Continuing with Dr.Meier's book on Child-Rearing
(Fifteen to Thirty-Six Months)
A. Developmental adaptations.
1. Seven proverbs on discipline.
These scriptural principles take on special meaning during
the toddler stage of development.
Proverbs 18:24. "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who
loves him disciplines him diligently."
Proverbs 19:18. "Discipline your son while there is hope."
Proverbs 22:6. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and
when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:15. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child;
but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."
Proverbs 28:18. "Do not hold back discipline from the child. When
you beat him with the rod, he won't die."
Proverbs 29:15. "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who
gets his own way brings shame to his mother."
Proverbs 29:17. "Correct your son, and he will give you comfort;
he will also delight your soul."
[All the above verses are GENERAL STATEMENTS! The Bible is FULL
of general statements. I have a study on this Website called
"General Statements" - it is very important that you know the
truth of the matter on the Bible's use of "general" statements.
Without this truth you can be thinking and teaching all kinds of
wrong doctrines, that are just not the truth of the Bible.
NOT ALL children need a physical spanking for wrongs done or for
training them to grow up in the correct way of life. Some over
the past decades have taught that THERE IS *NO* CHILD THAT DOES
NOT NEED TO BE CORRECTED WITH THE ROD OR THE PADDLE. That idea is
just simply NOT true, and plain hog-wash. There have been MANY
children - talk to enough parents and you'll find out - that are
of such a nature they are easy to teach and correct, a simple
stern look and tone of voice will bring those children to tears
Remember then, there are dozens of verses in Proverbs that are
GENERAL statement verses - they cannot be applied in EVERY
situation of life - Keith Hunt]
2. Parental limit-setting.
The reason these passages of Scripture take on such meaning
is that this is the stage when the need for discipline really
blossoms. It is one of the most trying stages for the patience of
both parents. The main reason is that the toddler has acquired
fantastic, newfound motor skills, yet has meager mental
capacities. His chief mental capacity seems to be the capacity to
be curious about everything that you call a "no-no." By removing
many of these "no-no's," the toddler can still he allowed and
even encouraged to follow his natural bent toward exploration.
During the first fifteen months of life, known as infancy,
the mother is encouraged to develop in her child as much
independence as possible. But during the next twenty-one months
or so, known as the toddler stage, she must teach the child to
respect limits and renounce immediate gratifications, while still
encouraging a healthy degree of independence.
3. How to drive the "terrible threes" out of a two-year-old.
My wife and I are both very loving and nurturing parents;
and yet we remember spanking our older son or slapping his hand
for open rebellion many times during those crucial twenty-one
months (15th to 36th months). Since we trained him well during
the toddler. stage by encouraging independence and exploration,
yet spanking him for willful disobedience, he came out of it very
well behaved for his age, and he continued to have a healthy
degree of independence at the same time.
I've heard a lot about the terrible threes, but I think we
drove a lot of the terrible threes out of him when he was still
two, because his third birthday brought on a new era of relative
peace, although he still needed an occasional spanking. Now that
he is older, he loves us so much that he really strives to please
us, doing his chores and going to bed when we ask him to without
complaining, and he rarely needs more than a sad or scornful look
to correct his behavior. We keep the paddle handy though. Also,
the younger children are easier to discipline than he was,
because they follow his good example.
[Again, spanking or a little hand slap, may be what is needed for
many children during this age, but not ALL children need this. I
talked once to a lady who had 5 children - 3 girls and 2 boys.
Two of the girls when in ages 15 to 36 months NEVER needed a
spanking or hand slap - they were so easy to correct and train.
This lady told me those two girls NEVER ever had a spanking. I
got to know those girls when much older and they were indeed very
fine young people - Keith Hunt]
4. Basic self-trust and a sense of initiative.
This is a crucial stage in the development of basic
self-trust and a sense of initiative. A domineering, overly.
demanding, and overly protective mother, at this stage, will
develop in her toddler a lack of self-worth, and initiative. A
sense of worth-lessness results from constantly not living up to
parental expectations. One excellent research study showed that
many of the mothers of male schizophrenics could not
differentiate between their own needs and feelings and those of
The schizophrenic's mother, then, would treat him as a
symbiotic extension of herself. She expected her son to complete
her life by living out the life she couldn't live, limiting the
child's autonomy and fostering dependence rather than
independence. The husband was either absent or quite passive, and
the mother encouraged her son to be different from his father.
