I am in no way the perfect mother. I do have five children though, ranging in age from 6 to 24. I have a married daughter, two college kids, a teenager, and a first grader. Some of my kids have special needs, both physical and emotional. Two of my kids are adopted. I have four girls and one boy. I am happily married, however for the last two years my husband and I have lived in different countries so I got a taste of single motherhood and its added challenges.
Okay… Lesson no.1: 0 to 3 years! I love babies. I love the smell of babies, the softness of babies, the cries of babies. I get a physical reaction of warmth when I hear or see a baby. I have always been this way. As a little girl I played with my dolls for hours. I always wanted to have five kids. I always wanted to adopt. In fact I wanted to run an orphanage. If the laws allowed it I would gladly adopt another child today. Call me crazy but that’s me! Anyway the advantage of having five kids is that you make enough mistakes to learn a few lessons… Haha! Here are the things I shared with the mothers of the New Delhi church…
No.1: Cuddles and Kisses
God created us to be nurturers. One of the main roles of a mother is to be a warm presence, a comforter to our little children. That is true for older kids too but it is especially important to very young children. We can never give enough cuddles and kisses. Physical touch is so very important. A warm touch, a caress, a massage, a hug, are crucial to the development of our kids. Physical affection provides security and a feeling of acceptance. It all starts with breastfeeding when the child is born. In very rare cases breastfeeding is not possible but most mothers are able to nurse their children and it is an important part of the child’s development, physically and emotionally.
Hannah in the Bible was a great example of a nurturing mother, even though she gave her child up for God. She had prayed for Samuel, and promised to give him to God, but first she took care of him and nursed him until she had weaned him (1 Samuel 1: 22-23). Good nutrition is part of loving our children. It does not have to cost much. The mother’s milk is free. As children start eating solid food, green vegetables, bananas, lentils, eggs, lean meat and fish, etc, are staple foods. Stay away from junk food and empty calories. Clean water is the best drink. Hannah kept taking care of Samuel’s physical needs even after he started living in the house of Eli. She would lovingly make him a little robe with her own hands and take it to him every year (1 Samuel 2:18-19).
Emotional nurturing is just as important. Tell your children you love them every day. Tell them God has created them beautiful and smart. Look at them in the eyes when you talk to them. Come down to their level physically by kneeling or crouching so they can also make eye contact with you. Talk to your children from the time they are born. Even if they cannot talk back it will stimulate their brain. Read books with your kids every day. It provides a bond of affection and opportunities for language development. Talk to your kids about appropriate and inappropriate physical touch, even when they are young. They need to be protected against rampant sexual abuse. Be very careful about who takes care of your child when you are not there. Try to delay going back to work unless you really have to.
No.2: Mom is in charge, not the child!
Eph 6:1 is one of the first scriptures we teach our children. God put the parents in charge for many obvious reasons, yet in many families, the children run the show. Parents seem helpless, frustrated, and just give in. It is a sad state of affairs when little toddlers determine the family schedule, sleep pattern, what food they eat, etc. Whiny, temper tantrum prone kids are unpleasant to everyone.Biblically the parents have authority over the children.
It is very important to communicate this clearly to children from a very young age. The first few months of life are fairly chaotic and that is normal but by the time a child is a few months old the parents need to establish some order, put in place some sort of schedule. No child, once they are past six months, should determine what food they eat and when, what time they go to sleep, how many times they are allowed to wake up during the night, etc. Obviously there will always be exceptional cases; some children have special needs or health issues, but in general, we need to have those expectations.
I see a lot of parents battle with their young children over bed time, food choices, etc. You, the parent, need to determine what time the child will go to sleep, and that goes. You determine what food the child will eat, and that also goes. As the child gets older, especially in the preteen and teen years, choices and how to make good choices becomes an important skill. With babies and toddlers, I do not think we need to give them that kind of freedom yet.By the time a child is 6 months old, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as health issues, he or she should sleep through the night and so should the parents! That is also around the time solid food is introduced so it is smart to introduce all kinds of tastes so the child does not get used to sweet things only.
The Bible says in Pr 22:6: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” The patterns we set when the children are very young will prepare them for life. Respecting the parents’ authority will teach a child about God’s authority as well. We need to be firm but patient with our children, expecting them to obey the first time without having to raise our voice or count to 3! It takes training.
I wish I could say I have always done a great job with this, but I can’t. Some of my kids (I will not mention any names!) were more stubborn than others but I failed to expect obedience the first time. I lost my patience, I raised my voice, I disciplined in anger, I did the “1,2,3!” routine.
Now I am 52 and a little wiser. I have a six year old who came to us at the age of four through adoption. She needed a lot of training and it is harder training a four year old from scratch but she is now 6 and doing so well! I have been much more patient with her, much more determined that she would obey “the first time”, and much more purposeful. I am calmer but do not hesitate to ask her, “Who is in charge?” She knows the answer to that question. I am not confused, therefore she is not.
I also try to bring God in every conversation about obedience and discipline. I do not hesitate to pull her out of crowds or fellowship and have a “little talk” reminding her that we will talk about things once we get home. The Bible is very clear on discipline. There are consequences for disobedience (Pr 13: 24, 22:15, 23:13-14. 29:15). I realize that culturally and legally things vary according to different countries. The point though is that there needs to be consequences.
And let us not forget that overall encouragement goes a long way. Nine encouraging words for every challenging one is a good rule of thumb. Biblically that also seems to be God’s standard. If good boundaries are put in place when a child is young they should set us up for successful parenting.