Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: parenting

A time to learn

Suddenly, almost unexpectedly, we were parents. We placed our baby into the blanket lined oval laundry basket on the seat between us and drove home.

Up to this point we had thought we knew all about how to raise a child. What we really had were strong ideas about the mistakes our parents had made and a determination not to repeat them. Well, life happens and you don’t have time to think about how you are going to react. It didn’t take long to realize we were making some of the mistakes that we had resolved to never make. But we were learning – about raising a baby and about ourselves.

The ideal age to become parents is somewhere between the stage where you feel completely helpless and the stage where you feel you have all the answers and it’s the baby’s fault if she doesn’t fit those answers.

We loved Michelle from the start. She wasn’t a difficult child and we weren’t totally incompetent parents. But the learning curve was pretty steep. “Love covers the multitudes of sins.” I believe that when a child feels loved the parent-child relationship will survive the mistakes of the parents. And we certainly did make mistakes.

When Michelle was about three months old, we noticed a bulge in her groin when she cried. We took her to the doctor who confirmed that it was a hernia. She had surgery to fix the hernia and was only in the hospital a few days. The hospital was in Carman, about 15 minutes away. I was busy at work, but Chris spent time with Michelle every day. I guess we, I, should have done more.

Chris’s birthday came March 27, when Michelle was five months old. We left her with Nancy, a friend from church, and went into Winnipeg to have dinner together. We had an enjoyable day, but when we got back we found that Nancy and Michelle had not. Every time Michelle saw Nancy’s face she began to scream. The only way Nancy could feed Michelle was to hold her so that she was facing away from her.

Several weeks later we went to the Polo Park Mall in Winnipeg to do some shopping. As soon as we walked in and Michelle saw all the people she began to scream. We went out until she settled down, then tried again, with the same result. For the rest of our day in town one of us would sit in the car with Michelle while the other shopped. After that day she seemed to trust that we weren’t going to abandon her again and there were no more incidents like that.

After a hot day in the summer we drove to Syl’s Ice Cream shop in Carman and bought milkshakes. There was some left in mine after we got home and I decided to see what Michelle would do with it. I put the container in her hands and the straw to her lips. She looked dubious. What is this thing? She started to suck on the straw and I watched the liquid rise slowly to the top. When it hit her mouth, the dubious look vanished and she began to suck on that straw in earnest. She was about nine months old.

Book review: Hold On to Your Kids

Hold On to Your Kids: Why parents need to matter more than peers, by Gordon Neufeld, © 2004.

This book is for parents who feel their children are slipping away from them.  Doctor Neufeld is a child psychologist in Vancouver, B.C. who believes that parents need to be the strongest influence in the development of their children.

He teaches that parenting is the natural result of a close relationship between parent and child and that children have a natural predisposition to look to their parents for guidance and example.  The problem is that parents have been brainwashed into believing that parenting is a very complex set of skills and this teaching leaves most parents feeling inadequate.

“The reasoning behind parenting as a set of skills seemed logical enough, but in hindsight has been a dreadful mistake.  It has led to an artificial reliance on experts, robbed parents of their natural confidence, and often leaves them feeling dumb and inadequate.  We are quick to assume that our children don’t listen because we don’t know how to make them listen, that our children are not compliant because we have not learned the right tricks, that children are not respectful enough of authority because we the parents, have not taught them to be respectful.  We miss the essential point that what matters is not the skill of the parents but the relationship of the child to the adult who is assuming responsibility.”  (Page 55 in the Ballantine Books edition.)

Dr. Neufeld contends that the key to having happy and obedient children is to maintain the natural, instinctive attachment between child and parent.  When that is intact, the child will naturally wish to obey the parent’s commands.  Obedience is a matter of attachment, not coercion.

Parents have been led to believe that their children need to spend a lot of time with other children their own age in order to learn how to get along with others.  Dr. Neufeld points out the folly of this idea:

“The belief is that socializing — children spending time with one another — begets socialization: the capacity for skilful and mature relating to other human beings.  There is no evidence to support such an assumption, despite its popularity.  If socializing with peers led to getting along and to becoming responsible members of society, the more time a child spent with her peers, the better the relating would tend to be.  In actual fact, the more time children spend with one another, the less likely they are to get along and the less likely they are to fit into civil society.  If we take the socialization assumption to the extreme — to orphanage children, street children, children involved in gangs — the flaw in thinking becomes obvious.  If socializing were the key to socialization, gang members and street kids would be model citizens.”  (Pages 241-242).

There are numerous examples in the book of children who became emotionally estranged from their parents, looking to their peers for approval and direction and ignoring the attempts of their parents to establish some kind of respect and order in the home.  One of those examples is one of Dr. Neufeld’s own daughters (who is now a mother herself and an enthusiastic advocate of her father’s teachings).  He shows how to re-establish the attachment between child and parent from which true parental authority is derived.

Peer oriented children tend to stifle their feelings in order to appear “cool” and invulnerable.  They may become aggressive and hostile, because the peer-oriented culture is full of aggression and hostility.  It is only at home, with understanding parents, that a child can freely show his emotions, talk about his fears and struggles, and eventually become a mature and caring adult.

%d bloggers like this: