You are to love your children, as you love God—with our entire mind, soul and strength. We must learn to love your children by first learning to love God. Learn to talk TO your children rather than AT them. Talk to them at their level so they will be able to understand your instructions. This age group enters this period with about 100 words and leaves it with up to 14,000 words.
The average child grows 2-1/2 inches in height and gains between 4 to 7 pounds a year during early childhood (Pg. 161, Childhood Development, by Santrock). Researchers have found that the three-year-old has the highest activity rate of any age group in the entire human life span. Therefore, they tend to fidget a great deal. This is normal behavior of the age group. Every child is hyperactive in this age group. Therefore, do not punish this behavior. However, you can do a home test to determine whether the activity may be beyond normal behavior. If a child 2-3 years can not sit and watch a favorite TV program for 20-30 minutes or a 4-4 year old can not watch a program for 40-60 minutes, you may need to have the child tested. You should not feed 2-4 year olds “fast or junk” food; it is bad for their bodies and makes the children more hyperactive. One way you can learn what is normal behavior is to observe other children of the same age. Work with the age group in church and you will have the opportunity to observe it.
This is the time for the surfacing of the child’s ego, “the Me”. However, it is a fragile ego and parents must be careful how they handle it. Bend but don’t break it (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). It can be cute and fun in its early development. At 2 years, they are very strong-willed and focused on one thing, “my way”. The child is into everything and authority is rarely unchallenged. With the development of the “I” personality, comes self-assertiveness the “No!” with voice inflection. At the age of three, the sort of curiosity learning emerges with the “whys?” Often, behind the “whys” are fears; pay attention to the child’s questions. Don’t over answer their questions.
If there are other children, there will be rivalry. Siblings of the same sex fight more and with more hostility. It is normal for siblings to argue, but should not be allowed to become physical. “Toy” disagreement can teach privacy of property, cooperation of playtime, and how to resolve problems. There is the establishing of independence with other peers or siblings where you may hear “Mother, make him stop!”
Give simple chores to ages 3 to 4, but never give more than the child is able to do at his age. You can orient the child to family life by having him feed the pet. At first it will be fun, but later it will become routine and he will not want to do it.
Never compare ability of one child to another. They are all created unique. This period begins with what is called the terrible two’s primarily because of the contest of wills. Some child psychologists have dubbed this period as the first phase of “Adolescence”. But it is just a phase and age and it too will soon pass. What is important is to always be the loving parent.
Retention for Learning
By age five, the child’s brain has reached about 90% of its adult size and weight compared to about 1/3 of the child’s body weight. This is an enormous period for learning. The average child learns between 6-10 words a day. They will also pick up nasty words but do not reinforce this by laughing or being too critical. The equivalent to this enormous period of learning in regeneration and spiritual growth from infancy to spiritual adulthood (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 4:13-14).
The child of this age group has a great imagination and may have an imaginary friend. He or she may sometimes blame things he did on imaginary friends or pets. This is also a period where word association becomes images and symbols in conversations and drawings. This is a period of short memory spans for learning new information. The right lobe of mentality is developing the frame of reference, memory center, and vocabulary. Therefore, repetition is necessary, but avoid nagging. “Burn-out” for parents is a very big problem at this age. The French have a proverb; “a baby is an angel whose wings decrease as his legs increase”.
This is a good time to introduce children to educational games and the computer. This age child can begin to solve simple problems by intuitive reasoning. They know what they know, but don’t know why they know it. This is a good time for choices for the child, such as: Do you want grapes or an apple?
Parents should be aware that the more children watch TV, the more they are likely to become overweight. This is probably due to inactivity and overeating. Parents should be aware of identifying learning problems caused by physical disabilities (eyes, ears). This is the period for toilet training. By age three, 84% are dry during the day but only 66% are dry during the night. This should be a happy experience and not a stressful experience for either child or parents. It requires patience and time on the part of parents and the child. If toilet training is overly strict before the proper age, it can produce what psychologist call “anal personalities” in adults. The anal retentive personality overemphasizes neatness, cleanliness, etc., and the anal personality overemphasizes messiness, disorganization, and difficulty relaxing (American Academy of Pediatrics, vol.3, # 1, 99).
