FamilyLife This Week®

Parenting Toddlers

with Courtney Reissig, Maria Goff, Paul David Tripp | February 22, 2020
Play Pause

From tantrums to food and bedtime battles, Courtney Reissig and Maria Goff join moms in the "trenches" of raising toddlers. Paul David Tripp helps us see the bigger spiritual principles at stake in training small children.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Michelle Hill

    Radio has been ingrained in Michelle for most of her life. This love for radio has taken her to various radio stations and ministries in places like Chicago, Alaska and other snow covered terrains like her hometown in north central Iowa. In 2005 she landed on staff with Cru/FamilyLife®. While at FamilyLife she has overseen the expansion of FamilyLife Today® internationally, assisted with the creation of Passport2Identity™-Womanhood and is now the host of FamilyLife This Week®. For the last 15+ years Michelle has been mentoring young women and is passionate about helping them find their identity in God. She also has a fascination for snowflakes and the color yellow. Michelle makes her home in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Courtney Reissig and Maria Goff join moms in the “trenches” of raising toddlers. Paul David Tripp helps us see the bigger spiritual principles at stake in training small children.

MP3 Download Transcript

Parenting Toddlers

With Courtney Reissig, Maria Goff...more
February 22, 2020
| Download Transcript PDF

Michelle: My favorite people to interact with are three-year-olds. I just think they’re so cute! But moms, I know that you see a different side. Here’s Maria Goff.

Maria: Most of the time, it’s more of a feeling of: “I don’t like this person right now,”—like, “I do not like her right now.” You don’t think about cuteness; because all you can think about is: “They’re not complying,” and “They’re inconveniencing my life,” and “I just want it to stop.”

Michelle: We’re going to talk about succeeding with parenting toddlers, without losing your mind, on this edition of FamilyLife This Week.

Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill. You know, parenting is hard! Parenting toddlers is hard! Life’s an adventure; but with those little ones, it’s even more of an adventure. I have had many conversations with my co-worker, Megan, about her four-year-old and seven-year-old; and it’s a challenge. It reminds me of a day in the life of my friend, Esther Anderson.

Esther: It’s not even ten o’clock, and it has been a day! Aubrey got into all those hair ties; dumped them across the room while I was outside with Ellia, waiting for the bus, which we were late for, because we couldn’t find the meat for her lunch; and she had to take a bath, and her hair was wet, and she couldn’t find “this,” and she couldn’t find her sock, and she couldn’t find her boots. [Sigh]

And then, Aubrey took off her diaper and took off around the house! I haven’t found anything yet; I’m guessing I probably will. It will be a nice surprise, probably right as I’m trying to leave the house. Tessa wanted to fix her dresser, with a hammer. So if you see me in public today, and I have that crazy look in my eye, just do—you know, what is it from Hunger Games?—they do this thing—just give me this; I’ll feel so much better!

Michelle: That’s my friend, Esther Anderson. You may recognize her from her social media platforms on “Story of This Life.” You know, some days, moms know raising kids is exactly what God created them for; and other days, well, moms, you want to pull your hair out! All moms need a little bit of encouragement from someone who’s been there and done that and survived those years.

Recently, I sat with my friend, Courtney Reissig, who is a mom of four boys: twin seven-year-olds, a four-year-old, and a two-year-old. I thought it would be fun to ask my friend, Maria Goff, to join in this conversation. She’s a mom of two girls: a one-year-old and a four-year-old. The reason I thought this would be a great conversation was because Courtney is just a few years further into this motherhood journey.

Here’s our conversation with Maria, starting things off talking about her four-year-old daughter, Estelle.

[Previous Recording]

Maria: The struggle we have lately with her is rage, like she just has rage. I know you look at me and you’re like, “Estelle has rage?”

Michelle: Yes! How could she?

Maria: But she has rage! Like she will clench her fists, and just like shake, and then just shriek when she doesn’t get what she wants; then I get angry. I struggle with, “Okay, what do I do now?”—because she needs to be disciplined—“but I am so angry right now.”

