What is important to a toddler?

Toddlers are people. If a toddler suddenly realizes that a sibling has his favorite toy, his immediate interpretation might be that something is very wrong with his world. The toddler may burst out crying or he may decide to retrieve his toy even if he has to fight for it. His response flows from his interpretation of his circumstances. For a young child, a toddler, being satisfied is important. Problems arise because, just as with older children and adults, things do not bring lasting satisfaction. 


In order to give or receive satisfaction in human relationships, you must first be satisfied in your relationship with Christ. That means resting completely in Christ’s care for you. It means not judging the quality of your relationship with Christ by the circumstances of your life. 


What does this have to do with toddlers? Simply this: things don’t satisfy; Christ-centered relationships do. Even though the spiritual condition of your toddler is uncertain, you can bring the certainty and stability of your own relationship with Christ to your toddler. God wants you to talk about him with all of your children, even – and perhaps, especially – with your toddlers. Toddlers need relational comfort and stability. This stability must come from their parents. Psalm 131:1-2 uses a toddler as an illustration of calmness:


O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me. ESV


Normally, we don’t associate toddlers and calmness. But in this psalm David compares the condition of his heart quieting for worship with that of a young weaned child being comforted by his mother’s presence. David is content and satisfied with his God. The child is secure with his mother who is close and whose voice is calm and confident. The response of the weaned child is so profound and recognizable that David is able to use it as a universal image that speaks to his hearers.


The beautiful and calming imagery of Psalm 131 provides a window to what is really important to toddlers and young children. The calm, confident voice and touch of a mother with her child brings comfort and stability to his worries and concerns. Ultimately, things are not important to toddlers. What is important is the care and comfort that flows from parents who are satisfied with God and have the courage to speak to their children about God’s care. Nothing else will help them interpret the events of their life in a way that brings contentment rather than frustration. Something to ponder.


“But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother…”


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