The following post was reposted with permission from Shawn Mason, Operation Barnabus leader, because of its relevance to Jared Stern's recent sermon about children. It was originally posted at https://shawnmasonfiles.blogspot.com/2018/08/trying-terrible-twos.html.
When Alex and I first found out we were pregnant, there was a warning that floated around, “Just wait until she turns 2!” Or “Watch out for the terrible twos.” The warnings would even come when having general conversation about how good Sadie is, and how much Alex and I enjoy being her parents. These phrases usually sounded like, “Well you haven’t hit the TERRIBLE twos yet” or “Just wait until you get to the terrible two’s, you won’t be nearly as excited.” These warnings said to us that once Sadie turned two we would then not want to be her parents anymore or because she has turned two, she is now a burden on our lives.
Now I want to be clear with something, I know the statements I listed above are all said in good fun and if any of you reading this have ever said any of those to I or Alex, don’t feel bad. This is not me calling you out and this is not a post about how people need to watch what they say. What this post is about is a mindset when it comes to parenting or actually any situation in life. A mindset that is morphed by the phrases above, because I feel in my own convictions that we have taken the above phrases to heart and believe them about our children and our circumstances and thus are doing our children a disservice as parents when it comes to training up a child as Proverbs 22:6 says.
I am by no means claiming to be a perfect parent or claiming that I have nothing to learn from those who have come before me, but one thing Alex and I have talked about is the stage of life that we are currently in with Sadie and that is the 2 stage. I love watching Sadie in this stage because she is beginning to figure everything out and figure out how the world around her works. Up until this point in life we, in a sense, gave Sadie everything to discover and really didn’t understand what no meant.
Spontaneous is the best word I can use to describe life with our 2 year old daughter. She keeps us on our toes. We walk through the endless minefield of what color food pouch she wants to have and we make the daring attempt to suggest what shoes she should wear. Spoiler, it’s always going to be jellies. At this current moment, the war to change the diaper has been less of a war, but if you know my daughter or have a 2 year old yourself, you know that attitude can change rapidly, almost with the snap of a finger. It really does keep life interesting.
Being a dad to a 2 year old is one of the hardest things I have done. Helping Sadie process through her emotions has got to be one of the most difficult challenges I have had in my short 27 years of life. Sadie will scream at the top of her lungs when she wants out of her car seat. In fact she has started throwing the fit before we even get to the car. Trying to get a flailing, strong-willed, wants to be independent toddler into her car seat when she doesn’t want to is hard to say the least, but also an opportunity.
I know putting a flailing 2 year old in her car seat only to have her scream for an hour in the car doesn’t sound that rewarding, but bear with me. I firmly believe that when God grants couples the privilege of being parents, it is their responsibility to then raise that child up and teach them how to control those emotions that they are trying to figure out. Sadie screams because that’s all she has ever known. When she’s unhappy, she screams. It’s not joyous mind you. I do not look forward to the screaming fits, but when they do happen, I don’t blame the “terrible twos” because they aren’t terrible, they are trying.
Every time I go to put Sadie in her car seat and the screaming match begins, I am tested and tried. My will, my patience, my ego are all tested in a matter of minutes. Some of you reading this have been there, more than once too, and know the exact feeling I am describing. What I am proposing though, is if our mindset was different, could it change the way we parent?
If we think of these times as terrible, it makes us see the job that God has given us as a burden instead of a joy and a challenge. John says it best when he says in 3 John 1:4- “ I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” How do our children know the truth to walk in? We train them, starting even before they are 2.
I have noticed that Sadie knows when I am upset, she will even sometimes come over to me and pat my leg and ask “daddy okay?” So what this tells me is that she can read me well and can even read when I am annoyed, impatient, or upset with her and if she can read those feelings, I guarantee she could read the feelings if I were to ever think of her as a burden or as terrible.
Call a child terrible and they will be terrible. Train a child in the way they should go and when they are older they will not depart from it. I know this is easier said than done, but I want to be honest. My child is not terrible because she is two. She is strong-willed, driven, vocal, stubborn, independent, and passionate. How she deals with those emotions is not always correct and if she were to act the way she does now at 27, it would be frowned upon, but she’s not 27; she’s two.
I think we need a mindset change for those of us who work with children. They are not terrible, they are trying. Trying for you and trying for them and they rely on us to help them figure out those emotions. Staying consistent in discipline and guidance will be key. Will it be tiring, absolutely. But it is not the end. See it as trying to stay consistent and you will one day be able to say the child is walking in truth.