Courtney: Yes, yes.

Maria: I feel like, though, if I put it off, then it’s just going to be forgotten and swept under the rug.

Courtney: Sure.

Maria: You know, like what do I do right now? This needs to be addressed, but I’m so angry. I don’t want to do it right now, because I feel like I’m going to act out toward her in anger.

Courtney: Yes; I think in the heat of the moment, depending on the age of the kid—so she’s four.

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: We’ve had to deal with that a lot. While my children might have rage, I have rage, too. In the heat of the moment, one of the things my husband and I are committed to is just not disciplining in our anger.

Maria: Right, right.

Courtney: And so my husband doesn’t struggle with that nearly as much as I do. I have often—when I’m very, very angry—had them go sit in my room, or go sit on the couch, or sit while I calmed down. A four-year-old can understand some of that delayed-ness. A two-year-old cannot understand, or a one year-old cannot understand the delay; so in those instances, if you’re too angry to discipline them, removing them from the situation and putting them in their crib or something, I think, is incredibly helpful.

Maria: Yes, yes.

Courtney: But for a four-year-old, you can remove them and then say: “Mommy is very angry right now. I will deal with you in a minute.”

Maria: Because then I’m thinking, “Okay, now I have multiple disobedience issues then.”

Courtney: Correct! Right. [Laughter] Yes!

Maria: Have you had any issues with any of your children—like physically fighting you while you’re trying to discipline them?

Courtney: Yes; oh, yes!

Maria: Okay.

Courtney: I have four sons!

Maria: Okay.

Courtney: So we have a whole lot of flailing arms and legs.

Maria: And how do you handle that?

Courtney: Every person is unique. God created humanity all unique, and with varying differences and diversity, and things like that. Every child has a personality that’s unique, so what works for one kid with discipline won’t work with another kid. We like to put this blanket—like, “If you do this, it’s going to work perfectly.”

Maria: Right.

Courtney: It does not always work!

I have four children, and they are all very different. One kid—you tell him, “No,”/you say, “No,” firmly—and they cry. Another one is like, “I’ll do it anyway.” Then we’ve seen things happen with them, with discipline, that just work for one and don’t work for another; sometimes, it’s just trial and error. It involves knowing your kid.

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: It involves—in the same way that you want to know your spouse, or your friends, or your family members in order to love them better, I’ve found that learning my kids helps me know how best to help them when they’re struggling with sin.

Michelle: That’s helpful. Do you feel overwhelmed, Maria?

Maria: With life or with the kids? [Laughter]

Michelle: It’s kind of life-long for right now! [Laughter]

Maria: Yes; it depends on the day. You know, some days are good days; some days, she’s in a better mood. Before, when she was three, I called her a “threenager.”

Courtney: Oh, three is so hard! Three is the worst.

Maria: She just—and everyone’s like, “Oh, when they turn four!” I’m like, “She turned four; nothing happened.” [Laughter]

Courtney: Yes, it’s not a magical switch.

Maria: She just—the backtalk, and the attitude, and eye-rolling, and the grumbling, and the complaining. It’s like every single day. That’s what I get overwhelmed with—just the exhaustion of every single thing I tell her being a fight—

Courtney: Right.

Maria: —being a negotiation.

Courtney: Right.

Maria: Very rarely is it ever, “Estelle, do this,” and she does it; you know? And that gets exhausting and overwhelming; and more so when you feel like you’re not seeing progress—not just progress like outwardly—but you’re not seeing remorse or repentance on her part. It’s just the same things over and over again; you don’t see change. You don’t see them understanding the things that you’re trying to tell them when you are having those discipleship conversations when you’re disciplining; you know? That gets overwhelming.

Michelle: Well, one thing I keep wondering is: “How do you know when you’re dealing with a three-year-old who’s immature or a three-year-old who’s a willful sinner?”

