My son has officially reached what is popularly known as “the terrible twos.” This stage literally came on overnight. Just when I began thinking that my parenting was off the charts (ha!) and that he would completely skip the “terrible two” stage, I was knocked off my high-horse and found out what this fit-throwing, instruction-ignoring, independence-seeking business is all about. And, oh my, is it frustrating. While it was certainly clear from the beginning of his life that my child is a sinner, my generally obedient, compliant child suddenly became much more challenging and even flat-out defiant at times. My husband and I are trying to stay firm and consistent with him, and thankfully, our son seems to be grasping that obedience is still required of him, even when he doesn’t feel like obeying. But, to be totally honest, I’m really not sure if things actually are getting better or if this current phase of life has simply become a new “norm” for us.
Although it’s a difficult stage to be in, a beautiful aspect about all of this “terrible two” stuff is that my son is becoming his own person; he’s developing his own thoughts, feelings, opinions, likes, dislikes, talents, and downfalls. And although his behavior can be a challenge for me and often brings about frustration, one thing I must remember through all of this is that my child sins because he is a sinner. I tend to want to fix the externals rather than focus on his heart. Of course I want my child to obey, but behavior modification cannot be the goal. Rather than humbly shepherding my child’s heart when he throws a fit in the middle of a restaurant, I allow my pride to get hurt as embarrassment sets in. I often take my son’s disobedience personally and my feelings get hurt, as I show more concern for how his behavior affects me and my reputation than I do for his soul. The truth is, without faith in Christ, my son is dead in his sin and cannot please God (Ephesians 2, Romans 8:8, Hebrews 11:6). Knowing that should cause me to fall on my face in prayer, crying out to God that He might reveal Himself mightily to my son.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” In those moments of frustration, I must guide my son with a kind and gentle response, showing him the importance of obedience while also lovingly pointing out his sinfulness and his great need of a Savior. Only when he sees himself for who he truly is (a sinner) and who he can become in Christ (a forgiven child of the King) will he ever cry out to God in repentance and faith.
Parenting will not get any easier; it will only become more and more challenging as my son enters each new stage of life. Therefore, I must continually work at parenting him in humility rather than pride, in godliness rather than selfishness, in holiness rather than sinfulness. Praise God for His grace that can save even the chiefest of sinners; yes, even me.
For more on this topic, check out Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp.