3. Help your 2 year old own his faith (Jesus based), not just obey your faith (rules based).
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 reads: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (NIV)
As parents, one of our values should continually be to get our kids to behave a certain way when we are not forcing them to do so. Our goal is that they would make wise decisions when we’re nowhere around. Anybody can drive safe with a cop in the rearview mirror. It’s on the open road that is the concern. Yes, I know your kid’s an angel at their friends house and a pain in the rear at yours. I get it. I just mean that ownership, not compliance is our goal. If it isn’t, I guarantee that compliance or fear won’t work as a dating motivator. What will make a difference however is shared values. This is back to answering the why, not just the what question.
For parenting 2 year olds, this might mean:
- Use God in everyday language. Don’t just relegate spiritual discussions to post Sunday school or on church days. Infiltrate your home with conversation that invites your kids to invite God into every space.
- Pray often and get caught by your kids. Teach them how to pray and model for them the value of it. Pray with them for friends, their own concerns, and for thanks too. Make it a habit to constantly thank and ask God to move with your kids in prayer.
- Don’t just tell kids we don’t say “such and such” a word. Help them understand how those words hurt others or why those words are not good. Remind them of your goals as a family to honor God and help them to see what things do and don’t do that.
- If you’re experiencing behavior issues, you could consider helping them to create a list of what they can and can’t do. For example: Maybe the rule list with your 2 year old looks like: put my clothes in dirty clothes hamper, brush my teeth when I’m asked, say nice words, and share my toys with others. You can even come to conclusions together on the consequences or the rewards… like an ice cream or a few minutes to play a video game they love or watch a movie. If the reward is clear and motivating, sometimes just not getting that thing is enough of a consequence to get your point across. You just need to think about what motivates your kids, because every child is different and has different motivators. As they get older, rules clearly change, but their input into them will be the family norm and they’ll own the values instead of just adhere to them. Then you can post the list on the fridge or more privately inside a bedroom door so that you can refer back to it with them. If our kids begin early on to have a say into agreed upon behaviors and what happens if you do or don’t follow through, they begin the process of ownership instead of compliance that is mission critical in the long haul.
- Don’t shut down faith questions or even doubts. Invite your kids to explore the infinite mystery of God and wrestle with them in their sincere questions.
4. Let your 2 year old embrace God’s unique design (love based), not live your dreams (self based).
1 Corinthians 12:4-6 reads: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”
We all know the parents who seem to have their kids doing everything they did or even wished they could do. In an effort to lead their kids into a great experience, they have accidentally led them into a version of themselves, not into who God has fully called their kids to be. For sure, my family camps because I do. Sure, my kids play soccer because I do. We all clearly influence and shape our own kids.
But they also have their own unique personality and passions too. Parenting my five kids means that I must constantly consider how God has uniquely wired and gifted each one so that I love them for who God has made them to be, not who I wish I was or they were.
In parenting 2 year olds, this might mean:
- Fuel and fan anything they love that is good. If your kid loves to draw, then feed that. If they love to run, then get places where they can run. If they love to sing, then by all means, give them some place to excel at that gifting.
- Look hard in the mirror before correcting your child’s passions. Make sure the issue is with your kid, and not truly with you instead.
- Try all kinds of stuff with them. Try dance and art and reading and sports and music. Try little bits of all kinds of stuff to help discover how and who God has wired your kid to be.
- Let them have some choices. For example, instead of just picking out their outfit for the next day, either help them make a choice or give them a few sets of clothes to choose from. Maybe ask them to pick between 3 meal options for Friday night. When you go out, let them choose from several options to order off the kids meal.
- Be your kid’s biggest fan. Go ahead. It’s ok. Love your kid and who they are and celebrate how God has wired them. Help curb their rough spots for sure, but be sure to celebrate with them in what makes them super happy too.