Courtney: Yes.

Michelle: And “What’s the difference? I mean, what’s the difference in your discipline at that point?”

Courtney: Right. That’s hard, because I feel like I don’t always notice that until after I’ve gotten really angry with them for acting like a three-year-old who’s immature; and then I’m like: “Oh, stink! They’re just acting like a kid.” I often have to go back and say, “I’m really sorry. Mommy expected more of you than you were emotionally capable of doing in that moment.” They don’t always understand; they just say: “That’s okay, Mommy. I forgive you,” or something like that.

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: I think willful disobedience like you’re talking about—the not listening—I mean, a three-year-old can obey.

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: Because a three-year-old can obey when they want something; and so clearly, a three-year-old can obey. If we suddenly said, “Do this, and I’ll let you watch Paw Patrol or—

Maria: Oh! [Laughter]

Courtney: —you know? or “Do this, and I’ll give you a cookie,” I mean, they immediately stop.

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: They’re like, “Oh, I can do this!”

Michelle: They can be trained.

Maria: Yes, yes.

Courtney: They can be trained; and so what you want to do is train them to, not only obey for rewards, but to obey because Mommy and Daddy said so—

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: —which is ultimately because God said so—

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: —which is the foundation for understanding the gospel.

Michelle: Now, Courtney, Maria said just a few minutes ago that it felt like nothing is working.

Courtney: Yes.

Michelle: Encourage her. Have you gone through those times? I’m sure all moms have gone through those times; right? [Laughter]

Courtney: Yes! I happen to be in a season of life where I feel like nothing is working if that makes you feel any better.

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: But one of the things that I’ve just been really struck by is, when you read the Bible, the story of Scripture is that rebellious people repeatedly disobey unless they have new hearts. I know that all of my children are unsaved, so they are acting consistent with how people, post-Fall, act.

It’s the struggle of God’s heart with a rebellious people, who continue to reject Him, and turn against Him, and spurn His kindness toward them. I’m not God, so I respond unlike God most of the time; and I want them to obey because, “Look at all I’ve done for you,” basically.

I don’t think I have prayed with such fervency for their salvation as I have begun to pray as I’ve seen this complete disregard for obedience, and complete disregard for the things that God says, and a lack of remorse for sin. The only way that comes is with them having a new heart; the only way that comes is with Christ redeeming them.

I have found that I can’t do that. That is the hardest part of parenting—I’ve started to realize—that I cannot save them. I so desperately want them to obey—most of the time, sinfully, because I want my life to go better—but what I really want is for them is to be saved so that they don’t ultimately die and not have hope and life in Christ.

Michelle: Right, right.

Courtney: So it has just made me more fervent in prayer.

Maria: What do your conversations with them look like when you’re engaging them in discipline, but also trying to engage their heart?

Courtney: Yes, so it ebbs and flows depending on—full disclosure—sometimes, I’m not thinking in gospel language when I’m disciplining.

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: But when I feel like the Lord’s really working in my own heart and made me want their salvation more than I want their obedience for my own comfort’s sake, I’ll ask them:

“Who is the boss?”

Mommy and Daddy are the boss.”


“Who made Mommy and Daddy the boss?”

God made Mommy and Daddy the boss.”

“How many gods are there?”

There is only one God.”

“That means that you can’t be God. You want to be God, because you’re a sinner.”

It ebbs and flows depending on the age of the kid, but the older ones can retain their attention for this.

Maria: Yes.

Courtney: And:

“The reason that you want to be God is because we all want to be God. We need Jesus to give us a new heart to make us want God to be God and make us want to follow Him.

“We discipline you because sin is that serious. Ultimately, sin will kill you. Discipline hurts right now, whether it’s a loss of privileges or other kinds discipline. While that is painful to you right now, the most painful thing that can happen to you is death and separation from God; and we don’t want that.”

Basically, we’re just repetitively giving the gospel to them, over and over and over again, asking God to bear fruit in their life.

