Imagine a world in which parents decided that potty training is too hard. It’s unthinkable, isn’t it? From the wealthiest people living in a villa to the poorest folks living in a village, every parent on the planet wants children who can control their bodily functions.
So begins my advice in a new booklet entitled: More than Potty Trained: A Parent’s Guide to Obedient Toddlers. I wrote this 20-page manual after hearing about the restaurant in Pennsylvania that banned patrons under the age of 7. Why? Because so many young children ruined the dining experience. I won’t debate the right or wrongness of the restaurant owner’s decision. I simply want to encourage young parents in their quest to raise children who have self-discipline.
I remember the toddler years well, and the zillion times my parenting skills were put to the test. My favorite thing to say about the “terrible twos” is this: It’s the season when kids become terrible and parents become terrible too. My toddlers certainly brought out the evil witch in me.
But my other favorite phrase about two was this: I will not be controlled by someone who is two feet tall. I was committed to training my children to do everything I wanted them to do. The alternative was for them to control me and ruin daily life for friends and patrons in our town. So I made a commitment to train each child and I had great success. For example, each of our seven children learned to sit still for an hour by the time they were two years old because our church at the time had no child care services. This didn’t bother me a bit because I knew I could train my children to do whatever I needed them to do.
What a difference it could make in churches and restaurants across the world if all toddlers were trained in the following:
- How to take a no
- How to come when called
- How to behave in public places
- How to be responsible
- How to serve others
By character training around these simple behaviors the same way we potty train, we can teach young children to control their hands, mouths, and feet the same way they’re trained to control their bladders.
The key is in actually training. Expecting and training are two different things. It’s unreasonable to expect a child to behave appropriately in a restaurant if she hasn’t been trained at home first. It would be like putting panties on a 2-year old and expecting her to stay dry in public with no practice or praise at home first. Make sense?
If your child is already running you ragged, it’s not too late. Remind yourself that you expected him or her to poop in a pot in spite of having worn diapers for two years or more. But you did more than expect. You trained. And you succeeded! Congrats! That same child can be trained to do many things if you commit yourself to training him beyond the toilet. Armed with a kitchen timer, you’ll be surprised at the power of your voice when you choose to train and make it fun.
A child left to himself will eventually find a hole to pee in. He will tire of being wet and figure out how to use his bodily functions. A child without character training, on the other hand, will find it difficult to exercise self-control and concern for others. A child left to himself brings his mother to shame, according to a well-known proverb. I really believe that. What do you believe?
Decide what you believe about your child’s character and act on that belief. When you signed up to be a parent you had no idea how difficult it would be to character train, but since you’re signed up and there’s no turning back, approach it with confidence and joy!
The toddler years set the stage for how you will influence your children throughout their lives. Your words, your training, and your discipline, carried out in love, will be the primary vehicles for guiding them to a fulfilling and happy life. If you take your rightful place as the adult in charge of your precious children, you won’t regret it and neither will they. They will be glad you trained them and one day they will thank you.
An excerpt and pre-orders for the booklet, due out this summer, can be found here.