The toddler stage can be SO frustrating, so many developmental things are happening all at once. But parents who get their minds prepared for it and who know what they are really trying to accomplish will have a much better time of it. This episode focuses on TWO things that will help you and your child get through the toddler stage successfully.
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This episode is aimed at helping parents who have young children — toddlers — children one, two, three years old, maybe even four-year-old.
During this stage there can be a lot of frustrations when you’re trying to train your young ones to learn good habits or to not do certain things… or it could be that you’re trying to teach them common sense things like how to do something safely.
It’s easy to get frustrated and it’s easy to think they’re just not ready to learn it. You might be tempted to give up. You may be tempted to take them out of the situation so because they just keep on getting hurt or irritated by it.
This episode features pointers on how you can help your child develop and grow in a healthy way in those kinds of scenarios. These are pretty basic, but that it’s important to hear because you need to know that everything covered her is “normal.”
These things are typical, you are not a weird case.
Repetition is a huge part of toddler training
Mindi was recently with our daughter, who has a one and a half year old boy. She was trying to teach him to step off of the curb at the playground – and she wanted him to do so where there was a tiny little step.
But he kept going to the part of the curb where the wood chips were pushed away and it was a big step. If he was to try there, he’d fall and hurt himself. Her instruction and training brought to mind how rote and routine training at this stage can be. It was very repetitive.
Our grandson would walk a little circle and would always go where the big step was. His mother (our daughter) would say, “Not the big step, go to the little step.” She would take his hand and walk him over to the little step. Then he’d step off and everything would be fine… until he circled around to try it again. He’d smile happily, all proud of himself and would go back to the big step again.
She’d say the same thing again: “No big step, go to the little step.”
Parents of toddlers need to prepare their minds: The kind of training you need to do with your child is GOING to be repetitive. It’s true for toddlers just as it’s true for adults, repetition is what engrains things in our minds.
Through repetition, we develop habits of thinking and moving and feeling, and after a while, we don’t even have to think about the actual thing we’re doing. This is what you’re trying to achieve with your toddler. You’re training their brain. You’re training their body to connect the dots.
Think of a gymnast who goes over the same exercise on the balance beam; they do it over and over and over. That’s how they develop the expertise needed to perform as they desire.
Be encouraged, parents, and prepare your mind to be patient about the little training opportunities you have all day long.
It may be toilet training, it may be teaching them to leave the electrical outlets alone, it may be training them that certain areas of the bookshelf, or cabinet, or even the house are off-limits to them. But repetition is the name of the game.
Many times parents who are not prepared to sacrifice their time miss the great training opportunities that are part of every day. They might just close all the doors so the kids can’t get into certain rooms and get into trouble. They might put up baby gates to keep the kids in certain areas of the house.
While there’s a place and time for such things, we encourage parents not to rely on those things, not to make them a crutch. You’re doing yourself and your child a disservice.
Prepare yourself to take the time to train them because you’re training your child’s behavior, you’re training their brain, and it’s going to help them to grow in intelligence and skill and self-control. They will experience success as they learn, which motivates them to learn new things.
Of course, there are times when you need to be cooking or something else, and you need them to be in a safe place. In those situations, sure, close the doors or whatever you need to do to keep them safe.
But don’t avoid the times when your child needs you to train them. Set you mind, “Okay, this is gonna be training time. We’re going to open up the bedroom doors and the bathroom doors and I’m gonna train them.”
As a parent, it is your job to train your kids, and that’s going to take time, So don’t get so absorbed in your world in your agenda and your to-do lists to the exclusion of training your kids. In fact, put training ON your to-do list!
Training is foundational to life
Be clear about this: the kind of training being described is laying a foundation for all kinds of life skills and success that your children need. Teaching them how to go off the little step instead of the big step, or how to not throw toys in the toilet, or whatever you’re not just teaching them… in all these situations you’re actually teaching them wisdom. You’re teaching them how to know the right things and how to know the wrong things.
The repetition enables those things to soak in over time, the repetition builds a foundation from which your child can grow and launch.
Biblically speaking, you’re teaching them a very important character quality — self-control. Can you see how this will prove to be extremely valuable with everything else in their life?
When our children were moving into the grade school levels, we noticed that they had a foundational maturity of self-control that often surprised us. They did well in school and it wasn’t a huge effort necessarily on our part to focus on academics. Our kids were able to handle whatever came their way. Of course, there were times when they did struggle with certain subjects or skills, and we worked through that, but in general, they were able to take what came at them, whatever the teachers required of them.
