Two-year-olds are much smarter than most of us think. Alex is a good example. A few months ago Alex came in with his Mom for a routine check up. After my physical assessment, I looked at his growth chart and started talking with his Mom about Alex’s developmental milestones. It was a good visit, no red flags.
Now, most two-year-olds are still in those high-absorbancy “pull-up” diapers, one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century. The only problem with them is that they are so easy and so convenient and they keep toddlers so dry that the incentive to potty train is lost. I mean, why bother learning how to use a toilet when these pants work just fine?
Alex must have thought so.
I brought up the issue of potty training with Alex’s mother. Not so much for the purpose of encouraging her to get on it, as much as to open it up for questions she might have about the process. As it turned out, she had the “big boy potty” sitting on the floor in the bathroom at home but Alex wasn’t expressing a whole lot of interest in using it. Invariably, every discussion about potty training eventually leads to this conclusion, and you’ve heard it a thousand times: “They’ll do it when they want to.” Doesn’t matter what you say. And Child Psych 101 notwithstanding, a child won’t potty train until they get good and ready. It’s kind of one of those “you can lead a horse to water…” laws of early childhood behavior.
Alex was familiar with this law. And he was paying attention to the conversation between his mother and me. The reason I know he was listening was that the second I said to his mom the proverbial, “He’ll do it when he wants to,” Alex chirped in, “I can’t want to! I can’t like that!”
There was great wisdom in Alex’s words that morning. What Alex’s little two-year-old mind understood, and what parents through the generations have found out, is that reason and logic aren’t enough. Persuasive skills fall short. Shame and guilt are counterproductive.
When Alex shouted, “I can’t want to!” he was admitting that, in this instance…potty-training… he would rather comply out of an inner desire rather than out of obeying a parental edict.
“I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8
Do we ever, like Alex, want to want to, but can’t? Where does the “want to” come from and how can we get it?
When God tells us, “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) could it be that God is telling us that when we place our faith in Him He will instill desires within us? That when we place our faith and delight in Him He will reward us by putting the “want to” in us?
Last word is that Alex is still not interested in the “big boy potty.” To be sure, Mommy and Daddy are ready for him to make that decision. (Hey those pull-ups aren’t cheap!). But they are patient.
Just like God is with us.
“He is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but everyone to come to repentance.”2 Peter 3:9b