Michelle: Parenting is exhausting.

Maria: It is!

Courtney: Yes! [Laughter] It is.

Maria: It’s so tiring; yes!


Michelle: I think I may need to take a quick nap! But we need to take a break; and on the other side, we’re going to continue talking about how you survive those crazy, busy, cute, and tiring toddler years. Courtney gives us some advice. Stay tuned!

[Radio Station Spot Break]

Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. We are talking today about raising toddlers with Courtney Reissig and Maria Goff, trying to give some encouragement to moms out there, who are pulling out their hair because, you know, raising toddlers can definitely make parents question their sanity. At least, that’s what I’ve heard!

When I sat down with Maria’s daughter, Estelle—I’ve got to admit, “I don’t get it, because she’s so cute!”

[Previous Recording]

Estelle: I am three old.

Michelle: You’re three years old?

Estelle: Yeah.

Michelle: That’s pretty exciting!

Estelle: I’m about to turn this age.

Michelle: Oh, my goodness! How many fingers is that?

Estelle: That’s four!

“A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z.”

Michelle: Wow!

Estelle: Thank you.

Michelle: You’re being so polite!

Estelle: Um, I love my Mommy and Daddy.

Michelle: You love them? How much do you love them?

Estelle: I love them all; yeah!

Michelle: Are you always so good?

Estelle: Yes.

Michelle: You don’t disobey Mommy and Daddy?

Estelle: Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t.

Michelle: Okay; well, let’s sit in the seat. Let’s not move the chair around; okay?

Estelle: Okay.

Michelle: Let’s just keep the chair in one direction. Could we just sit in our seats—

Estelle: Sure.

Michelle: —not twirl the chair?

Estelle: Sure.

Michelle: Okay, thank you.

Why don’t you sit in the seat; okay? Okay, let’s sit back down on this chair; okay? Don’t lick the microphone; okay?

Estelle: I’m not.

Michelle: Yes, you kind of were; weren’t you? Okay; but let’s not do it again; okay?

Estelle: Okay.

Michelle: You’re kind of a wiggly worm; aren’t you, right now? Why don’t you sit over here? Won’t you sit over here?

Estelle: Yeah.

Michelle: Does Mommy do—Does—whoops! Okay, let’s not move the chair anymore. Let’s not move the chair back and forth. Let’s just sit. Can we just sit still for a little bit?

Estelle: Sure.

Michelle: Okay!

[Previous Conversation]

Courtney: It’s so great! [Laughter]

Michelle: Okay; so Maria, every time I see Estelle, I am just like, “She’s the cutest thing!” And then I have ten minutes in a sound-proof room with her. Within those ten minutes, I had to correct her to sit in the chair, what?—ten times?

Maria: At least!

Michelle: “Don’t lick the microphone.” [Laughter] I mean, it’s not that I think of her as a bad kid; but it was crazy!

Maria: Yes.

Michelle: It gave me just a little glimpse into your life. [Laughter]

Maria: It’s my life!

Michelle: How do you balance the tension? Because, to me, she seems like she’s just too cute! You know, I’m like: “She’s just too cute! I want to squish her cheeks!”; you know? And yet, how do you balance the tension between that—being too cute—and when she’s stepping out of bounds?

Maria: Well, I mean, it’s kind of like what Courtney said, where when you get into those moments when they’re not being obedient, you kind of forget that they’re cute.

Courtney: You do forget that they’re cute sometimes!

Maria: It’s like the cuteness—you’re not even thinking about the cuteness.

Courtney: No!

Maria: Honestly, if, you know, I’m being real here; most of the time, it’s more of a feeling of: “I don’t like this person right now,”—like, “I do not like her right now.”

Courtney: Yes.

Maria: So you don’t think about the cuteness; because all you can think about is: “They’re not complying,” and “They’re inconveniencing my life,” and “I just want it to stop.” The cuteness really doesn’t come into play for me at all in those moments; it’s just kind of like an on-and-off thing.

