Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thoughts on Mommyhood...

Melody had asked about my recommendations for parenting books, and I was going to send her a short little comment about it, but it ended up not being very short! The topic of parenting/discipline strategies has been on my mind a lot lately, so I decided to dedicate a whole post to the topic. Not that many will care. But it's my blog, and I'll write about it if I want to. =)

As for discipline and issues related to having a toddler, I really like Shepherding a Child's Heart. I've said that before. But the following is a list of books/systems that I am familiar with because of reading portions of them or by seeing how people close to me have implemented them in their own families, and I have learned enough from them to want to read them in entirety. I'm in new territory now with Jonah, so I'm sort of at the starting point of learning how to parent a toddler, and I have lots to learn. So, know up front that I have not yet read all of these completely, so it can't be an official recommendation at this point. But I know enough about them to know that they teach principles that we feel God desiring us to implement in our home. As with all parenting resources, everything should be measured by not only God's Word but also God's personal leading through our own relationship with Him. More on that later. Here's my list:

  • Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman
  • Growing Kids God's Way by Gary Ezzo
  • Parenting With Love and Logic by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline
  • To Train up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl

Now, as for when Jonah was a baby, we used a combination of the ideas in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and the Babywise books. I'm a big fan of both books, but like I said, I combined their ideas, taking a little and leaving a little from both. What was important to me was that we created an atmosphere in which structure and order existed but where loving affection was not abandoned in the pursuit of a schedule. Flexibility is key. Both of these books promote a eat-wake-play routine based on about a 3-hour schedule for a newborn. It is a concept that I feel works very well for babies. Mine didn't sleep through the night any sooner for being on this schedule (due to some late-discovered eating issues), but most babies do! I saw it over and over again in the infants I nannied for before having Jonah, so I knew immediately that this was the system I wanted to follow for nursing, naptimes, and other aspects of infant life. Oh wait, what other aspects?! It seems like that's about all you do for a few months, right? =) But anyway, that's why I like those books. I just want to state those reasons clearly, because if you're looking to follow a more child-centered approach (like attachment-parenting), then you won't like my infant-book recommendations! Don't bother reading them. And there are other methods that I'm sure work too. This is just what we did.

But two things have been on my mind lately regarding this stuff. One is an ever-growing conviction that our parenting should reflect God's character. We know that. But we often forget that God's character is a blend of grace and justice, mercy and righteousness, compassion and truth. His character traits don't contradict each other, but they work together perfectly. He has a high standard - holiness - but He is full of grace as He mercifully leads us to Him. It just seems right that godly parenting would reflect this seemingly-paradoxical reality of God's character. Our parenting should be blended. There seem to be a lot of people who adhere to more extreme views on parenting. I could talk ALL DAY about the two polar-opposite views of baby-raising that I see all the time. Attachment parenting vs. Hyper-scheduling. I've noticed that a lot of people choose one of these views and have nothing to do with any aspect of the other. I'm not going into detail about what I feel is wrong about adhering to such an extreme view or what the effects I've seen from either end. I will just say that the reason I want to find a mix of the two philosophies is that I want to do my best to represent the whole of God's character and not just represent one part of it. As my child's parent, I am an authority in his life and have the responsibility to set boundaries and teach him to obey. I don't have to apologize for that. God put me in that role! I also have the responsibility to show love, grace, mercy, compassion, and tenderness to my child. BOTH are profoundly significant responsibilities in helping to shape my child's understanding of who God is. Which leads me to conviction #2....

The other thing that God has reminded me of lately is that the ONLY way to be a godly parent is to know Him more and nurture my own relationship with Him. Everything I do as a parent should flow from my relationship with my Savior. Anything else is futile. Really. I'm trying to reach my child's heart; good behavior is not the goal. So if I'm living a life based on "behavior" and not out of real love and heart-devotion to the Lord, then what am I doing? What kind of model am I for my child? If I parent out of anything other than heart-love for God, then I know I won't be the one who gives my child a picture of Christ. That thought makes me sad. Yet, this is hard for me. I confess that too many days I parent, teach, and discipline my child out of my own selfishness - wanting to make life easier for myself, wanting to "prove" myself or my skills, wanting others to be impressed/not wanting to be embarrassed by my child's behavior. That is YUCKY stuff. So I'm just realizing afresh this week how important it is for me to kill my selfishness and pride every day and rely on the Holy Spirit to transform my heart daily so that I desire more of God's glory than my own comfort. And it's a beautiful thing that it works this way. If I focus on my own heart and becoming who God wants me to be, then naturally, God gives wisdom in parenting. I won't say it's a breeze always! But I've yet to not get answers from Him on any parenting question or challenge when I'm really seeking Him from a right heart. Sometimes He'll even lead me to some other source. It's why book recommendations are great, but you really only want to read the ones or take advice from the people you know God is leading you to listen to. Now I'm trying to only seek out answers or help from a book or from a friend when I know God is giving me peace about turning in that direction. And I'm afraid I won't know if the nudge is from Him if I'm not in the Word. It all goes back to "Where is my own heart?" So I hope no one follows any of my reading or parenting recommendations unless they are walking with the Lord and sensing His leading to do so. He might want you to learn from someone other than me or the authors of the books I've mentioned.

Beyond the Scriptural instructions God gives us about parenting, there are so many different ways to parent our children, and I've really come to believe that God leads many people to do a lot of the specific, practical parts of parenting in different ways than He leads others. I know that sounds simple. And for all of you who score high on mercy when you take spiritual-gifts tests, you're probably thinking that's pretty obvious. But I've been slow to learn that one. I tend to think really black-and-white on a lot of issues. There are lots of black-and-white issues in the world. But I'm thinking that nap schedules, breastfeeding, creative correction techniques are not some of them! I shared my convictions earlier on the dangers of adhering to an extreme view of parenting that limits our portrayal of a large part of God's character. I believe that so strongly. But what we do as parents between the two extremes is something that looks different from family to family, even when God is the one the parents are following. I wish the world of mommies could all respect each other, despite these differences. I wish the differences didn't affect friendships as negatively as they do sometimes. I wish women weren't made to feel like big disappointments and failures by other mommies because of these differences and instead received encouragement and respect. I want to learn more from other mommies and our differences. I've met some great families here that I admire and respect what their children are becoming, and a lot of them I've found out have done a lot of things differently than our family has. It is important to have relationships with people who have the same biblical goals, but how we get there is going to look different a lot of times. And that's ok! I think the world of mommies just needs to show each other some more grace. I'm working on this one. After all, none of us is perfect. We will never cultivate our relationship with God into perfection while on this earth. We all go through times when we resist Him in our hearts, refusing to commune with Him, choosing not to spend time studying the Bible - and we all receive GRACE when we come to Him with broken, repentant hearts. We all need grace. And we should all be extending it to one another. Especially as fellow mommies!


Melody Slaton said...

Thanks so much for sharing!! I agree 100%!! I'm glad to have a friend who has gone before me with insight into parenting. At times I feel lost on where to begin and I know that it has already begun, even though he's not here yet.

Marci H said...

Great blog Hannah! Your book list is great- - I myself have read most of those. There is one more that came to mind that I thougth you would really enjoy and it is "Teach Them Diligetnly" by Lou Priolo. I wish I would have been as far advanced with my FIRST toddler as you are!! You are going to be an amazing mommy!!

Angela said...

Yes....I need grace!! :) Thank you soooo much for your very sweet card. You are truly a blessing and a sweet, sweet person!!!! I enjoyed your words on your blog. Jonah is blessed to have a mom like you who is seeking the Lord with her whole heart! Train a child in the ways of the Lord and he will NEVER part from it!!!!