5 Tools for Raising a Toddler
“Help, my toddler is running me ragged!”
I remember the days of having three children 5 years old and under! Those were very special and fun days and I also think the most difficult for me personally. It’s an incredible responsibility to raise human beings.
The Bible teaches us that God is the potter and we are the clay. We are entrusted with our children and they are essentially given to us like little soft clay to shape and mold into beautiful vessels to be used to contribute to our families, the world and ultimately the kingdom of God. This will not happen by itself but rather with a lot of work, persistence, patience and being very intentional with active parenting.
Here are just 5 things that helped teach our children discipline and obedience before the age of five.
- Do everything from a foundation of LOVE. (1 Corinthians 16:14) Love is not just a feeling or an emotion it is a choice and it requires God to be our source. It is tested and it is pushed to the limits of every kind of boundary, but God’s love does not run out or give up! God’s love gives without expecting in return. It believes the best and it does not fail. (1Corinthians 13)
- STOP. It is so important that you take time for yourself to shower (hahaha), to rest, to play, to worship, to read or listen to the Bible, to recharge and fill up. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to sustain the lifestyle as a parent to take really good care of your children. This is wonderful if you have a good family and friend support group who would be willing to help you. If you don’t, find another parent you trust and do a swap. If you are finding yourself in an isolated state, that is very important to change as soon as possible. It is not good to do this thing alone! Invest in friendships, find people you can encourage and will encourage you. It is the best thing you can do for your child, take care of you, not in a selfish way but in a responsible and loving way. Do this once a day, once a week and if possible, go on vacation at least once a year. (Hebrews 4:9-11)
- EYE CONTACT. In Psalms 17:8 David prays to God to keep him as the apple of his eye and to hide him in the shadow of his wings. I was amazed when I learned what that saying meant. When you look directly and closely into someone’s eye you can see a reflection of yourself in them! When we are so close to Jesus, he can see himself in us. When we look into our children’s eyes many good things happen. It helps us to bond with them. It gives them a focus to listen to what we are saying. It puts us on their level without lording over them. It connects us with their heart. It is understood that when a person’s eyes are directed a certain way it will guide where they go. When children are small, we want to help guide them and one way we found that worked best was to say, “look at my eyes when I speak to you.” This should be said with love. I said it often. It is also important to teach them to look others in the eyes when they speak to them. It is an act of respect. It will also build a confidence in them as people tend to respond more favorably to someone who will look at them and respond with respect.
Avoid making excuses for them, in front of them, like, “Oh he/she is being shy.” We used to literally prep the girls before we were going to be with people, “Now if someone speaks to you, look them in the eye and speak back to them and loud enough so they can hear you and understand you.” They didn’t always do it and sometimes Aubrie would just go ahead and answer for Taylor as she would stand there frozen and looking hard at the person but not answering them. Hahaha. This type of training and parenting takes work but will be so helpful as they grow to engage with others and will set them up to be leaders and good communicators.
- BE CONSISTENT. This is one of the most difficult ones to manage because it takes hard work every day. If you say, “come here” and the child runs away, but you expect them to come, you will need to follow through to make them come. If they learn they can run you ragged, they will. If you teach them, you are willing to make them come with determination and in love they will learn you mean it and will learn to obey. This is a tool that will carry through into adulthood to understand what it is to obey commands and respect authority. When you say, “go to bed” and they get up every night, you are training them to get up every night. If you say, “go to bed” and they get up, but you put them back in bed every time, they will stay in bed. This is obviously a challenge and requires patience and endurance with some children, but it will pay off later.
- CUDDLE WITH THEM. When our girls were little, we cuddled with them every night! Both Bill and I cuddled with each one of the girls every night! As they got older it became one of us cuddling with each of them and taking turns nightly. Eventually as they got older, we sent them to bed without cuddling and they would beg us to cuddle. We would give them the option to watch the rest of a movie or cuddle and they would choose cuddling every time. This was such an important time as I look back. It built a bond and placed a value on quality time. It built a sense of security and put a value on quiet time and communication. This is when they would talk about their friends, the things that scared them or their favorite things in life and dreams for their future! We prayed with them every night and they would pray too. Eventually we had those conversations during the daytime, and it was easy because they grew up talking to both of us every night. It opened a line of communication that they knew would always be there for them no matter what.
Thanks for reading,