Even sometimes, I would say, in stressful times, there are those moments that come, and those are gifts from the Lord, I think; you know, like when I traveled by myself with the girls to my grandparents’. We were all sharing a room, and I was not getting sleep. This was like an old, ancient spring mattress. Every time Estelle moved at all, the whole thing just shook and woke me up. It was very high, so I was paranoid that Estelle was going to roll off. She was really excited that she got to share a bed with me; and during the night, there were those moments of, “I’m just really glad to be able to have this moment to snuggle her right now,” or those kinds of things; you know?

Courtney: Yes.

Michelle: Courtney, what brings you sanity, raising four little boys?

Courtney: Margin; we haven’t had naptime for everyone in a long time. When we lost naptime, that was really hard; I didn’t realize how much I depended on some of that time. For me, just finding new ways to find margin has been helpful. I feel like each year/each school year I’ve had to figure out a new way. The twins are in school; and then Seth, my four-year-old, will be in school next year. He’s in Pre-K right now, but he’ll be in kindergarten.

Finding new ways to work with our new schedule is just a constant battle. We’ve had to just really be intentional. Margin is helpful to me in the work I do in the home, and then margin is helpful to me in the work I do outside of the home through writing and teaching. We had a babysitter last year come for—because we didn’t have naptime, we had a babysitter come some; because we don’t live near family—and then just having pockets of time.

One of the things I think, in our current culture/in mom culture, there’s a lot of talk about self-care. I don’t know if you’ve heard people talk about that a lot. People talk about self-care as being an idol of sorts; but then, there’s another side of Christianity, where it’s like there’s no self-care whatsoever, like you should not care for your body in any way, because it’s all about dying to self. I kind of take a middle approach, where we’re embodied humans.

Michelle: Yes.

Courtney: We are both body and soul, and so our souls need to be nourished. Our souls, sometimes, can be nourished by our body being nourished—through sleep, or through recreation, or through rest, or through something that gives us life. That allows us, then, to be able to go and pour out in whatever way God has asked us to pour out.

I think that there’s room for nuance in the self-care discussion. If anyone is doing any type of work, whether you’re a mom or in a really stressful job that’s taking a lot of your time and energy, I think you need to find things that are going to replenish you so that you can go and do your work. We were made for Sabbath rest. We obviously know the Lord provides that, but He also provides means; we see that all throughout Scripture. He provides means for people, so that they can get the replenishment they need to then go and serve in the ways that God has called them to.

Michelle: I’m thinking, Courtney, as moms are wading through all of these questions—and we live in a culture, where we have answers at our fingertips; we have answers on Pinterest; we have answers on social media; on Twitter®; we have answers in books; we have answers everywhere!

Courtney: Yes.

Michelle: What are the voices that we should be listening to as we have these questions?—or who have you listened to?

Courtney: I think the Bible is incredibly helpful, obviously; so that’s where, I think, the first—because I think a lot of parenting books are going to give you, sometimes, some formulaic answers of: “If you do this, then this will happen…” That’s not always helpful; because, like I said, your kids are all different. The Bible’s going to speak to the nuances of the differences of people. It will speak to the human heart.

Paul David Tripp’s stuff on parenting—his book on parenting—was just really helpful and informative for me in helping me see that I am a sinner parenting sinners—

Maria: Yes!

Courtney: —which was just huge! Because once I started seeing my children as mini versions of me—they struggle with the same things that I struggle with—but they don’t have the Holy Spirit, and they’re also less mature than I am, that gave me a lot more sympathy for them in their struggles and less frustration with them.

I parent a lot more out of frustration than I would prefer to parent them in, but that was kind of a game-changer for me in helping me understand. And then, also, parenting alongside friends has been really helpful. I think, sometimes, it’s a lot easier to listen to the voices on the internet of how we should parent; but they don’t know us or our children.

