose them that they should be with Him. His method of discipleship is sometimes called the “with Him” method. He lived alongside His disciples and taught them how to live as Christians by example and by continual instruction. Raising children is our most precious opportunities to make disciples for Christ, and we do that best when we, like Christ, are WITH THEM day by day. In order to raise our children for God’s glory, we have to be with them!
What are some practical ways to do this? Before a farmer plants seeds, he first prepares the soil. We as parents can prepare the soil of our children’s hearts by having daily Bible reading times with them. Begin with simple Bible stories. Let them participate by answering questions at the end or pointing to things in the picture. “Where is David the shepherd boy?” “How many sheep do you see?” Teach her to pray at different times of the day- not just when it’s time to eat or to go to bed. If she’s struggling with an attitude or has a bad dream, say, “Let’s pray about this together.” If he or someone else gets hurt, suggest that you pray together for the person.
Teach thankfulness by bringing good gifts from God into focus throughout each day. “Didn’t God give us a beautiful day?” “Listen! Do you hear the birds God made singing? Aren’t they pretty?” “When you fell you could have really been hurt badly. Let’s thank God for protecting you when you fell!”
Continually focus on God as Creator and Friend. Help this little one begin seeing God as the Lord of everything. Some people might call this brain washing. I call it smart. In Matt 13:1-9 God tells about four kinds of soil that the seed of God’s Word falls on. I’m not going to read the parable but you can go back and read it later by yourself if you wish. The soil that was well prepared received the seed and went on to bear much fruit. By continual training we teach our children that there is one Truth in life rather than a different truth for each person. We begin preparing the soil in their little hearts to receive the seed of the gospel. But we don’t just teach it in a vacuum. We help them to see that this isn’t just what WE think and what WE say. The reason for living is to glorify Christ in everything because this is our created purpose and because this is the way His Word says we should live. Train, train, train!
3. Know your farm! A good farmer knows his farm. He knows what crops his land can grow and what crops it can’t. He knows where the weeds tend to grow strongest and where the crops grow best. He knows that his farm is not his neighbors farms. There are differences in location, in soil quality, in amount of sun or shade… I’ve had 8 children. Two of the eight are pretty similar but that still gives me 7 significantly different temperaments to handle and the two who are similar still have many differences. From the time kids are babies, we can learn things about how they react, what they like, what things easily frustrate them. We begin to learn if they like things tidy or don’t mind mess. We see that some are people people and some like more time playing alone. Some are cuddlers who like physical affection while others tend to be up and active as much as possible. Some are more naturally flexible while others need a more structured environment. Some need more sleep and others less. As we study our kids and spend time with them, we find valuable keys to helping them become all they can be in Christ.
One of the more harmful things we can do for our kids is to compare them to other children or to expect them to live up to a standard set of expectations. I’m not speaking here of child training issues. All children can obey though some may be stronger willed and take more training. I’m speaking of steps of development- not all kids will walk at the same age or talk or be equally good at the same things. (Tell Chad and Jeremy at water fountain story)
We need to “learn our kids by heart”- to know what makes them tick and what makes them feel loved. And we need to temper our expectations with their abilities. If we understand them, we can help them strengthen their strengths and their weaknesses. Having unrealistic expectations only hurts them. This doesn’t mean that we accept sin and say, “That’s just the way little Johnny is.” No, we deal with sin. Just because little Johnny has a quick temper and wants to hit a parent or a sibling when they don’t do something he wants done doesn’t mean we accept it. We just realize, “OK, Johnny has a quick temper. How can I help him control it while he’s little before he gets to be a grown man with a full-fledged problem?”