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.
2 thoughts on “Breaking News: Toddlers are People!”
Great advice. As a mother of 4 former toddlers I realized that telling them that the toy is not important doesn’t teach them the value of a toy. It teaches them that their thoughts and feelings are unimportant. A child whose parents routinely don’t have compassion on him when he grieves for a lost toy is a child who is going to have a really hard time believing that God knows when sparrows fall and can count the hairs on their head. The times I turned around and drove back to somewhere to retrieve a lost blankie said to my child, “What is important to you and causes you distress is important to me.” Even when good parenting requires not giving them what they want, there is a difference between “I know it’s hard but we need to learn to share, how about this toy instead?” and “Be quiet and get over it.” We should always look to God as our example of how to parent. He is willing to look past the silliness of what we worry about and be compassionate to us. We owe it to our children to take their feelings seriously and to try to see their point of view, despite how trivial it may appear to us.
Yes, Jay and al_and_tam! Parenting by bullying and control when children are small is a tactic that disappears once our children have grown just a few years older. If we have not built a relationship with them based on respect for their value as God’s precious children, all our influence is gone once they are too big to be bullied. EVERY interaction, even discipline — especially discipline!! — can be conducted with love and respect for our little ones. Thank Jesus that He provides the grace WE need to show grace TO them!