She played on her son's guilt, making him feel that if he left
her it would destroy her. These mothers were basically
overprotective and intrusive, but at the same time cold and
aloof. The fathers of schizophrenic daughters were frequently
seductive but suspicious and paranoid.
5. Realistic expectation.
In disciplining the child and setting firm limits, which is
absolutely necessary, parents must also be realistic as to what
is to be expected in a child this age. That's one reason why the
first- born child frequently bears the brunt of going through
this stage with inexperienced parents who don't know what can
realistically be expected of him. We'll discuss some studies on
first-born children later on.
Let me say here that many of them become quite
perfectionistic, as can be seen from the fact that fifteen out of
America's first sixteen astronauts were first-born sons. They had
to be perfectionistic for the type of work they did. Their lives
depended on it.
Take the neurological readiness for toilet-training, for
instance. I know mothers who try to toilet-train their infants by
the time they reach their first birthday, when in reality,
neurological readiness does not come to the average child until
anywhere from eighteen months to more than four years of age. And
also, we as parents are frequently very disappointed when we have
just spanked our child for getting into something he shouldn't,
only to find him doing it again five minutes later. The right
thing to do, in my opinion, is to patiently spank him again,
rather than to throw up our hands and scream. Children at the
toddler stage have very short attention spans and short memories.
Parents should be aware of these age characteristics and realize
that instructional do's and don't's need to be repeated many
times before a toddler understands them. Although the behavior of
the toddler may become somewhat exasperating, especially when it
results in the destruction of some precious object, or in a mess
that is hard to clean up, what the child really needs at this
stage of life is calm parents. Such a requirement almost demands
a supernatural act of God in many cases.
6. How's your child wired!
I mentioned before that every child is wired differently.
Boys are generally more active than girls; since they have more
androgen in their blood. I know some parents whose children are
very well behaved, and require relatively few spankings. A lot
of that has to do with the inherited activity level of the
children. Some parents warn their child three times every time
he does something he knows he shouldn't, then spank him when he
does it a fourth time. I don't recommend this, because these
children go through life doing all the wrong things three times
before fearing any punishment, and in real life, you might get
caught after the first, second, or third time.
At about two years of age, the toddler should have enough
basic trust to develop relationships with other children,
including the freedom to express and assert himself, even in his
crude ways. The presence of other children after the second
birthday is very important, because this is the time in his life
when he is neurologically and emotionally ready for learning
8. Food refusal.
Food refusal is common during the late toddler stage. This
is frequently a manipulative gesture to express hostility toward
the parent. But sometimes toddlers simply don't like certain
My older son went through a stage of not liking meat. When
he was about two years old he would eat everything else on his
plate and leave the meat. We knew it was important for him to eat
protein, so I asked a nutritionist at the medical center where I
worked what she would recommend. She gave me such a simple
solution. I was almost embarrassed for asking her. She told me to
put protein and nothing else on his plate for a few days. If he
didn't eat protein, he wouldn't eat. When he got hungry enough,
he would get used to eating protein. It worked like a charm and
took only one or two meals to break him in. So don't let your
toddler succeed in getting you angry by refusing to eat - just
remove his food if he becomes too negativistic or dawdles unduly
It won't hurt him to miss a meal or two occasionally - in
fact, it will help him in the long run. And don't give him any
between meal snacks unless he has earned that right by eating a
reasonable amount at the previous mealtime. We allow our own
children to eat as much as they choose to, but if they don't eat
a reasonable amount, they get nothing until the next meal. This
way, we have no squabbles at mealtime. Mealtime should.be a time
for developing social skills, especially between mother and
toddler; as well as a time for eating. Be sure you don't
substitute food for love or social interaction.
[Well, the above for Dr.Meier may have worked, and it may well
work for many, but it ain't going to work for some. I was a kid
who until about age 12 HATED cabbage, brussel-sprouts, and a few
other things of the same food family. If my parents had done what
was suggested for Dr.Meier, I would have died or gone out and
stolen food. I literally would THROW UP if forced to eat cabbage
or brussel-sprouts. So again, use common sense, and understand
the situation you are in with your child and certain foods. God
has given us a enough VARIETY of foods (people can live okay and
not eat meat you know) for all tastes. There are still some foods
my taste buds do not like and turn my stomach up-side-down. I
just do not eat them period! - Keith Hunt]
9. What about pacifiers?
Mothers frequently ask me my opinion about pacifiers too, so
I'll make a few comments on them here. Basically, I think
pacifiers are fine, although they can be potentially dangerous.
