We have today a ``crisis of confidence" in parenting, as Dr. James Dobson says. Because of the overwhelming rate of technological progress and change over the last century, our society has a whole has suffered innumerable side-effects. One result is that most people now become parents without having had any years of experience either raising children or watching others do it. All sorts of ``experts" have come to fill the gap, giving us their views on how to raise our children in today's society.
Many of these teachers are loving, moral, well-meaning Christians who have, often inadvertently, based their parenting styles on the secular teachings of this century, and have used the Scriptures as they see them to support these secular theories. They introduce secular myths and goals for baby behavior, calling them ``God's goals" or ``Biblical principles," even when they are not mentioned in the Bible. Sometimes their means for achieving these ``Biblical" goals actually violate teachings of Jesus and the New Testament writers concerning loving behavior in relationships, which apply to children as well as adults.
Often, as parents, we are vulnerable to glowing promises of guaranteed success as parents if we only follow a given formula. But, as we know from Scripture, it is not at all unusual for parents to raise one godly child while others were wicked (Cain and Abel, Joseph and his brothers) and even God himself had Adam and Eve disobey His only command. We must learn to test every teaching we receive against God's word: ``Test everything and hold on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil. " (I Thes. 5:21-22), and not be taken in by glowing promises, secular theories nor legalistic approaches. Romans 12:2 says: ``Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. " It is as we are transformed, becoming more like Christ, that we are able to discern often subtle errors and distortions of Scripture, those half-truths that Satan seems to love to use.
As you read through this booklet, I hope that you will prayerfully consider what I say and also test it against the Word of God. This article is not intended to be a complete guide to parenting of babies, it is primarily written to counter a few of the most pervasive distortions of ``Biblical parenting" being taught through seminars available to churches today.
Let's look at some of the things being taught by various members of the Christian community:
- Myth #1 Either the parents are in control of the baby or the baby is controlling the parent.
- Myth #2 Man has no instinct and women have no maternal instinct, therefore parents should never respond to their babies on the basis of their emotions or feelings about what is right or wrong, but rather on the basis of knowledge or wisdom.
- Myth #3 Babies need to cry, it is a way that they exercise or release energy, not a sign that they need something or are unhappy. If you respond to a crying or fussy baby, you will reinforce bad behavior and the baby will cry more in the future. For a baby to learn to expect a comforting response to its crying is to ``spoil'' the child and make him overly dependent and in need of instant gratification.
- Myth #4 Babies should be sleeping through the night by 6-8 weeks, and if they aren't they can be taught to sleep through the night by letting them cry when they wake up at night instead of going in and helping them.
- Myth #5 All babies can wait at least 3 hours between feeding and it is better to wait 4 hours, even if they are crying. If you don't make a baby eat on schedule, his eating patterns will remain disorganized and intrusive on the parents.