george hancock stefanAs a father of four children, I must confess that I enjoyed my children’s “terrible twos.” It was a time of creativity, assertiveness, and demonstration of their individuality. It was fun to observe the precious gleam in their eye that told me they knew what they were doing and were willing to take the risk. However, they were two for a designated period of exactly 12 months. Then we moved into the threes and fours and regulations or principles became a part of our lifestyle. One of those rules was that we go out as a family and they should not embarrass us with flying food, pulling hair, wailing, whining, or other inappropriate behavior. All my children remember moments when the meal came to a stop and we took a trip to the parked car until they calmed down and were to go back into the restaurant and apologize. There were also one or two incidents in which our food was packed up because we never went back into the restaurant.

I regularly have the chance to meet children in many contexts. In the church where I preach regularly and in churches where I am the guest preacher, I do not mind hearing children in the sanctuary, even if they are crying. It is good that the parents bring their children to church and worship together. There are only so many things that we can expect from two-year-olds, but we should stress that they are always welcome in the worship service because the founder of Christianity always welcomed children to come to Him.

It seems that God loves me to be surrounded by children, because they are always present in my neighborhood and when I travel internationally. I smile at them, I greet them, and even play with them if given the privilege. Some parents welcome such gestures and some parents are very reluctant to have anyone talk or play with their children.

Most of the time, when parents take their children on a flight, they pack activities to keep them occupied and the children travel well. But here and there, one finds children who should not be on the flight because they have not left the terrible part behind yet. I do not mean that any human being is terrible in themselves, but their actions were terrible. On a recent flight, I observed how often a four-year old cried because he did not get his way and how many times his sibling called to the parent because the brother was annoying, antagonizing, and plain rude. I know all this because I was sitting on an aisle seat and they were sitting across from me. I know that the bathrooms on the airplane are much smaller than a car but if he was my child, I would have taken him into one and sat with him until he made some progress.

I wish and pray that this boy will make some progress by the time he goes to first grade. But when I talked to elementary teachers, I find out that many children come to first grade still dragging their terrible two behavior. We tell them to stop, but we do not really expect them to stop. We tell them that there will be consequences, but there rarely are any. And as they grow, the behavior that should have stopped by the time they are in kindergarten continues into their youth, because the underlying philosophy is that no child should ever be denied anything—whether they are two or in their twenties.