These early years (about 1-3 years old) are essential in training our children. You know the verse in Proverbs: “Train a child when he is young…” This is when they learn many boundaries. Let me reassure you from the beginning, training little ones can be exhausting! Little ones have to be dealt with immediately because they do no remember later that they are being disciplined for what they did hours, even minutes ago. It’s always when you are in the middle of doing something else that they need correcting! Often, I have even had to put down a nursing baby to correct a toddler!
If you’re exasperated, wait! While training IS hard work, it is also not as hard as you think. Young children love to please. You see it on their beaming face when everyone claps for them! Praise is an important part of training. Correction, without praise when they get it right, only frustrates a child. And the Bible warns parents to not frustrate your child to anger. “Yea!! You did it!” with a smile and clapping hands and they will love to attempt a reaction such as that again! I have found that with just a couple of days of consistency and you will see results!
Teaching no, of course, comes quite easily as it seems toddlers are never too tired to explore the world around them-even it means exploring one cupboard or drawer at a time by emptying its entire contents out and somehow managing to spread it all over the house in a matter of minutes…always while you’re cleaning up…and especially if you’re expecting company! 🙂
Teaching young children to not throw tantrums or scream and cry for what they want by teaching them instead to ask for it (even if they are too young for words, it’s an opportunity to teach words and also teach them to respond in other ways, such as pointing). They are never too young to learn to respond right! One of my slow talkers could never respond to “Yes, Mommy” she could nod her head.
This age is also the perfect time for teaching little ones to help! My toddlers have always “helped” me put laundry in the machine, or fold it, even put it into their own drawers. When I dust, I often hand one of them a clean cloth and they joyfully polish the furniture alongside me. Teaching them to pick up their own toys along with you and this stage is more time-consuming (especially when you know you can do it yourself in a minutes time!), but all my children could easily manage to put their own toys in a basket (and usually they were cleaning their own rooms) by themselves before they were 3 years old. When they work alongside you, it’s an opportunity to teach them not only to do a job cheerfully and all the way, but also to spend some quality time with mom! Little ones love to help-use this to your advantage! It’s a great way of teaching the teamwork that comes from being in a family. We often say in our family “everyone in a family helps out” and “teamwork” or “many hands make light work”! I always talk about how much we love to live in a clean house or how it makes so much less work when everyone learns to pick up after themselves. My older ones still talk about how nice it is to live in a clean house (since they’ve heard it since they were young)!
Teach them to obey in public, as well as at home. I remember several times giving little ones “time outs” in the middle of the grocery store aisle (regardless of the stares or sometimes comments from others). Shopping with children is no small task and I felt they could easily learn to control themselves in a store as well as they knew how to at home. Stores are the hardest for parents because we feel (and are) being watched. Don’t give in just to get them to stop! Yes, its embarrassing but honestly, you’ll have many more embarrassing moments if you don’t train them now to stop! Trust me! It’s hard at the moment but its much more pleasant when you know you can take your children anywhere and trust their behavior when you’re there. Church is also an excellent place for them to learn self-control and how to sit quietly when needed, at least for short periods of time. Practice at home first! You can have them practice sitting next to you on the sofa or in your lap. Begin with small time periods, 5 minutes or so, then increase the time little by little.
Training your children to respond to commands such as “no” and “come here.” And please, ladies, no counting! Children should learn to respond to your request, not your threats, “1…2…I mean it!…2 ½…”
I have seen first hand how training early on makes the latter years much easier and more pleasant. When my children were trained and knew what was expected of them, instead of being irritated or tired of constant correction, I found I was able to enjoy them and the unique personalities God gave them so much more!