This is a big promise: being able to teach faith and confidence to toddlers. Before we go any further I need you know know that I’m not an expert on teaching toddlers to have faith, or confidence for that matter. I’m a new parent. I have two toddlers I might not know how to teach you or your toddler how to have more faith and confidence, but I certainly do have some strategies you can implement that might help. Like you, I’m just learning, here for the ride of my life, a true student parent.
In parenting I am the equivalent of a student driver; someone truly learning as they go, and I hope you are okay with that. That’s one of the funny things about parenting. Kids don’t come with an instruction manual, and each child is so divinely unique and magnificently complicated, that even a universal parenting guide would not work, which is why it doesn’t exist nor will it ever. We are all in the same vulnerable boat of flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants, and I embrace it. I like the grace that comes with student parenting, and I extend it to myself and to you as well. We are all here to learn from one another and from our mistakes, and as long as we are learning, we are growing. Growth gives us confidence, and well, that’s my thing, so I’m in for this learning-as-I-grow-gig.
It has taken me a while to get a a handle on giving myself grace in my parenting. Most of my parenting efforts have been authentic, but I confused good parenting with perfect parenting. I was reading parenting blogs and listening to parenting podcasts before I even had kids. I wanted to know how to do it right and I wanted to be good at it. The pride in me wanted to make what I did look easy, but after enough exhaustion of managing the charade of effortless parenting I decided to lay my cards down. Y’all I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m okay with that.
What I do know for sure though is that we all need to see ourselves as God sees us. If the beautiful humans of the world – that is, all of us – could see ourselves through the eyes of our perfect Creator, how differently would we live? A child who knows they are loved, wanted, safe and special has the confidence to change the world. And we dear friends are no different.
I used to hate it when people told me that I could be “confident” because God loved me. I knew it was true, but it felt cheap, easy and inaccessible. It felt like a temporary balm on a sunburn that was unbearable. It was temporary relief at best.
The reason that my confidence in God felt so inaccessible is because I was so distracted. My mind was muddled. My life was over- scheduled. My thinking was in a constant state of overwhelm and was inundated with distraction, comparison and stress. The answers I needed felt superficial because my mind was distracted by an overload of influences, obligations and achievements I was chasing. I wasn’t able to feel confident or to deepen my faith because I was rushing through life. In my rush I didn’t have time to think about words and to let them really have the space they needed to sink into my soul.
I have studied confidence for over a decade like it’s my job, because it is. And what I have learned is that confidence comes from our thoughts. And here is where the parenting opportunity arises. We can teach our kids to be confident because we can teach our kids how to think. And, since we are student-parents, we are also, by proxy, students-of-life, and are continually learning ourselves for ourselves, so we can learn to think differently too.
Setting your mind on what it should focus on is a foundational strategy in any life coaching methodology. Memorization of affirmations therefore, become important in the intentional, positive wiring of the brain. There is something even more powerful than positive affirmations. It is the power of the Word of God. And it is never too early or too late to start using the Bible to rewire the neurological pathways of your mind.
I started teaching my daughter Bible verses when she was three years-old, only when I realized she was able to memorize various parts of stories we were reading her and songs she loved. Someone suggested a Bible verse per letter of the alphabet, and I loved the idea. For the first few weeks of this endeavor I spent one week per memory verse and was amazed at my daughter’s enjoyment of memorization. She found comfort in us adding this to our bedtime routine, and most surprisingly, I did too. As she memorized scripture, I was challenged to do so for myself as well. The process of memorizing these ABC Bible Verses took us about six months. We learned a new verse approximately every week, though there was certainly a month or so in there that I got parent fatigue and we slacked. As my daughter matured in age, she accelerated in her memorization and was able to master two verses per week instead of one.
Ellie recently turned four years old, and we completed our ABC Bible Verses. We recorded her progress, and you will see, she is not camera shy. The challenge in capturing her memorization isn’t in getting her to speak on camera, it is in her not being distracted with looking at herself in camera or being silly and funny in her biblical interpretations.
