Wouldn’t you know it, our sixth child, Patten, is turning out to be one of our most mischievous children? God must have known that we needed to be kept on our toes. There’s no laying back and getting comfortable. Parenting requires us to be fully present all the time.
I was working in the garage recently, getting the basketball hoop ready and the grill prepped for the long summer days ahead. Meanwhile, Patten was in the back of the garage, dumping oil all over himself, his new shoes, and the floor.
“No Patten! This is a no-no!“
He just looked at me like I had grown a third head. He knows well and well what “No” means (it was his first and favorite word). But that doesn’t seem to mean the same thing to him when I say it.
How do you teach a kid who cannot yet speak to obey?
As parents, we are entrusted with the responsibility of raising our children in a way that glorifies God. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6 to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Teaching obedience is an integral part of this responsibility, and it can seem daunting, especially when dealing with a nonverbal one-year-old.
However, we can look to the Bible for guidance on this matter. Colossians 3:20 instructs children, “Obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” By teaching our children to obey us, we ultimately teach them to obey God.
Here are some practical tips that incorporate biblical principles:
Set Clear and Consistent Boundaries
As parents, we must establish rules and expectations for our children. Proverbs 29:15 reminds us, “A child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” We are helping our children grow and flourish by setting clear and consistent boundaries. Stick to a few simple rules, such as “no hitting” or “no throwing,” and enforce them consistently. We have created house rules that include The greatest commandment (Love God and Love others) and the seven things God hates from Proverbs 6. These are something that we try to teach our kids from a young age.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Offer praise and affection when your child follows your instructions or behaves appropriately. Ephesians 6:4 tells us, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” By praising our children, we nurture their spirit and guide them toward discipline and instruction. Positive reinforcement is a vital part of teaching proper obedience. It is loving to correct and discipline, but if you are only telling them “No” or “Don’t,” but they are never hearing, “Yeah!” or “That’s good!” then they may not gain a full perspective of what obedience really looks like for them.
Be Mindful of Your Body Language and Tone
Even if our children cannot understand our words, they can pick up on our emotions and moods. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Stay calm and patient when correcting your child’s behavior, and show them love and affection when they do well. Some time to play on the floor, or a warm hug, after some corrective language, can be key. They must know that your discipline and correction come from a loving heart. Your non-verbals will speak volumes to them.
Utilize Nonverbal Forms of Communication
Encourage your child to mimic your gestures and facial expressions to reinforce their meaning. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 instructs us to “Impress [God’s commands] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.” By utilizing nonverbal forms of communication, we can strengthen our child’s understanding of our instructions. My wife has taught our kids sign language when they are young. They can’t just grunt and scream. They need to ask politely, even if they cannot use words.
Remember, by teaching our children to obey us, we ultimately teach them to obey God. May these tips and biblical principles guide you in raising a respectful and well-behaved toddler.