“NO!” screams a defiant two year old while his mom or dad stands helplessly by. We try to be nonchalant as we move around the battlefield of child against parent in the store aisle, but usually curiosity wins out and we take a quick glance. Have you been here? Or maybe you have been that parent?
I have seen and heard about enough situations to know that the TV Show Super Nanny isn’t filled with families that are exceptions — they actually seem to be more the norm. And these little tyrants are growing up to be adults who think they deserve the world when they say they deserve the world. Unsurprisingly, this method of letting little children rule the home is very detrimental to our society.
Of course, they are so cute and adorable but without boundaries they become tyrants and tantrum-throwers.What a lot of heartache can be spared for both parent and child later on if the parents’ authority is established in their home when their kids are small.
Before I move on, I do want to mention one thing. Whenever we get into this area of parenting 2-5 year olds, inevitably the whole idea of spanking comes up. Do you? Should you? As you consider what you should do in this area, I would encourage you to pay more attention to scripture (Proverbs 22:15; 13:24) than to humanistic philosophies. Both my husband and I believe we are better spouses, parents, employees, and friends because our parents spanked us. It is also a much shorter route to get where you are going. Now–that being said–I have seen Super Nanny accomplish the same in a longer, more circuitous route. Whichever way you choose to discipline, the key is: there must be some.
This is where we parents can get so selfish and lazy (trust me, I remember those days!)–
He is screaming and screaming and so we just give him what he wants to shut him up.
She keeps getting up off of time-out and so we just let her go back to playing.
He keeps whining and fussing about the broccoli on his plate and so we don’t make him eat it.
She is embarrassing us in the store and so we hand her a bribe, usually in the form of a sugary snack or a toy.
We can be prepared for heading up a committee or organizing a project, but we are never prepared for a 2 year old screaming NO in our face in a public place or making such a fuss over something on their plate.
I remember the first time I held my oldest child in my arms. I looked at that tiny round face and thought: I have absolutely no idea what to do with her. The responsibility of it all was so overwhelming. That was 23 years ago and the advice to parents back then was a little different than the advice parents are being given now. I am so thankful for parents and in-laws who advised us as we got our feet wet in the parenting thing and also for radio programs like Focus on the Family that helped me so much. Of course, bible-based parenting books were a great help, too (and I will list some of my favorites at the end of this post). It is so important that we are open to godly advice and counsel from those who have been successful in this adventure of parenting. If you don’t know where to turn, find a family with godly, well-behaved children and ask them what they are doing.
But, in the meantime, here are a few pointers that my husband and I learned in this parenting journey. If you can do these six things with your young children, you will establish a strong base for your family when the rough seas of teen years come.
1. Establish yourself as the authority. This may be the one most important thing. Because if you don’t do it when they are two, you will have a very difficult time doing this when they are twelve. Many times the word authority causes us to cringe. We want to be friends with our kids. But there is time for that later. Our kids yearn for someone to be in charge. You are that someone. We need to embrace the role that God has given us in our homes and be the loving authority that our babies so desperately need and desire.
2. Keep in mind that the word authority is not synonymous with tyrant! It is important that we let our children make a few small decisions that really don’t matter in the scope of life. Perhaps we can let them choose their own outfits on Saturdays. Or what they eat for breakfast on Sundays. It won’t hurt them to allow them to stay up late and wait for Daddy to get home from a business trip. We need to be flexible and not run our homes like a dictator.
3. Disobedience must be followed by consequences. Whatever consequence you choose to use –spanking, time-outs, or taking away a favorite toy–must be used every time that child disobeys. They must equate a bad consequence with their wrong behavior. We have to work above our feelings in this area. There can be no free passes because they are cute or we are too tired.
4. Consistency is crucial. As parents, we have the responsibility to discipline our kids when they need it. We don’t have the right to be too tired, too busy, or too tied up watching our favorite tv show or checking Facebook. If they disobey, we need to be there in both mind and body to provide the consequence.
5. Learn the difference between accidents and defiance. Accidents happen and I sure wouldn’t want to be punished for toppling my water at the table — after all, it still occasionally happens! Accidents do not warrant punishment unless there is disobedience connected to it (i.e. you told your child not to run in the house and he chose to disobey and broke a lamp).
6. Hug and play and hug and play. I know that sounds rather funny but, quite seriously, it is so important that we establish the truth that we love them unconditionally and that they are important enough to us to spend time with them at this young age. They need to know we are on their side in this treacherous game of life!
While none of us will be perfect in doing these six things (I know I wasn’t!), if we can establish an overall pattern of these things in our homes, it will provide a solid foundation that will reap tremendous fruit later on.
I know this because I am living it.
I remember some especially hard times with my son as a toddler. We would be doling out consequences multiple times each day and the days would be SO long. But those long days paid for themselves when, as a teenager, we went through some difficult days with him. While we fought and cried and battled together, he did always acknowledge our authority and we never lost complete touch with his heart.
And so, while I can’t give any guarantees, I can assure you that most parents that do the hard work when their kids are small reap big rewards when they are older. It takes patience but it is so worth the wait. (Of course, there is some immediate fruit that shows itself when we parent toddlers correctly — like being able to go the store without any tantrums!)
I know that many of my readers are out of this stage of parenting. It is my prayer that this post makes it into the hands of a few young parents that will be encouraged by this. While this stage of parenting comes with such joy as we watch our kids discover the world, it also comes with a lot of hard work. But keep doing the hard work. It will be so worth it!
A few of my favorite parenting books —
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp (which I noticed is only $1.99 for the kindle version today! Not sure how long that will last)
She’s Gonna Blow! Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger by Julie Barnhill
On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckhnam (this book is specifically for teaching infants to be on a schedule, but helped me to establish routine and schedule for my kids early on.)
What the Bible Says About Parenting by John MacArthur
These are the ones that come to mind right now. I will add more as I think of them.