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4 Biblical Tips for Parenting Your 2 Year Old That You’ll Thank Me for When He’s 16

parenting your 2 year old

If you’re parenting a 2-year-old, you’re most likely trying to figure out how to get a little more sleep! The last thing on your mind is what that 2-year-old is going to be like as a teenager. But if you don’t want to lose sleep now, just imagine how much you’re still going to be wanting sleep when that 2-year-old is 16!

4 Biblical Tips for Parenting Your 2 Year Old Into a Teenager You’ll Enjoy 

  1. Teach Your 2 Year Old How to Think (process-based) Not Just What to Think (product-based).

Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.”  (NLT)

One of our jobs as a parent is to do just that. Not merely copy the behaviors and parenting patterns of those (even good-intentioned) people around us, but to rethink some stuff. I think we need to rethink how it is that we are teaching our kids to make good choices. If we don’t want to raise teens who follow every idea or thought their friends or this world musters up and calls cool, then it’s imperative to introduce this at preschool.
The key word here is “why.” This is not an issue of “what” we let our kids do or “how” it is that they will do it. It’s largely about helping our kids t answer the “why would I do this or that?” question on their own in a manner that reflects solid reasoning and good choices.

As little ones, this means:

  • Don’t just provide healthy snacks, help them understand why one food is better for them than another. “My mom doesn’t let me eat that” is not going to last as a de-motivator for the long haul. When our kids understand that they want to have a strong body and that certain foods won’t help them do that, it’s a better parenting process that leads to the same behavior we could have simply forced anyway.
  • Limit the “because I said so” to a last resort parenting card you play. Even if I must use that phrase to gain obedience today, I must also explain how I came to that conclusion at some point with them in ways they might understand. A 2-year old that knows not to cross the street without looking is great. A 2-year-old who knows why you don’t cross the street without looking is better.
  • Help kids understand why. Help kids decide why a TV show, music choice, or movie might not be the best option for them instead of just ruling it out.
  • Allow kids to be themselves. Don’t demand that they do everything your way, just demand that their way needs to have solid reasoning. So if you want socks folded and they want them tossed in a drawer, let them argue why their way works before forcing your way upon them. Help them learn the process and articulate solid reasoning in decision making. This will be critical when the issues aren’t how organizing socks, but instead, who will I date or how do I want to decide what to do on Friday night. The ability to reason out a solid decision is a mission-critical life skill we must all work toward developing in our kids.

2. Expect your 2-year-old to be maturing (experience-based), not to be mature (evaluation based).

Ephesians 4:12-13 reads, “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. ” (NLT)

Our goal as parents is future tense. We are working toward maturity which is a continuum. As a pastor to teens, my primary problem is not with a teen who is acting 16, it’s with a parent who is. If we all learned to act our age, we’d be better off across the board in my opinion.

This means you should expect your 2-year-old to spill stuff, try out new words she heard someone else say, pitch a fit now and again, and cry when hurt in ways you no longer cry about as an adult.

For parenting 2-year-olds, this means:

    • Give them age and capability related responsibilities. If they can’t carry a whole grocery bag in after groceries are bought, give them something from the bag they can carry. Help them to be as mature as they are able. Maybe they’re not ready to do their own laundry, but maybe they can put away their own laundry once it’s folded. When our kids were younger, one of our pumpkin patch rules was that you could only have one as big as you could carry all the way to the car. No cart. No help. Seems silly, but it reminded our kids that they are responsible for what they are able to do in a subtle way. We’ve often used the pumpkin patch as a teaching illustration for them when they ask to do that which is inappropriate for them, either too small or too big.
    • Give them the freedom to fail. We all make mistakes. We desperately need houses of grace that help us to learn from and move on after falling short. Our kids will jack up life. When they do, be quick to use them as teachable moments that move them toward maturity…. even if it constantly feels like 5 steps forward and 3 steps back.
    • Treat each child as an individual. As age increases, consider and evaluate each kid individually as parents and work toward healthy behavior and responsibility expectations for their current age. Remember, the goal is to work yourself out of a job. You are trying to set patterns that are moving your child closer to a full-fledged self-motivated and capable adult who is able to care for their own needs.
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Brian Berry is a proven veteran of student ministry. He serves as the generation ministries pastor at Journey Community Church near San Diego, California, where he works directly with the high school ministry and oversees a staff that is responsible for infants through teens. Brian is also a frequent blogger, writes and teaches for youth workers, and is the author of both As for Me and My Crazy House and Criticism Bites. He speaks at various conferences, camps, and retreats for a variety of audiences. He is married to Shannon, and they have five kids.