This is the period for non-nutritional thumb sucking. The child makes a natural transition from nutritional to non-nutritional sucking. By ages 3-4, 84% are still sucking their thumbs. By age 4, 44% are still sucking their thumbs. Teach your child how to use his/her hands and fingers for creative things such as painting, coloring, playing ball, combing the dolls hair rather than for sucking. You might get hand puppets for you both and play games with them to teach the child to do this whenever they get the urge to suck the thumb. Find a positive distraction that the child likes.
Relationship with Family
This is a time for family and friends orientation. Weekly family special time is important for this age group. It may seem difficult to manage because of busy schedules, but it is essential. It will require one of the parents to establish an agreeable weekly family time. This time may vary from week to week. It may be a special hour at night just before bedtime. It may include special weekend activities such as, Friday night eating out, Saturday working in the yard, Sunday Church and afternoon activity. It requires planning, cooperative, and commitment as a family. The family who plays and prays together stays closer together. During this age group, parents must understand that a house is a home to be lived in by a very energetic child. Therefore, parents should come to an agreement on the difference between messy and dirty. Then learn to relax and enjoy rearing your child through this tornado period.
A child needs both parent’s attention and affection. A parent’s attention and affection should be given as a gift to the child. The child should never be made to feel he must earn a parent’s love. Our heavenly Father teaches us this principle in Matthew 6:7-8, Luke 11:11-13, and Romans 4:8. This is an important time for parents to become personally involved in their child’s spiritual life (Deuteronomy 6:7). Take them to church rather than send them to church.
Rules & Consequences for Discipline
Because of the short memory span, a ten-minute delay in discipline instructions can disrupt the whole thing (such as a phone call). You must address it immediately or it is lost until the next time.
This age group is capable of comprehending the repetition of simple rules and consequence boundaries. They need boundaries. These boundaries are important for this age because they are exploring the bigger world around them, which can be very dangerous (such as playing in the street). This age group has a 1 in 1000 chance of dying by an accident before he reaches 16.
This is a time when the child may whine to manipulate you. The child can be taught that this is unacceptable communication. You might teach this to him by whining on occasions when he is talking to you normally. Otherwise, he feels that you are mocking him and it can effect his developing ego. Don’t mock him while he is doing it. However you can tell him that whining is unacceptable communications and you will answer him when he stops. You could use static of a radio to explain how whining sounds when talking. Explain that you don’t understand what he/she is saying because all you hear is static whining.
Parents often begin their children in children’s sports at this age. This can be both a positive and negative experience. It can be positive if it is fun, exercise, developing natural physical skills, learning cooperation and competition and friendships. It can help the child learn to play by rules and regulations. But, it can be negative when undo pressure to achieve or unrealistic goals or physical injuries or parental interference with a play time sport. Then it becomes all work and no fun. A parent must be careful not to allow the child to lose normal playtime.
Light spanking with a loosely rolled newspaper for unacceptable misbehavior or violating safety boundaries where physical injury or death could occur is permissible. However, it should not be extreme nor over used. A little pain goes a long way at this age!
Remember these eleven principles regarding discipline of this age:
Never use your hands, feet or teeth in discipline!
Never yell and yank to get child’s attention!
Never discipline in anger!
4. Always express parental discipline in love!
4. Always be in control of yourself before you try to be in control of your child!
6. Length of time-out is never greater than the age of the child (1 minute for each year of age)!
7. It is important for parents not to get distracted during time-out. They must deal with the child when their time is up. Don’t forget the child!
8. It is important for the parent to explain why before and after discipline.
9. Parental love needs to be reinforced to assure the child that it was bad behavior being discipline and not a bad child. He is always an accepted child but with unacceptable behavior.
If the child violates time-out by willful defiance, then the child could be spanked. You must instruct before and after the spanking. Don’t send him back to time-out because it is over after spanking
11. Never get in a contest of wills with a 2-4 year old because you may lose!
Fathers, do not exasperate your children,that they may not lose heart.” (Colossians 3:21)