Many mothers tie a pacifier around the neck of their toddler so
the pacifier won't get lost; not realizing that this is quite
dangerous, the child could fall, catching the string on
something, and thus choke. Also, worn-out pacifier should be
thrown away and replaced, because the rubber end of the pacifier
has been known to break loose and choke a toddler who bites
through it. However, a child at the infant and toddler stages
needs a good deal of oral gratification, and I have found that
children who get to suck on a pacifier as much as they want to
during infancy and the first half of the toddler stage generally
do not suck their thumbs so much when they leave these stages.
Our two oldest children made heavy use of pacifiers at first.
When they were about a year and a half, we tried not giving them
a pacifier to see how they would respond, and neither of them
missed it. And neither of them sucks his thumb. Our third child
refused a pacifier in infancy and never used one at all. If your
children do suck their thumbs, the best advice I can give is not
to worry about it - it's quite normal. Just ignore it. If they
are over five years of age and getting ready to go to school, you
will probably want to put a stop to it, but before that time
there's nothing to worry about. Some psychiatrists feel that
thumb-sucking beyond age four may indicate that that particular
child did not receive enough maternal warmth and affection during
feeding periods in infancy. Some parents are afraid that
thumb-sucking will result in buck-teeth, but research studies
indicate that buck-teeth are seldom the result of thumb-sucking.
[I loved my pacifier. I never thumb-sucked, but I sure did enjoy
my pacifier. I can remember as if it was yesterday, the day my
Mom threw it in the fire and said, "That's it Keith, no more
sucking on a pacifier" or words to that effect. I cried out in
desperation, but in the fire it went. I got over the shock after
an hour or so. Some of my children did suck their fingers when
babies and toddlers. I never worried about it. It did not cause
buck-teeth in any of them - Keith Hunt]
10. Genital play.
I would also, recommend that you ignore genital play during
the toddler stage, unless your child is doing so in public. It's part
of his natural exploration in discovering his body. If you choose
not to ignore it, handle the situation tactfully by merely
putting his underwear back on and telling him he should leave it
on. But don't ever shame him for it, or threaten him in any way,
or he will think his genitals are evil and develop poor sexual
concepts later in life. It could even result in neurotic fears in
adult life, and sometimes even impotence.
When your children ask questions about their anatomy, and
believe me they will, the best thing you can do is to give them
truthful, matter-of-fact answers. It is generally felt best to go
ahead and use words like urination, vagina, urethra, and penis,
rather than the childish words we frequently substitutes.
11. The concept of sharing.
Another important development during the toddler stage is
the willingness to share. If you want your child to understand
such concepts as unselfishness, sharing, and the results of
stealing, the foundation for these concepts must be laid in the'
toddler stage. Our children have lots of sibling rivalry, just
like other children, but they also share quite a bit, because we
praise them whenever they do share with each other or with us.
And we set the example by sharing many of our things with them.
When one takes a toy out of another's hands we slap his hand or
spank him. This is stealing, in a primitive sort of way, It's
covering your neighbor's possession.
12. Piaget's four periods of development.
We mentioned earlier that infancy falls roughly into Jean
Piaget's sensory-motor period of development. This is an
appropriate time to list his four periods of development. We will
refer to them from time to time:
a. Sensory-motor period: Birth until about eighteen months.
b. Preoperational period: From about eighteen months until
the child starts school at about age six.
c. Period of concrete operations: Roughly from ages six
d. Period of formal operations: From age eleven or twelve,
if the child has been properly educated. At this point the
child can begin to be reasoned with abstractly, if he is
mature. Many adults never reach this stage of reasoning
ability. They can't understand the hidden meanings of
various proverbs, for instance. They think that the proverb,
"People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones;"
means just that - if your house is made out of glass you
shouldn't throw stones because the glass might break. They
do not understand the various other implications, such as
that people who have faults (which means all of us)
shouldn't be criticizing others.
13. To spank or to reason?
Since the toddler stage is approximately from fifteen months
to thirty-six months of age, any complex reasoning attempts would
be a waste of time. Verbal reproofs are sometimes adequate, but
if the child is openly rebelling, spanking is the most effective
form of discipline.
