Toddlers are people. They may be small. They may have a limited vocabulary. They may be immature. But the bottom line is – they are people.
This means they make decisions about what is important to them, just like you do. And just like you, their interpretation of their circumstances determines how they respond to problems they face.
Let’s put this in perspective. Your toddler thinks he has lost his prized possession. This may be likened to the concern you have when you can’t find your debit card. Was it lost or stolen? Is your bank balance secure? Whatever the case may be, getting that card back is now the highest priority. But, suppose your helpful neighbor is visiting and says 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 she is 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, we will find the toy eventually, it is just a toy. Don’t worry.” But your words don’t bring any comfort, any more than your neighbor’s words brought comfort to you about the missing debit card. Your toddler interpreted this circumstance differently than it is just a toy. To him, his lost toy is every bit as important as your lost debit card.
This is why you have to look beyond behavior and focus on the heart. Your toddler is interpreting life according to what is important to him. 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 about 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.
Your toddler has heart issues, just like you do. His well-being is not in possessing the toy but trusting in God. Even at a young age children can begin to trust God for toys they can’t find. Your child needs to know that God is in control and can be trusted even when he can’t find his toy.
You can help him to learn to trust in God by modeling that for him each day. If you lose it over the missing debit card, expect your toddler to follow suit. However, if you pray openly about trying to find the card and you remain calm, trusting Christ to help you, then you model what it means trust in God for your kids.
Remember that your toddler is a person. Help him to interpret his circumstances in light of God’s truth and not his own needs.