People who are parenting in the trenches with us can sometimes speak to the things that we don’t even see are there, and neither does that voice on the internet or a podcast. But our friends might know and see and can help us kind of parent in community. Then, having a couple of friends, who are a few years ahead of me—I think if you get a little bit too far ahead of you, there’s only nostalgia looking back. [Laughter]

Michelle: And nostalgia looks good!!

Courtney: It does! I’m always like—these people, who are like 15 years out; their kids are graduating from high school—and they’re like: “Oh, if I could just go back! It was so dreamy.” Sometimes, I’m like, “It does not feel dreamy to me at all!”

But someone, who’s two or three years ahead, still has that memory of what it was like; but then they also have the maturity of an experience. I feel like finding somebody, who’s just a few years ahead is helpful. There are other resources, I think, out there; but Paul Tripp’s book is helpful in framing it from the standpoint of, “We’re just sinners parenting sinners.”

Michelle: Yes.

Courtney: I think it gives us empathy for our kids, which is what they need in discipline.

Michelle: Yes.

Courtney: We are fighting, alongside them, for their souls.


Michelle: That’s my friend, Courtney Reissig, who is an author and Bible teacher, and a mom of four. She’s actually had several conversations with me, here at FamilyLife®. We have those conversations online; go to

Also, she had mentioned Paul Tripp as someone she leans into for advice on parenting. Paul’s a good friend of FamilyLife. I dug into our archives here and found a piece, where he’s talking about parenting. Actually, he’s talking about the ultimate source of authority in our lives while we parent. Here’s Paul.

[Previous FamilyLife® Today Broadcast]

Paul David: I don’t have any independent authority at all—none! These children belong to God; they were created to live under the authority of God. I don’t have the right to exercise authority any way I want to exercise it. If I’m called to be an ambassador—this makes me weak in the knees when I say this—every time I exercise authority in the life of my children, it must be a beautiful picture of the authority of God.

Why is that important? Because my children come into the world not loving authority. What they love is self-rule; and so I want, by the way that I exercise authority, to show them that authority doesn’t end freedom; authority gives freedom. Authority is a wisdom thing; it’s a protective thing; it’s a gracious thing; it’s a loving thing; it’s a faithful thing. And so, growingly, they come to love authority rather than hate authority.

Let me say one other thing. Those little fights that you have with a four-year-old or a three-year-old have nothing to do with the topic. This is about authority! This child is saying to you, “You will not rule me!” Now, when that happens, you can respond to that as an owner, and say: “Oh, yeah!? Look at the size of me! Look at the size of you!” [Laughter]

And you, right away, make it a horizontal thing; and you say, “I’ll do personal war with you to bring you under my rule.” Parents do that all of the time! Christian parents do that, not knowing what they’re doing. Or you can say, with a broken heart: “Here’s another demonstration that this one that I love is a rebel against the authority of God. That rebellion inside of them—that desire to only be ruled by themselves—is their doom! How can I be part of the ambassador’s desire to rescue that child from [himself/herself]?”


Michelle: Paul Tripp, talking with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine on FamilyLife Today about parenting and about where our ultimate authority is. Wow! I can totally see why Courtney Reissig leans into Paul’s advice for parenting her toddlers. Of course, you can find more information on Paul and some of his other conversations on FamilyLife Today. Go to; that’s

Moms and dads, you are doing something great; you are rearing the next generation! Yes, I know that there are days that you wonder if they’ll ever live to graduate high school—or even preschool—but you’re doing what God has called you to do, and that’s a very noble thing.

You know, it’s in Deuteronomy 6, where Moses tells the Israelites: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might, and these words I command you to write them on your heart. Teach them diligently to your children and talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Moms, the day may seem long, and you may be weary; but thank you for loving your children and doing the hard work of training them to love God.

Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country, and our team here, who make things happen. I could not do it without them, especially Megan Martin, who is the mom of preschoolers.

Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.

I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.


We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs? 

Copyright © 2020 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.