14. Language development.
At the beginning of the toddler stage, at about fifteen
months of age, most children are using single words to name some
familiar persons or things, like "mama," "dada;" "dog," and "eat"
They also start using a lot of nonsensical gibberish, until they
finally start putting two or more words together. The average
child can talk in sentences fairly well by three years of age,
which marks the end of the toddler stage and the beginning of the
preschool years - ages three to six. Language development depends
a good deal on how much the parents talk to the child, as well as
whether he has older brothers and sisters to learn from. Toddlers
also learn to think out loud and talk to themselves, which is
15. Imaginary friends.
Toddlers also have imaginary friends that they talk to. This
is normal. This fantasy life helps them practice talking and also
helps them deal with developmental conflicts they are
experiencing in ways that are less threatening than real life.
16. Play therapy.
Sit back and watch your children play house. It's quite
revealing to see how our children interpret our family
interactions and communications. In fact, many child
psychiatrists do just that - its called play therapy - to analyze
what is going on in the family that is causing the child's
conflicts, and to use the information to help the child - and his
parents resolve those conflicts.
B. A toddler's perception of the universe around him.
1. The logic of the eighteen-month-old.
Let's take an imaginary trip back to our own early
childhood, most of which we have repressed from our memories. It
may be a painful trip, or it may be a pleasant trip, depending on
your past experiences, but let's try to see the universe through
the eyes of the little child within each of us.
An eighteen-month-old toddler's logic consists primarily of
his impulses to carry out his selfish desires, which allow him to
release his tensions. He has no foresight and thinks' primarily
in of the present, frequently forgetting the many lessons he has
learned from past experiences. Many adults in today's society
still appear to be operating with the logic of the
2. Alan's mind: a telescope or a microscope!
The mind of man sees the universe as though he were viewing
it through a microscope rather than a telescopes. It magnifies
only within the short range of his highly selective experience,
his select views of reality. Whether an eighteen-month-old
toddler or a thirty-eight-year-old man in the prime of his
career, or even an eighty-eight-year-old man with years of
experience - man does not make decisions and act totally on the
basis of true facts and reality, but rather on his impressions of
what is factual and real. His decisions are based on past
experiences, conscious perception, prejudices, conscious and
unconscious drives, emotions, social pressures, mental capability
to interpret reality, and many other factors.
3. Ways that we lie to ourselves.
Since no man, woman, or child is perfect, no one can, see
things as they really are 100 percent of the time. Most people,
in fact, don't want to - that's where man's approximately
twenty-two defense mechanisms (denial, projection, etc.) come in.
I personally hope to perceive and understand as much of reality
as I can handle psychologically, and pray that my human capacity
to grasp reality emotionally and intellectually will be extended
as far as possible within my finite capabilities. The Apostle
Paul said, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood
as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put
away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but
then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even
as also I am known" (I Cor.13:11-12). I can hardly wait to enroll
in the University of Heaven, to learn all of the reality that
remains a secret to me now. Moses wrote, "The secret things
belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are
revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may
do all the words of this law" (Deut.29:29).
But in this life we continue to lie to ourselves through
some of our twenty-two or so defense mechanisms, which are
closely tied to our emotions. A child who has experienced the
unpleasant feelings of anxiety or depression will look for ways
to prevent those unpleasant feelings from recurring. An anxious
feeling will cause physiological changes - such as speeding of
the heart and tightening of the muscles - which in turn signal
the unconscious to turn on one or more defense mechanisms, so
that the child will not see things as they really are. If he sees
reality at that moment, his feelings will be hurt - literally.
Our most basic defense mechanism is repression, which Lidz
defines as "the barring or banishment of memories, perceptions,
or feelings that would arouse the forbidden." Lidz adds that "in
order to prevent rearousal of some childhood sexual experiences
or the discomfort of remembering sexual desires for a parent, the
entire period of early childhood may be repressed." This is
theoretical, of course, but worthy of consideration.
Another defense mechanism which presents itself in early
childhood is regression. If a child encounters something that
makes him somewhat less secure, such as the birth of a younger
child, he may regress to an earlier stage of development at which
he did feel secure. He may even go back to wetting his bed or
sucking his thumb months after he, quit doing those things.
Fantasy formation is a defense mechanism that is usually
considered healthy at the toddler stage, helping him to dull the
pain of reality. Denial is one of the consist common defense.
mechanisms at all ages.