As you can see in the video, my four-year-old daughter Ellie is delightfully distracted for much of her reciting. I am not concerned about her distraction, her attention span or the creative liberty she sometimes takes when throwing in a silly word into a verse. I love that she loves the Bible. I celebrate the aptitude her brain has to memorize verses and I love the fun she has with this.
In the process of learning these verses, it has been phenomenal and deeply rewarding as a parent to watch the Word of God be planted deep into her mind. The first few months I would overhear her using language from the verses she knew in conversations she had between her Barbies. She had her stuffed animals recite some of the Psalms to one another during her pretend play at nap time. There have been times when I was stressed, anxious, or in a rush, when she told me, “Mommy, don’t be anxious about anything.” And she now has a vivid imagination about the love God has for her and how present He is in our lives, all from these simple, twenty-six memorization verses.
Some of the verses she picked up fairly quickly, and others were a struggle. For the ones she wasn’t automatically drawn to, or didn’t understand the meaning, we would break down the words of the verse with made-up movements or sign language to trigger her memory, which you can see in some parts of the video. This strategy helped tremendously and made our memorization time together very fun.
Here’s the list of verses we memorized together. Considering that we started this journey when she was a three-year-old, we didn’t worry about having her memorize the book and verse information to correspond with each verse. Our plan for the next few months is to keep working through these “Bible Verse ABCs” and reinforcing their meaning for our lives. As Ellie’s little brother Baker is about to turn two, we will start having him learn a verse or two. When Baker learns his full Bible Verse ABCs, we will have Ellie help teach him, and have her learn and memorize the coordinating book and verses to go along with it. Next up for memorization as a family will be The Lord’s Prayer and I’m looking forward to it becoming a staple in our family prayer time.
A (Matthew 7:7)
Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you.
B (Ephesians 4:32)
Be kind to one another.
C (1 Peter 5:7)
Cast all your cares upon the Lord and He will care for you.
D (Philippians 4:6)
Do not be anxious about anything.
E (James 1:17)
Every good and perfect gift comes from above.
F (Colossians 3:13)
Forgive one another.
G (Psalm 46:1)
God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
H (Psalm 62:2)
He alone is my rock and salvation.
I (Psalm 139:14)
I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
J (Hebrews 13:8)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.
K (Psalm 100:3)
Know that the Lord is God, it is He who made us.
L (Matthew 22:37)
Love the Lord with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.
M (Psalm 62:1)
My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him.
N (Hebrews 11:1)
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we cannot see.
O (Psalm 63:1)
Oh God you are my God, earnestly I seek you.
P (Psalm 103:1)
Praise the Lord, oh my soul, I praise His holy name.
Q (1 Peter 3:4)
A quiet spirit is of great worth in God’s eyes.
R (Philippians 4:4)
Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.
S (Revelation 7:10)
Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne.
T (Proverbs 3;5)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
U (Psalm 91:4)
Under His wings, you will find refuge, His faithfulness will be your shield.
V (John 6:47)
Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.
W (2 Corinthians 5:7)
We walk by faith and not by sight.
X (Galatians 6:14)
May I never boast eXcept in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Y (Matthew 5:14)
You are the light of the world.
Z (Psalm 97:8)
Zion hears and rejoices.
The way we can teach our children, and even our toddlers, how to have more faith and confidence is to walk in the Word daily ourselves. As a parent, I confess that I thought I was “too busy” to keep my quiet times with God a priority. One of the most beneficial sideeffects of this memorization journey for me as a parent was that it reignited my personal passion to read my Bible daily. I purchased a new Bible that has beautiful adult coloring Bible verse passages interwoven throughout the text, The Beautiful Word Coloring Bible, and it has invigorated my own personal study and integration of scripture into my daily life.
Of all of the billions of parents in the history of the world, God chose you to be the parent to your child. You have been divinely appointed to raise up your little one in the way of truth, love, and God. We are in this together, student parents, figuring it out as we go, making mistakes and making memories along the way. And what great news, that we are not responsible to know how to do this. God is our teacher and He is faithful, He will show us the way, as Psalm 32:8 confirms, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”