Disclaimer: I do not claim to know ANYTHING about parenting. This is not an “advice” blog. I may be on child #3, but I have only been a mom for three years and I am learning every day, every minute. Perhaps you have similar experiences and can journey along with me.
I am currently reading The Christian Mama’s Guide to Parenting a Toddler: Everything You Need to Know to Survive (and Love) Your Child’s Terrible Twos by Erin MacPherson. I am finding out she is an amazing writer who is very insightful and entertaining. During my quiet time yesterday, while ALL three of my babies were sleeping (insert sigh here), I was reading a chapter on toddler discipline. Oh, what a great chapter full of ideas! What I took from this chapter: our children need Jesus above everything else.
Your kid needs Jesus. Yes, he probably needs a snack and a nap and a good old-fashioned lecture on the importance of manners, but most of all, your kid needs Jesus. And no matter how many tantrum your kid throws or how many toys he flat-out refuses to share, toddler discipline all boils down to one thing: your kid needs Jesus. To grow his heart. To shape his mind. And to soothe his soul.
She goes on to explain how Jesus doesn’t always give us what we deserve, but what we need. And if we’re going to teach our kids about Jesus, we need to give them the tools they need to turn their heart to Him. We have a choice to respond to our children’s behavior with justice, mercy, or grace.
- Justice: giving your child what he/she deserves by giving logical (natural) consequences
- Mercy: mercifully let our children make unwise decisions and then forgive them when forgiveness is undeserved
- Grace: the undeserved gift of salvation (ie. the undeserved gift of grace even when our toddlers are melting down in a tantrum)
I could not have been reading this at a better time. Because when I went to get Sweet Pea (who will now be referred to as the Poop Monster) out of her crib from nap, she was once again covered in POOP! But instead of giving her a cold shower (which is what I had read about doing, and had done before) I calmly picked her out of the foul-smelling room, lovingly undressed her, and gently sat her in a warm bath. Why? Maybe she had deserved a cold shower, or a scolding from Mommy, or some other form of punishment. But I wanted to let her see Jesus in me, so I showed her mercy and grace, and turned our bath time into a conversation (again) about why we don’t play in our poop and what we should do next time. Great Mommy moment checked off my list.
Until…tonight. The Poop Monster was sitting in bed with me while I was feeding Newbie. We were just chatting when I looked over and she was once again covered in POOP! IN MY BED! I will admit, I was a little upset to say the least. But although she was potty-trained at 18-months, she still is young. Maybe she just isn’t getting the hang of this. Maybe she forgot where the potty was (even though she JUST came from there). Maybe she was enjoying Mommy’s company so much she just didn’t want to leave. Or maybe it’s normal toddler regression. Or attention seeking. Whatever the case, I’m NOT Jesus. I don’t know. So I quickly stripped her and chased her to the bathroom once again. And although I threatened her with the cold shower (which she has experienced), I decided once again to show mercy and grace and give her a warm bath. Not a sit-down-and-enjoy-yourself kind of bath, but let’s-get-this-poop-off-of-you kind of bath — in warm water.
Guess that great Mommy moment I had yesterday didn’t exactly stick. But I was given another opportunity to try and let her see Jesus in me. I know God has me where He wants me and He provides numerous moments for me to demonstrate His love. His justice, mercy, and grace. And I know that on more occasions than not I fail Him. But if I can just take a second, a minute, to think and pray before I react to each circumstance, maybe, just maybe I can lead my little ones to Jesus.