Denial refers to "the ability to deny the existence of
something disturbing, such as one's own anger or sexual
4. What is projection?
There are many other defense mechanisms which develop in
early childhood. We don't have the time to discuss all of them,
but I want you to be aware that they exist in all of us. One more
that I will mention is projection, which is attributing ones own
impulses or wishes to someone else. Thus, the toddler who feels
hostile toward his brother, but does not want the uncomfortable
feelings that accompany hostile wishes, will convince himself
that it is really his brother who is angry at him. Adults who
don't have much self-worth often use projection; they become very
critical of others who have hang-ups that unconsciously remind
them of their own. This is the mechanism referred to by Christ
when He said,
Don't criticize, and then you won't be criticized. For
others will treat you as you treat them. And why worry about
a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in
your own? Should you say, "Friend, let me help you get that
speck out of your eye," when you cant even see because of
the board in your own? Hypocrite! First get rid of the
board, Then you can see to help your brother. Matt.7:1-5. LB
I once had as a patient, a depressed minister who couldn't
figure out why he wanted to kill himself, but was aware of the
fact that he felt very hostile toward other people who were
hypocritical and loud-mouthed. After getting into therapy with
him for a while, I discovered that he was drinking a fifth of
whiskey every day, quitting only on Sundays so he could preach
his sermons. He even went into a withdrawal seizure one Sunday
night. He travelled on week-ends to be a guest speaker at various
places, and when he did, he always found some lonely woman to
spend the night with in his motel. He also was very verbose. Yet
the couldn't tolerate others who were loud-mouthed and
hypocritical, and didn't understand what he was doing that made
him so depressed. This was a good example of projection and
helped me to understand the problem better.
5. Does the universe really revolve around your child?
In spite of all these ways that the toddler learns to lie to
himself, he matures if he is in a healthy environment, and
gradually learns that the universe does not revolve around him.
According to Piaget, "the elaboration of the universe by
sensory-motor intelligence constitutes the transition from a
state in which objects are centered about a self which believes
it directs them, although completely unaware of itself as
subject, to a state in which the self is placed, at least
practically, in a stable world conceived as independent of
6. Psalm 8: We are insignificant but important!
The psalmist David expressed his awe when he took a good
look at his position in the universe, and then realized that God
loved him dearly in spite of his relative insignificance. In
Psalm 8, David exclaimed:
O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Thy name in all the earth,
Who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes
Thou hast established strength,
Because of Thine adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease,
When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers,
The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man? that thou art mindful of him?
And the son of man, that Thou carest for him?
Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than the God;
And dost crown him with glory and majesty!
C. Mother Substitutes.
1. What about Daycare Centers?
Even more so than during infancy, mother substitutes during
the toddler years present a serious problem. Any prolonged
separation from the mother during this stage can result in a loss
of initiative or even the determination for survival. Many
children in America today are being farmed out to Daycare
Centers, many of which are very detrimental to the child's
ultimate mental health and outlook on life. Those Day-care
Centers that are worthwhile, have adequate staff and programming,
and are somewhat beneficial to the child, are usually so
expensive that it doesn't pay for the mother to work. An adequate
Day-care Center should have at least one well-adjusted, warm,
loving staff member for every four or five toddlers. This is the
2. The childhood of 714 prisoners.
In 1965, the backgrounds of 546 female prisoners and 168
male prisoners were studied by distinguished London
psychiatrists. They concluded from their studies that the main
factors contributing to the eventual delinquency of the prisoners
were "multiplicity of care and lack of stable parent figures in
childhood." Many of these prisoners had also experienced the
death of one or both parents during early childhood.
3. Where are America's fathers?
Another study showed that "boys whose fathers have been away
for extended periods during their run-about-pre-school years
report more anti-social behavior than those whose fathers have
bees consistently present."
4. Parent substitutes.
Ideally, toddlers should have their mothers home with them
during the day; and both parents home to interact with on
evenings and weekends. They should also have opportunity to
interact under parental supervision with other children their
own age, such as in Sunday School and at the neighbors. The
climbing divorce rate in America is separating children from
their fathers, and in most cases the mothers are forced by
economics to go to work, so the children are also deprived of a
stable relationship with their mothers. God's Word says, "What
therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Mark
10:9, NASV). If there is a death in the family, if the young
toddler loses one or both of his paresis, then it's time for
grandparents, other close relatives, or close friends to step in
and help the toddler re-establish a close maternal, or
paternal-child relationship as soon as possible, even if the
close relative or friend involved doesn't live in the same house.
Children need two parents - that's all there is to it. If I
die while my children are still growing up, I certainly hope that
my wife will get married again to a stable, Christian man - and
the sooner the better. The Apostle Paul said, "Therefore, I want
younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and
give the enemy no occasion for reproach" (I Tim.5:14, NASV).
To be continued with "Preschoolers (ages three to six)"
Entered on this Website September 2007