By: Dr. Gregory Popcak
Sometimes my two year old loves to pray, and sometimes when it is time to pray he says “No thanks.” Whenever this happens, I just envision episodes of rebellion and negativity towards the faith years down the road. What’s the best way to handle this situation?
It is good to give children choices about things like the clothes they want to wear or the games they want to play. That can be quite empowering. It is less useful to give children choices about things like whether they should take medicine when they are sick, when they need to take a bath, or when they need to pray. In those times, we simply give the child their medicine, plop them in the tub, or pray. It isn’t a choice–but it doesn’t have to be a power-struggle either. If your 2yo says, “No thanks!” to prayer, that isn’t rebellion. Prayer is a very abstract concept for 2yo’s. He isn’t fighting prayer so much as he’s saying that, right now, he’s more into something else. Instead of reacting negatively, make a big smile, scoop him up in your arms, give him a big kiss and say, “‘No thanks?’ Wow! What a polite young man you are! Let’s thank Jesus for helping you be sooooo polite! ‘Dear Jesus, thank you for giving us such a polite and respectful young man. Help him to grow up to love you with all of his whole heart, just like I love him with my whole heart and you love him with your whole heart. AAAAAmen.” Resistance overcome. Prayer accomplished. For more suggestions, check out our sections on faith development and toddlers in both Parenting with Grace and Beyond the Birds and the Bees.