With my first child, I was starting to think we just got lucky, or that whole “terrible two” thing I’d heard about was just a myth. But then as my child neared three years old, I saw it. It came from nowhere. It lasted awhile. And then it was gone.
Each of my proceeding children has gone through this phase (if I may call it that), appropriately at two years of age. And by three, it’s usually gone.
It’s that part of development that most parents sigh at and shake their heads at. But where are you at on the topic? Do you sigh as your child goes through it, and pray it will pass quickly? Or are you able to embrace it? Enjoy it? Thank God for this gift?
Wait…did I say gift? Yes…I did. I am thankful for each of my children going through this phase. Are you thankful? Would you like to be?
What if I told you the terrible two’s could be embraced? That I believe they can make us better mothers…That I believe they can make our children stronger warriors for Christ…And that they are part of God’s plan for us…
The terrible two’s are a stage that generally begins when a child is two, but can occur a little later. To simplify the definition, they are best known for strong-willed children who are defiant, and even rebellious. When you hear a toddler who is repeatedly saying, “No!” to everything, they just might be in this stage of development.
So why am I thankful for waking up morning after morning to this behavior from each and every one of my children?
They make me a better mother
This stage is not the same for all children. In fact, I only had one child who ever looked at me and said, “No!” And it only happened a couple of times. (Perhaps my next one will?) I have seen a bit of rebellion and strong-will from each child–but it’s not the dominating action/attitude.
What I see when I really try to sit back and observe each child going through this is merely their strongest personality–the extreme side of who they are.
I wake up one day and things and attitudes just aren’t as they have been. I don’t know what’s going on. I go to God and ask for revelation of what’s going on and for Him to teach me how to handle this child with love. I ask Him to help me understand, and teach me how to be a better mother.
I learn that my child is either strong-willed, rebellious, self-centered, passionate, seeking to be first, seeking to be acknowledged, has a strong affinity for justice, etc. At two years old, a child is not embarrassed or ashamed to show his/her strong personality traits and they show them in a very elaborate way.
If this attitude/personality is shamed, the child will still have it but will not show it–they grow into children or adults who do things which cause those around them who say, “I just can’t believe he did that.” An example is a child who has anger issues that he is shamed for and so stops expressing them. One day mom and dad find out he has been mean to another child at school, or kicked the cat.
If this attitude is ignored or gone along with, the child will grow into someone who does not inhibit these expressions. For example, a child who always has to be first may be openly highly competitive as he/she ages.
If the attitude is identified and then the child is taught how to control this trait, he will still have this attitude when he grows up, but will be equipped to handle his own emotions. And example would be identifying a jealous heart with a child and working with the child to get him to state how he is feeling and talk about and practice what to do when he feels this way. When he is older, he knows not only how to identify what he’s feeling, but a proper way to work through and handle it.
So what am I saying here? I’m saying that by attentively and intentionally paying attention to each individual child, I can identify what their strong character traits are and help them identify emotions and attitudes and acceptable ways to control them through prayer and practice.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
By going through the “terrible two” phase, I am able to have a better idea of identifying characteristics and attitudes in my child that he/she is unable to verbalize to me at this time.
Through much observation, listening, patience, and prayer, God assists me to identify personalities that I must be aware of to understand for the next 16+ years my child will be at home. God ordained me as the mother and the teacher–and He is showing me what He expects me to be working with.
By going to Him often with my observations, asking for wisdom which He freely gives (James 1:5), and asking Him to teach me, I am becoming a better mother to my child.
They can make my child a stronger warrior for Christ
Openly identifying strong emotions, and then praying for control is only one part of the process.
The second part of the process is giving thanks to God for making my child just as he is. I give thanks for the personality trait that has been identified–even when it seems counter-intuitive.
For example, a woman at my church has come to me in tears or near tears multiple times and asked me to pray with her for her strong-willed child. I believe I caught her off guard the first time I said,
Thank you Jesus for the strong will you give [this little girl]. I pray that she would learn to identify and control her stubbornness through prayer, your guidance and her parent’s intervention. And I ask that you would mold this stubbornness in her heart to become stubborn for your truth–that when others try to pressure or sway her at a more mature time, she would stand firm in your truths and your ways…
You see, I don’t see strong personalities as a bad thing. Any personality can become obnoxious or even threatening when we don’t know how to handle it. But when we embrace it, and allow it to develop it into a characteristic that would glorify God, I think we’re on the right path.
I believe that each and every one of these personalities, while they can result in sinful acts and feelings, are not inherently bad at all. I believe they are each a gift. But this gift needs the maturation process. And no pressure, Moms and Dads, but that’s our job to assist with.
Through recognition, prayer, and self-control, I believe these characteristics are meant to make our growing warriors stronger. I believe they are just the gift needed to make each individual a strong individual and to bring glory to His Kingdom.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace 1 Peter 4:10
That they are part of God’s plan
I don’t know about you mommies, but I need all the parenting help I can get from my Lord. I am constantly searching the scriptures on specific parenting topics, pouring my heart out to Jesus for help, and asking him to teach me what to teach my children, how to teach them, and also to show me what a godly mother looks like.
I struggle. But I struggle in good company. I struggle right along side a godly father to my children.
I would venture to say that if you are a parent, you know your child’s personality very well by the time she is only a few years old. Even if you’ve never thought about this phase as a revelation to you, God makes these traits vividly known to parents.
How much more would I struggle if I didn’t recognize that one child’s actions are due to an extreme sense of justice and/or fairness? What if they just looked like acting out and I scolded my child instead of working through it and praying with and for him?
It’s as if God designed this phase in my children’s development to be so polar that I couldn’t miss it. And He did it at an early age so that I wouldn’t struggle for years wondering what is going on inside their heads and hearts.
Thank you Jesus. Parenting is hard, but you use this time to teach me and mold me. You’re equipping me to work toward being the mother I so desperately want to be. Thank you for this gift. I pray that I never abuse it. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Do you dread or embrace the terrible two’s?