Toddlers are people. They make decisions about what they think they need. The Tripps’ observation that children interpret everything that happens to them provides powerful insight into the lives of toddlers. And it is their interpretation of their circumstances that determines how they respond to events. If a toddler suddenly perceives that a sibling has his favorite toy, his immediate interpretation might be that something is very wrong in his world. With that interpretation, the toddler may burst out crying or he may decide to retrieve his toy even if he has to fight for it. The response flows from his interpretation of his circumstances. In other words, he is evaluating life on the basis of what he thinks is important. For a young child, a toddler, being satisfied is important. However, just as with older children and adults, the reality is that things do not bring lasting satisfaction. Ultimately, what brings satisfaction in life is relationship. And, of course, there is only one relationship that can bring true lasting satisfaction – a relationship with Jesus Christ. To be able 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 provision and care for you. It means not judging the quality of your relationship with Christ by the circumstances of your life. It means being sold out to bring honor to his name in all that you do.
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. This is an important application of Deuteronomy 6:7 that is often missed. God wants you to talk about him with all of your children, even– and perhaps especially–with your toddlers. Toddlers are in great need of relational comfort and stability. At their age, 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. He has not ascribed too high a place for himself. He is not consumed with worry and anxiety. His soul is quieted and calmed by focusing on God’s care and control. The God of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps, he is right here watching over us. 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 as they consider entering the majestic court
The beautiful and calming imagery of Psalm 131 provides a window to what is really important to toddlers and young children. There are plenty of things to be upset about in their view of the world. But, 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.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother…