The other day, I posted about the toddler in me, and it really got me thinking about the comparison between my toddlers and myself. Immediately after having children there were warnings of the terrible two's and horrible three's, but the thing is, I love this age. Toddlers do everything out of emotion. If they feel it, they do it. If they want it, they take it. If they think it, they say it. In reality, aren't they doing exactly what we want to do? I'm not saying what they do is right. On the contrary, living out of the flesh is exactly what we as Christians are instructed not to do. So how does my children acting out in their flesh play such a huge roll in my parenting style and why do I love it so much?
I love it because as adults we have gotten so good at one thing: hiding our flaws. We hide them from the world and, most importantly, we hide them from ourselves. This is the complete opposite of my children, who don't care what other people think about them and don't have the slightest desire to try to hide anything from me. So how can I use this to my advantage? If I am paying attention to my children, listening to them when they speak, watching how they act and treat others, it doesn't take very long to figure out exactly what areas I need to work on with them. In fact, their honesty and inability to hide their feelings makes my job so much easier. Just this morning, I was able to take advantage of my son's honesty and use it to teach him a valuable lesson. As I was fixing my hair my three year old told me, "I don't want to go to church today. We have toys here at home." Oh how I wanted to say, I know exactly how you feel buddy (again recognizing the toddler in me too)! But I was able to recognize in his honesty a teachable moment. We spent the next minute or so (he's 3, so this did not go into a deep, theological discussion) talking about why we go to church, that it's not just about toys. We talked about learning about Jesus from our wonderful teachers, gathering with our friends to talk about Jesus together, and the importance of going to church so we can take some time to focus on solely God. And then I made sure I thanked him for being honest about his feelings, because oh how I love their honesty.
Whenever my children are acting in a way that toddlers do, testing the limits, standing their ground, being rude, you name it, it is always an opportunity for me to teach them something based on how they are acting in that moment. It's like a big neon sign pointing to exactly what I need to do. How could I not love that? I'm not saying it's not difficult. In fact, sometimes I want to pretend I didn't just hear what they said or ignore their actions so I can finish what I'm doing rather than having to "teach" my child a valuable lesson. The reason I love it is because the older they get the harder it will be for me to recognize what they need me to do to help teach them. In the exact same way that it has become harder for me to recognize my own short falls at times because I have gotten so good at covering it up, my children will also learn the art of masking their struggles.
The only difference between a toddler and an adult is our ability to act with self-control and responsibility. So, I will embrace these times of toddlerhood because the things that make it so "terrible" are the exact things that will help me effectively raise up my children to be self-controlled, responsible adults. Like I said, the feelings we have as toddlers never really go away, so why not teach our children how to deal with them in the moment rather than leaving them to try to figure it out later?