His name wasn’t “Johnny” – that’s just a place-holder to protect the guilty – and, his name wasn’t “Nero”, but it fits because the little dictator with the pouty lips pretty much ruled wherever he was. Tyrants come in all shapes and sizes but some of the cutest tyrants in the world are two feet tall. What are their parents thinking?
About ten years ago, we sat in the living room, attempting to get to know a new couple, which was difficult because of whom they brought with them – their three year old. So, there we were, competing for airtime with little “Johnny”.
Johnny, don’t touch the vase . . . said the first and tenth time Johnny touched the vase.
Johnny, come over here . . . Johnny never came.
Johnny, don’t grab cookies off the plate . . . Johnny grabbed and ate the cookies off the plate.
Johnny, eat your dinner . . . Johnny didn’t eat his dinner.
Johnny, don’t throw your food on the floor . . . Johnny smiled as handfuls of food hit the floor.
Johnny, don’t whine . . . Johnny whined all night.
There’s much more but, I think you get the picture.
He was cute, no question, cute as a bug’s ear, Grandma would have said. But he walked through the room and looked around with a certain rat-like cunning, always calculating what he could get away with.
The real tragedy of these little tin-pot tyrants terrorizing Christian homes across the nation is that they are made. They are not born. A tyrant rises to power because the people (that’s you, Dad & Mom) tolerate his behavior. Maybe your little son or daughter isn’t yet in all-time, full-blown defiance of your parenthood but, as you consider your own home, are you headed that direction?
The teen years are just around the corner and they aren’t known for altering bad behavior but for accentuating the character that is already there.
Does your home need a revolution to overthrow a dictator in the making? No child is all bad or all good but if the phrase, ‘selfish, spoiled, little brat’ comes to mind as your hosts smile and say “Good Night”, it’s time for a change – not because the dinner invitations will begin to dwindle (guaranteed, they will), not because both you and your child are in for a miserable ride (and you are . . . or maybe are there, already) but, primarily, because of what God, in His Word, has said.
Train up a child in the way he should go . . . Proverbs 22:6
When we encounter a toddler going his own way, it’s important to remember, it’s not the fault of the child. Every child has at least two powerful influences in his behavior: 1) a Sin Nature and 2) the Character he/she was trained to have.
Dad and Mom, you own the character of your young child.
What are you tolerating from your toddler? We call it ‘behavior’ but it has another name: Sin. Defying a parent to his face isn’t just a result of being tired, bored, insecure, hungry, “off”, or whatever adjective we use to smooth over how our child happens to be embarrassing us in the moment. It’s sin. Rebellion against parental authority, oversight, and training is sin.
In the moment, the single incident may not seem all that important. We just need to get through this. But, moments are strung together, day-by-day, building character in our kids. And, when it comes to parenting and training, every moment matters.
A close friend of mine recently said, “Sometimes I lay in bed after a long day and think, ‘I’m ruining my kid.’”
He wasn’t, but at times, even though rewarding, parenting is a hard, exhausting road. Just like the guy who decides to get into shape, whose body is screaming at 5:30 am – Don’t do it! . . . Don’t get up and go to the gym! – good parenting requires perseverance.
It’s 7pm now and you don’t feel like closing the computer (or the book you’re reading, or leaving your favorite TV show, or stopping working on that report from the office, etc.,) to get up and follow through on what you just told “Johnny” to do.
But, you must. There is no progress in parenting without perseverance. Tolerating bad behavior is the same as training defiance and rebellion into your child’s heart.
The real reason good parenting is difficult is because of someone who doesn’t want to die. In this, parents are just like everyone else. No one naturally wants to die to his/her flesh.
But, you must. When it comes to parenting, there are two people being trained. The parent is training the child (for good or bad) and God is training the parent (always for good). There are few experiences in life where there are more opportunities to “Take up your cross daily, and follow me” as Jesus commanded, than parenting. To be good parents, we have to put our flesh on that cross, every day.
God loves us and because of that, He won’t tolerate defiance and rebellion in His children and He calls parents everywhere not to tolerate them in their toddlers.
The next time we’re tempted to choose comfort or convenience (our flesh) over dealing with a defiant moment in our child’s heart, let’s remember God’s perspective on the matter, “Rebellion is as (is like) the sin of witchcraft.” 1 Samuel 15:23
Boom! That’s a strong statement. Serious business. But, then, we’re shaping a life and guiding a heart and that is serious, indeed. And, it doesn’t happen in a moment of focus and clarity. It happens over time. That is why we’re told to,
Train up a child in the way he should go and, in the end he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
What are we tolerating from our toddler . . . or older child? We’re always training. Let’s persevere in training them in the way they should go.
Matt Jacobson is the founder of FaithfulMan.com a biblical marriage, parenting, and discipleship ministry providing written and audio teaching, as well as couples marriage coaching. He is the co-host (with his wife, Lisa) of Faithful Life Podcast and is author of the bestseller, 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Matt is pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship and is married to Lisa, founder of Club31Women.com (they have 8 kids!).