Searching For A Parenting Philosophy
Although I grew up in a Christian home where my parents lovingly enforced boundaries (and I definitely received my fair share of discipline!), I entered parenthood woefully unprepared for what it actually took on a daily basis to raise godly kids. Whether through my own lack of interest in learning from my own parents and others through my teen years, or simply pride in thinking I could just “figure it out on my own,” I struggled badly for months after my first baby came along. I also became aware that there is much misinformation out there about parenting. Most of it comes from a non-Biblical perspective yet Christian parents try to use the same worldly methods expecting godly results.
For me, even though I grew up in a distinctly Christian environment, I did not learn the proper tools for how to parent young children. Most of the preaching I heard on Biblical parenting centered around how to set boundaries for your teen or what to do with a straying older child. I never remember hearing much about parenting a baby or toddler. What kind of parenting philosophy should I choose then for when my kids are tiny? Does the Bible apply to them too? I found that yes, it most certainly does.
It is well known that a young baby can learn and retain incredible amounts of information because of his rapidly developing brain. Therefore, why not begin training early so that the chances of having to fix a problem later might be averted? To me, it seems most people today think you can’t begin teaching anything to a child younger than 5 or 6 years old. The reality is that by that age, the vast majority of training should be already completed! 2 Timothy 3:15 says, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” It is never too early to start.
But, back before I learned about early training, I had my first baby and suddenly realized how little I knew about what Biblical principles really looked like in practical application for a young child. I began searching. I had several older moms reach out to me in the early months and share principles for teaching my baby to sleep and how to begin setting boundaries for him.
My overall parenting philosophy, though, was radically transformed when my little boy was about 5 months old. I had the privilege of spending some extended time with a family who had five children ranging in age from about 2-9 years old. I’d been around a lot of different kids from a lot of different backgrounds because my dad was a pastor and we constantly had company at our house. But I had never been around children who had the maturity, happiness, and confidence of those five little children of my new friend! The experienced mom directed me to start by reading Train Up A Child, and shared with me several other resources she and her husband found helpful with their own children. This began my journey towards training up my children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).
Starting With Obedience: The Foundation
I believe children should be taught to obey direct commands right away, all the way, and with a happy heart. I believe parents are placed in a position of authority by God Himself. My goal is to begin, from birth, teaching my child to obey my authority and willingly submit his will. God has given me loan of my child’s heart to raise and guide for just a short time. It is up to me to instill godly habits from the start with proper expectations and discipline until the child can choose to exercise his will to begin making right choices on his own. I believe the small child should have little to no choices throughout the course of a day. Instead, he is simply learning obedience in whatever I choose for him. I order his day in a way that he is not left idle. “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” (Proverbs 29:15)
I’ve learned that if you begin giving a child the choice of what color cup to drink from or which shoes he wears every day too early in life, he begins also thinking he should be able to choose whether or not he takes a nap or brushes his teeth. In order to keep his life simple, build trust, and allow him the best environment in which to learn all he needs to succeed in life, he needs to know that his authority has his best at heart and is carefully instructing him. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:” (Proverbs 1:8). All he must do is obey their loving instruction.
When a young child is simply taught obedience, he can then stop wasting time fighting against his authority figure. Instead, he can focus on developing physically, socially, and emotionally, because his place as a child in the home has been established for him. He is not the authority. Mommy and Daddy are. He is secure because he knows exactly what is expected of him. Obedience. Once a child learns to obey, he is free to explore and experience life within the safety of knowing someone far wiser than he is in charge and looking out for him.
Parenting Within The Funnel
A very wise mother of eight taught me this visual aid in a parenting class I took. Picture a funnel, sitting with the large end at the top, small at the bottom. The walls of the funnel represent the boundaries set for a child by his parents. The empty space within the funnel is where the child lives. When he is 0-5 years old, he is at the smallest end of the funnel. He has very few, if any choices. He has many boundaries about what he can and cannot touch, where he can or cannot go, etc. As he grows, he slowly is given more and more choices as he assumes the additional responsibilities of his advancing age. The funnel gradually widens.
By the time the child is 15 or 16 years old, his funnel should be able to be very wide because he has learned throughout his life to exercise self-control and discipline himself to make right choices on his own. Just as he is getting to the point of wanting to assume more responsibility, parents are free to give him the freedom he craves because they have taken the time to train him all through his growing up years to choose and act right. The goal is that when the child “graduates” the funnel and is no longer under his parents’ authority as an adult, he will still possess all the tools he needs to choose rightly. His parents can then enjoy fellowship and friendship with him on an equal level. “The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice. My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” (Proverbs 23:24-26)
What happens if the funnel is flipped upside down? What if parents give their 2 or 3-year-old child unlimited freedom of choice and treat him as if he is the center of his little universe? They let him believe that he is in control of his own life and cater to his every whim in order to “show love” or “become friends with him” expecting him to love them in return. He, in turn, develops no self-control or self-discipline and instead does whatever he feels like doing, whenever he feels like doing it. When that child becomes a teenager, his parents will suddenly realize they need to rein him in because he is out of control, and they will attempt to set some boundaries for his behavior. The funnel suddenly squeezes very tight and the child, kicking and screaming, wildly rebels.
How much better it would be to keep the funnel facing the proper direction so that you can gradually release your child into freedom instead of restraining him into bondage as he grows! The vision of the funnel sums up everything I have been learning about parenting and I try to always be “parenting within the funnel.”
The information I will be sharing here is not new. It’s been around since the Bible was written thousands of years ago. I think mostly, it’s just been forgotten in the last few generations. If you’re a mom out there who needs help but you don’t have someone who can come to your house and teach you, I want to be here sharing what I’m learning as I learn it so that you might benefit too! It’s too good not to share!
My goal is to organize and present the things I learn and apply with my own children in a way that might help some other young mother who may be just like me–wanting desperately to raise up good, godly kids but wondering how in the world it can be done using the common modern parenting methods. I also want to encourage moms to dream big dreams for their kids. Raise your expectations! You don’t have to settle for “normal” as defined by whatever the popular parenting magazines say!
As a Christian, I believe God gives clear instructions for how to train up children in the Bible. That is where we should look for advice, not from some book written by a Ph.D. who has never even raised any children of their own. I’m also not here to promote somebody’s personal opinion if it doesn’t work! The things I write about, I’ve either already tried and experienced successfully with my own kids or I’ve clearly seen it work for someone else.
I pray that together we may discover the joy and peace of a home ordered after God’s principles. It is so encouraging to be around children who are kind, loving, obedient, and self-disciplined. I know many older children and teenagers now who have been raised on these Bible-based parenting principles from birth, and it gives me a vision for where I want to be someday with my own kids. And even though my own kids are definitely far from perfect (I too have days when I’m pulling my hair out by 4pm because I’ve had to say “no” 14,569 times already) my overall parenting experience with birth through toddlers (so far!) has been one of peace and happiness! I’m so excited to share it with you!
I’d love to hear from you. If you are a mom with questions about scheduling, sleep, routines, training, childbirth, discipline, or anything really, please feel free to use the contact form below. I can’t promise to have the right answer but I’d love to help any way I can, even if it’s just moral support! 🙂 I’m here in the trenches raising little ones right now with you!
Thanks for reading!