(If you haven't read it yet, please start with Toddler Training, Series Overview .)
Parent your toddlers with a purpose, on purpose.
Following are the choices we've made to parent our toddlers with a plan:
1) CHOOSE A PARENTING PHILOSOPHY.
There are certainly multiple parenting philosophies out there today. Any new parent could easily be overwhelmed by all the choices and varying opinions. From breastfeeding to vaccinations, time-outs to spankings, there are passionate people on every side of the "fence"!
We're going to address this point in a post all its own, so I won't elaborate here, except to say this: In the Bergey Bunch, we try to honor God by having a balanced, well-planned, "toolbox" approach to our parenting. Regardless of what works for you, every family needs to have their own established parenting philosophy.
2) CHOOSE TO HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE ABOUT PARENTING TODDLERS.
Everything always falls back on attitude. Yours, mine, our toddlers......
I can't begin to tell you how many times I've heard negative feedback regarding parenting toddlers. (especially now that we have three 2 year olds!) "Wait 'til he's walking!" "Wait 'til she's two!" "I hate potty training!" "I am SO glad I'm done with that stage!" "You're not actually considering having more are you?"
If you approach parenting toddlers with a negative attitude, you will.not.enjoy.it. Not going to happen.
But if you choose to have an upbeat, positive, "I can do this and it's AWESOME!" attitude, you will soon find yourself loving it.
It's all in your attitude, so CHOOSE TO HAVE A POSITIVE ONE!
3) CHOOSE TO ENJOY YOUR TODDLERS.
I am determined to enjoy my toddlers. For me, this is often a choice of my will. It is easy to enjoy their cute cuddly bodies and sweet cheeks, their snuggles and kisses. It is not as easy to enjoy their short tempers, limited communication skills (aka screaming or crying), or monumental messes. :)
That is where the choice comes in.
CHOOSE to see your toddlers for who God created them to be.
CHOOSE to embrace each misbehavior as an opportunity to point your children to Him.
CHOOSE to take a deep breath, smile, and clean up yet another spill or mess.
CHOOSE to remember how much you're going to miss this when they're gone.
CHOOSE to enjoy your toddlers!
4) CHOOSE TO TEACH GODLY CHARACTER BY HAVING GODLY CHARACTER.
You cannot teach your toddlers manners if you don't use them.
You cannot teach your toddlers to be respectful if you show their father disrespect. (OUCH!)
You cannot teach your toddlers to sing praises to our Lord if you have a complaint on your lips.
You cannot teach your toddlers thankfulness if you are constantly grumbling.
You cannot teach your toddlers cleanliness if your heart is dirty with sin.
You cannot teach your toddlers patience if you CAN'T FIND YOURS.
5) CHOOSE HOW YOU WANT YOUR TODDLERS TO ACT.
This one starts to touch on the practical side of parenting---and I'm saving that for Part Two!---but I do want to encourage you to Decide how you want your toddlers to act and plan to teach them accordingly.
Here's a example of how that works in the Bergey Bunch. We want our toddlers to learn to shake an adults' hand, look them in the eye, and say "hello" when appropriate. We choose ahead of time how we want them to act, and then we set a plan to teach them accordingly.
Here's one more example. We want our toddlers to take a nap or go to bed when they're told, without crying, and stay.in.bed. We choose ahead of time how we want them to act, and then we set a plan to teach them accordingly.
(Remember, my children are NOT perfect! :) I am not saying that we never have problems in either of these areas, rather that we have goals and we are constantly working our little ones towards those goals.)
6) CHOOSE ACTIVE ("on purpose") PARENTING RATHER THAN REACTIVE PARENTING.
This is such an important part of toddler parenting! It is so easy to spend your day reacting to your toddlers messes and mishaps and literally "flying by the seat of your pants" parenting.
I do not recommend this. :)
Research, read God's word, glean wisdom from other godly Mommys, communicate with your spouse, and plan, plan, plan for parenting your toddlers! Do not expect godly character, good manners and self-control to just "happen". It takes active, not reactive work.
Rather than reacting to every stage and event in your toddler's life, be active in planning their day, their character, and your discipline.
7) CHOOSE TO WORK AS A TEAM WITH YOUR SPOUSE.
I have spoken to countless women over the years who have been frustrated by their children's behavior and either their husbands harshness/over-strictness or uninvolvement/careless attitude. Obviously, this could apply to wives as well, but I'm not usually discussing parenting with men :).
The truth is this: children are better off with two parents on the same team than one strict parent and one lenient parent.
Whatever parenting decisions need to be made regarding your toddlers need to be made TOGETHER with your spouse.
In our home, we sit down several nights a week and talk about each one of our children. We evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and work out a plan of action regarding each child. Brent will then text or call me throughout the day and "check-in" on the children and me. We make communicating about our children a top priority.
Here's a practical example of a conversation between Brent and I. We talk about how Gabbey (2 years) has been doing lately, pointing out that she has taken to whining. Alot. We also converse about her attachment issues and adjustment to two new sisters. At that point we decide to work on scripting words for her when she whines and we both commit to spending more time one-on-one snuggling her to help with her attachment fears.
If you're frustrated at the inconsistencies between you and your spouse in your parenting, consider setting aside more time to communicate about your children.
CHOOSE TO WORK TOGETHER AS A TEAM WITH YOUR SPOUSE.
8) CHOOSE TO VIEW PARENTING TODDLERS AS A MINISTRY.
Ministry is defined as "the act of serving".
Ministry is often used to refer to public Christian service, whether in one's local church, prison, nursing home, etc or as a missionary on a foreign field. Clearly these are services and ministries that are Biblical, needed, even necessary for the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We believe parenting the next generation in a God-honoring way is also ministry. It is not glamorous. There are no bright lights or applause. No one will shake your hand and thank you for a job well done. Your name will not be highlighted in bold print anywhere and people will not praise your gifts or talents. You will be exhausted, frustrated, and overwhelmed at times and ask God, "Can I really do this?"
But if our hearts are yielded to His will and we are willing to follow Him (even in the seemingly mundane tasks of parenting toddlers!) then we are serving Him in the vital ministry of godly parenting.
Right now, with the current ages of our children, we are sometimes limited in our ability to serve in public ministry. (Just keeping track of three 2 year olds is a full-time job, lol!) This limited ability can especially be discouraging for mothers with young children. Perhaps they were faithful in many church ministries and then the babies started coming and their focus needed to change for a season. A nursing infant or newly adopted, insecure toddler need alot of Mommy's time. Discouragement can set in when the efficient care of their children limits for a time their involvement in more public ministries.
In reality, raising godly chilren IS ministry! We like to look at it like this: We are sacrificing now to raise a whole army of servants for Him. Our children are learning to serve God at home so they can one day be effective workers in His army.
CHOOSE TO VIEW PARENTING TODDLERS AS MINISTRY.
In conclusion, Purposeful Parenting is the choice to joyfully and actively embrace, plan for, and pursue the ministry of parenting. Join me next time as we consider Parenting Philosophies:Which One Works For You?