As we analyzed why this was the case, it became apparent that it was because they had learned the foundation of self-control.
Now when they’re adults, they don’t shy away from the responsibilities and challenges of life because they already have that foundation of self-control.
This is a mindset that starts when your child is one, one and a half, two, three, as you train your children to handle the basic and more advanced challenges of life. So learn how to be willing to engage in the repetition needed to accomplish that.
Advice for parents of strong-willed kids
It’s true that some kids have a bit of a stronger will than others, and it can make this repetitive time of training pretty exhausting.
But our best advice is this: Don’t give up and ask the Lord to give you wisdom and discernment about when the best time of training would be. You want to make sure that you’re not exasperating your child, or frustrating them.
Strong-willed kids need boundaries almost more than other kids. Why? Because they need to know that submission to God is important even for them. We all answer to His will for our lives and when you work to teach your strong-willed toddler the “yes” and “no” of life, you’re helping them learn a humble spirit that can submit to God properly.
You also want to ensure that you’re dealing with the circumstances of each day, not just applying a blanket “policy” to your training. Maybe your child is tired that day, or battling a cold, and for those reasons, they’re just not getting the training.
In a situation like that, do what you feel is best. Close the bathroom door, for example, and get their mind on something else, because you want it to be a positive experience for them.
But don’t give up on teaching them. Little by little, you’ll get there. Try to implement your training again the next day and see if the training works a little bit better. Come back to it. Don’t forget to come back to it, and be patient with the process.
Don’t be afraid of saying “No” to your child
Many parents have bought the lie that the word “no” is something you should never say to your child. This simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s damaging if your child never hears the word “no” in their training. They grow up thinking the world exists to accommodate them, which is a very damaging presupposition.
Here’s an example in child training of how you should use the word “no” appropriately: Teaching our child to go down the stairs.
First, when you think your child is able to handle the stairs with some help, intentionally take them to the stairs for the purpose of training. We usually have a baby gate at the top or bottom of the stairs until we’re ready for them to start learning how to navigate the stairs themselves. But when it’s time, YOU decide to train them on how to do it the right way.
When you get to the stairs, your child is likely to try to go down facing the stairs. You can say, “No, turn around,” and then show them how to turn and put their feet down behind them, so they are crawling backward or sliding down on their tummy. They may not immediately get it, so continue telling them and showing them the right way to do it.
Quite a bit later — maybe by the time they are four years old — they will be ready to learn how to go down facing the stairs and you use the same principles. Repetition, saying “No, do it this way,” and such.
If your child ever seems afraid to try something new, or is unsettled by the training, you may have them try again, with you nearby, but if they are still tentative, don’t force it. You can always try again, little bits at a time, in the weeks ahead. The more they get comfortable with the idea, the more they’ll be willing to give it a try as you help them.
Said another way, you don’t want to be inflexible or be guilty of pressuring them to perform. Always be seeking the Lord about what your child can and can’t handle. And when they accomplish something new, be full of love and praise.
Generally speaking, your children need to learn the “no”’s and the “yes”’s of life. So don’t be afraid to say “no” to your child. When you do, you’re setting a healthy boundary.
You’re teaching them right and wrong.
But right on the heels of your “no”, find opportunities to praise them and encourage them and cheer them on.
Overall, keep your child in view, not the accomplishments or training
As your kids learn things, praise is definitely in order. But be sure that you focus on them, not only their performance. Delight in them, help them to understand how valuable they are to God, how valuable they are to you, and that they are okay as a person, not just because they are performing well or accomplishing things.
Bible Teacher, Podcaster, Author
Carey is a retired pastor who served in local churches in various roles for over 20 years. He’s the host of to Christian podcast, “The Morning Mindset Daily Christian Devotional,” co-host of a Christian parenting podcast, “God Fearing Kids and the Parents Who Raise Them” which he hosts with his wife, and co-host of “You and Me And Jesus: A Christian Marriage Podcast,” also hosting alongside his wife, Mindi. Carey has written numerous books, including a Christian Speculative Fantasy Fiction series, “The Dragon Slayer Chronicles.” He’s the founder of Podcast Fast Track (a full-service podcast production company focused on serving small businesses and entrepreneurs) and love family, Jesus, and life.
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