Because we love them so much (only in part because they're so cute) we need to be careful how we react to their behavior at this age. Of course we shouldn't discipline them like an older child who committed the same, but they need to know that their disobedience is wrong. It is an offense to our holy God and is not honoring to their parents. Otherwise, how can we expect them to understand that what was funny to mommy and daddy six months ago now lands them in a solemn time-out?
So how should we discipline our 18-month-olds in a way they can understand and builds for the future?
*Give them a little pop or squeeze on the hand when they disobey.
*Do not smile. They will certainly notice that the ones who look at them googly-eyed all day long have changed their demeanor. This will have an impact.
*Get down on their level, look them in eye and with a firm voice explain what they did wrong and what they should have done. Include a very brief explanation of why you do not want them to do foolish things (because you love them and want them to honor their God and their parents). Finish by reassuring them of your love for them.
*Remove them from the situation to avoid the temptation to do it again.
These are all things that you've heard before and all are bits of advice that have been passed down to me in one way or another over the past few years. Our little dears, as precious as they are, are little sinners. It is their very nature to sin and we can count on that nature manifesting itself in all kinds of ugly ways. As their parents, we are called to teach them the Lord's commandments, especially in light of Jesus' work of salvation, and pray that the Holy Spirit will change their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. We can revel in their cuteness, now and always, but there is no substitute for a parent's joy over a son who is wise (Prov 23:22-25)!