All of us, at some time or another, have been taught the golden rule, " “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets" Matthew 7:12
And yet, it seems we forget this when we raise our children. Having babies is a mysterious journey to say the least. Most moms search all the books for right answers and want to figure out just the right way to be a mom, because we are usually separated from more experienced moms or grandmas and aunts, and so we flounder to find what is the right method of treating babies. Most of us are a little neurotic when we start out. Little experience and few models create an insecure beginning.
All of my babies were different in personality and not one size fit all--in other words, I had to get to know each baby on its own and slowly figure out what each needed to sort out life the best. Each child also had to fit into the whole of our family life, so adjusting on all sides took place as we added one baby after the other. Living by faith and trusting God and the instincts he gave us, within the bounds of loving our children, and understanding their basic needs, is how a mom will best proceed. It is not an exact formula.
A sweet young mom in my ministry was telling a story recently. She has a new baby and her mom has encouraged her to nurse her sweet baby when she cries, to cuddle and sing to her, to hold her, to comfort her and to enjoy her. My friend is surprised at how responsive her new infant is, even at three months, and how easily she comforts.
A friend of hers who had her baby at the same time, reading a book that had strict guidelines about when to feed a baby and hold a baby. . She does not hold her baby often. She will not feed her baby until 4 hours exactly, as she does not want to train her babe to be selfish and break the rules she had been taught about picking up her baby too often and training her baby to demand too much of her, and so on. (I had such big babies and not so much milk, so my babies would have starved and been so fussy if I waited 4 hours.)
When the two moms were together, the mom who was adhering to the rules, whose baby was fussy and cried a lot, proclaimed. "Look at my baby. Even at 3 months you can see that she is strong willed and defiant--just look how she cries when I don't pick her up. But what she didn't know was that her baby was saying, "Hey, mom, I need you. I am hungry and insecure--would you please hold me? "
How would this work if someone treated me this way--let's say that I was in some kind of pain--physical, emotional, psychological--whatever. Because of this, I began to cry. If my husband or family said to themselves, "Let's just let her cry this out. If we just leave her and ignore her, she will eventually get a hold of herself and we will show her who is the boss, because in our home, we do not want to put up with people crying and needing us too much."
Sadly enough, this kind of treatment of me would eventually cause me to pull away from the family member who treated me that way and would teach me to stuff my emotions and needs, but it would not create a healthy environment for a good relationship.
Now I know that this post will create controversy and my desire is not to make anyone feel guilty, but you need to know I get literally hundreds of letters from moms who say, " I feel like I have developed an antagonistic relationship with my children. I regret being so harsh. I lost the heart of my child." Literally hundreds.
Many moms have been told, "You will spoil your baby. You need to establish discipline now. You need to show your baby who is the boss." And so moms become afraid to do the wrong thing--they do not want to raise a spoiled, selfish child, and so they start out feeling they need to be a policeman figure in their children's lives instead of a mentor, guide, trainer, lover, encourager---you get the picture.
But what the young mom did not know is that even as Jesus was vulnerable and needed the love and cuddling of Mary, so all babes are created to find a basis for security by having security and snuggling with their own sweet moms, who speak to their brains about life, by being cared for and attended to. God made babies to be dependent--and toddlers and young children--it is a relational strength and has purpose.
I am sure this mom in the story is seeking with all of her heart to be diligent. By three months, she had already judged her baby to be strong-willed, defiant and she had created this problem herself--the sad thing is, she created her own havoc and didn't even know it.
My friend's baby was sitting in her lap cooing, snuggling, resting and smiling. And the mom felt jealous that she should be given such an easy-going baby.
Does this mean that all babies who are held will sit still and coo and be happy? No, absolutely not. All of mine had colic and all had different personalities and habits. But physiologically, all babies need to be touched, caressed, and attached to become as healthy as possible.
The deep desire and felt-need in ourselves ad our babies, is for the golden rule to be practiced in our own lives.
Call me silly, but I long for friends and family who love me, who are affectionate to me. I really appreciate having the ones who are closest to me, give me grace and forgive me, for my frequent mess-ups. I appreciate words of encouragement. I long for loyalty. When someone listens to me pour out my heart and comforts me, I feel validated and heard--sympathy means so much to me. I am blessed by thoughtfulness. Loyalty and steadfastness and a generous friend is such a satisfaction to my soul--I do not deserve such grace but am blessed by it when it comes my way. I have been blessed by friends and my sweet children who do to me what they wish would be done to them--and it makes me want to respond back in kind. And so this is what I wish for in others--and so this is what I need to give others, and especially those in my home.
