I have no idea what I am doing when it comes to parenting. Mostly I look at the parents around me and pick and choose from their parenting strategies to form my own. Thankfully up until now there hasn’t been too much that can’t be undone—as long as I feed, clothe, snuggle, and keep my little guy safe, I am doing a pretty good job. But now that we officially have a toddler, I’ve already noticed things are different. He understands, he responds, he tries to communicate in his little toddler ways. And I have no idea what to do.
I normally change the channel when those cheesy little parenting minutes come on the radio, but tonight I heard a really good one. It talked about the difference between disobedience and childishness. I had never put a name to it, but this is a very helpful way to look at the situations that often arise in our house, leaving me unsure of what to do.
This age is hard, because even though our kids are trying to communicate with us, we usually can’t understand them, which results in things that would normally fall under “bad manners”— banging on the high chair to demand more food, very loud screeching when he’s ready to leave a social gathering, throwing food on the floor that he doesn’t want to eat. While none of these things are enjoyable, they are not disobedient or malicious on their own. They are just childish, because after all, he is a child. He is simply trying to communicate, and we are slowly learning what these things mean—and trying to teach him new, more polite ways to communicate these needs.
Then there are the obviously disobedient and dangerous things he does—pulling on power cords that he knows are off limits, opening kitchen cupboards with heavy pots or sharp objects inside, and my recent favorite—turning the knobs on our gas stove. We are trying to teach him that these things are dangerous, and thankfully he does seem to understand. But sometimes the temptation is too strong and he does them anyway. While we have attempted to make the house as safe as possible for him, there are still times where discipline needs to be used in order to teach limits and obedience.
Even though it would be nice to have a perfectly behaved, mature little baby from day one, that’s not how it works. God created babies for a reason. And he created parents for a reason. It’s our job to shepherd them, to teach them, to mold them into the little people that He created them to be. So even though the days are long, I will remember that the years are short, and my daily parenting choices will quickly add up and show in my little one’s behaviors.
I’m thankful that now I have a lens through which to evaluate these occurrences—because I want to be intentional in my parenting, but it’s difficult to find the balance between being overly strict and letting everything slide. Hopefully I can remember to ask myself when I am in the moment “is this a result of disobedience or childishness?” and respond accordingly.