The good news is that this is probably the easiest phase of parenting. The challenge is to be intent on setting up good patterns and boundaries. If we do so it will set us up well for the pre-teen and teen years. I like to call this the training stage. Children at this stage are still very innocent but are old enough to be fairly independent. No more nappies, they can feed themselves, dress themselves, etc.
No.1: Cuddles and Kisses
Affection is so very important. We tend to underestimate the reinforcing power of physical and verbal nurturing.1 Thess 2: 6-7: one of the main roles of mothering is nurturing. Physical affection is part of that: hugs, kisses, a pat on the back… Have you hugged your child today?
Take care of your children’s physical needs by cooking good balanced nutritious meals. They don’t have to be expensive. Communicate warmth and encouragement to your child. Make sure you tell them every day you love them. Let them know and express the fact that God created them beautiful and smart.
Read to them / with them. Reading (see my first lesson) is an important bonding tool as well as great for the brain! A child who is given of love of books at a young age will probably be a reader for life!Teach about potential sexual abuse. Explain the parts of the body, good and bad (inappropriate touch). If your children ask questions about sex, please answer them!
No.2: Teach about God
2 Tim 1:5: Timothy was raised by his mom and his grandmother. They taught him about God. If we have a Christian husband, praise God! We still need to teach our children about God. It is not solely the dad’s job. And if we don’t (either our husband is not a disciple, or we are a single mom), then we have the responsibility to teach about God.
Some of our husbands are very busy with their jobs. They are out of town or work long hours. My husband has lived in a different country over the last two years. I have to make sure I lead spiritually. That includes family devos, quiet times, memorizing scriptures, talking about God and imitating Jesus, asking questions like, “What would Jesus do? What does God think about this?” etc.
No.3: Mom is in charge, not the child
Again the basic scripture: Eph 6:1. Children need to obey their parents, for this is right. No negotiations, no discussions; there will be plenty of time for that when they reach the teen years!Mom decides the schedule, the sleep times, the food the child eats, the TV programs the child watches, and for how long… We can start introducing some limited choices but only when we decide to do so.
One note on TV watching… Over the years I have come to the conclusion that watching selected movies rather than random TV programs is probably a better plan. That way we have control over what our children see.
If a child does not obey the first time, there needs to be consequences. The child needs to know this in advance. This has to be taught in family devos, in daily conversations, so that there is no surprise. Consistency is important. The same misbehavior calls for the same consequences. Some useful scriptures on disobedience: Pr 13:24, 22:15. As I mentioned in my first lesson, we have to be wise depending on the setting and the local laws, but the point is that there needs to be consequences to actions. That is a very important skill to teach our children, and the best time to teach that is at this age.
It is at this age that children start to lie intentionally. It is important to nip this in the bud. God seems to take deceit very seriously. In India this tends to be a national sin. In our family we have a practice that lying calls for double punishment. The kids all know this. We want to cultivate a climate of openness. If you mess up you will face consequences, but if you lie about it, the consequences will be doubled. Ananias and Sapphira are famous in our home!
And please get advice! I always look at families that have done a great job with their kids and ask questions. Without the Bible and good role models I would be a horrible mother. I am very grateful for the lessons I have gleaned over the years.