Wouldn't a baby want, long for such things?
Jesus told his disciples to serve and lay down their lives. He served them meals, He washed their feet, He died for them. He never asked them to do or be what He had not done or been first.
If I want my children to honor me and respect me, I must treat them honorably first to show them what honor is.
If I want them to work hard, they must see me work hard. If I want them to have godly character and not complain, they must observe me making the choices to not complain and to not create strife. How can I teach them to be gentle and long-suffering if they do not receive this from me.
Of course all of us are selfish and struggle with our own sin and lack of training, which means we will fail often in carrying out these noble displays of love. But if we understand this principle--that the law and prophets are defined by this rule, it simplifies our choices, our behavior. And the interesting thing is that it reaches and opens hearts.
Our home, our relationships, our family will become what we live by, what we practice.
So today, if you wish your children would respond to you in love, in gentleness, with grace, with loyalty, with words of life, just do unto them as you would have them do unto you. Be consistent, have integrity, practice maturity--what we sow becomes what we reap in the lives of our precious children and I can say, at this stage in my life, the fruit of such practice is so very sweet. How very blessed I am by my wonderful, thoughtful, still growing, but loving children. A mystery and miracle took place in my home when God partnered to make my paltry offering of His ways enough to become a blessing.
As I wrote yesterday, I do not mean we use no logic and just give into every demand of our baby--that is another extreme. But, all children have a deep longing to have that security of belonging, being held, being attended to at the point of need. And babies move from total dependence to independence over time.
There are many mistakes along the way, days of strife, seasons of battle and lots of fussing. No doubt it is so very challenging, and especially if you are like me and were not trained.
Thank goodness, God is gracious and redeems. I used everything--every philosophy-- on my first one and prayed and sought the Lord, and somehow, in spite of me, she is delightful--though she could have lots of reasons to go to a counselor! (We told our children we would pay if they ever needed counseling because of our family!) But, I just want to share with sweet moms who are looking for Biblical wisdom, so they will not have to make as many mistakes as I did. God is with us and He will give grace to us and through us and we seek to walk through by faith.
This is why Clay wrote his book Heartfelt Discipline--to address these issues from a Biblical point of view.
Now please remember, Sweet Mamas,
I have no intention of offending any of you or being harsh. I was just repeating a story and pondering this in my quiet time this morning, and realized that a lot of philosophy would be clarified if women would learn to look at their babies as real human beings who responded to life as they did--do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
All mamas blow it many times--and guilt does not move us forward.
All of us mamas are going to make mistakes and we are limited in our own strength and knowledge to always know or do what it right. By God's grace, and in spite of all the ways I failed, He redeemed my best efforts and worked in my children's lives because He is faithful. We all make mistakes of judgment throughout our children's journey.
Yet, I believe that God pre-wired us to be mothers and to love and to civilize--it is the beautiful grace of a woman. Yet, many have been confused by reading books that sounded good but directed them in the wrong way. And if you know me, I do think that harsh parenting and adversarial philosophies do not win hearts. I am all about winning the hearts of our children through love and serving, as Jesus did, so that they will learn to love the the precious God that we love. And we know that, "Love covers a multitude of sin."
I do, however, long to affirm moms in their need to be present for their children--to be a good mom, whatever philosophy, one needs to give up rights, time, body, life and convenience in order to build, to invest in a child who will have a healthy soul.
I also want to help moms learn to fall in love with this gift from God and trust in their love, desire to comfort, treating their sweet babies as the gifts God has said that they are, and to learn the gentle, generous art of mother love.
I want the sweet moms who come here to also give grace and peace to each other, as I hope that my blog will be a place of life and encouragement and peace.
It causes you to think more deeply about your own convictions, great.
I do hate for anyone to believe the deception that holding and responding to a baby's cries in any way will cause the child to learn less or be less responsive. As a matter of fact, volumes and thousands of pages of research show that if a baby is attended to quickly, it is calmer, happier and learns self-control at an earlier age, because it does not have to wail and fuss loudly to be responded to--attentiveness helps the mom to learn her baby, to train her baby, to respond to her baby and to build security. May He cover this blunder of mine with His grace as my heart meant it to encourage. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Peace be with you today, the Lord is near and with all of us.