Breaking News: Toddlers are People!

Posted on March 29, 2014 · Posted in Ruling Desires, Toddlers

Toddlers are people. They may be small. They may have a limited vocabulary. They are immature. But the bottom line is – they are people.

This means they make decisions about what they think they need,. Just like you, it is their interpretation of their circumstances that determines how they respond to problems. 

If your toddler sees that a sibling has his favorite toy,  his immediate interpretation may be that something is very wrong with the world.

Let’s put this in perspective. Your toddler thinking he has lost his prized possession may be likened to the concern you have when you can’t find your debit card. Was it lost or stolen? Whatever the case may be, getting that card back is now the highest priority. But, suppose your helpful neighbor is visiting and said to you, “don’t worry, the card is just piece of plastic. Don’t be stressed. It will probably turn up in a day or two. Get over your worries.” You might look at that individual and wonder what planet is she living on. 

Now back to the toddler. His highest priority is getting his toy back. You are thinking it is just a toy. He needs to get over it and move on. So you say, “Honey, let your sister have the toy, you can have it later. It is just a silly toy.” In response comes this loud cry of agony and hurt. You see, your toddler interpreted this circumstance differently than you did. To him, his toy is every bit as important has your lost debit card.

This is why you have to look beyond behavior and focus on the heart.  Your toddlers are interpreting life according to what is important to them. To shepherd your children compassionately and biblically, you first must understand how they are interpreting life events.  Your toddler does need to learn not to be possessive and demanding with his toys. But if you just brush off his actions by telling him he has to get over it, you will only frustrate him and provoke him to anger.  Help him to know that even now he has to trust Christ. Life does not consist in having possession of toys 24/7. 

You will still have to continue training your children how to play well together. But remember that your toddler is a person. Help him to interpret his circumstances in light of God’s truth and not his own needs. 

Jay Younts
Jay Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger. He is the author of Everyday Talk and other materials on parenting. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for 30 years. Jay and his wife, Ruth, live in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and Ruth have five adult children.