Principles and Methods of Parenting

Before having children, I had a very clear idea of how I wanted to raise my children. The problem is, the methods seem much less clear cut now that I’m dealing with my own little ones. Sometimes what I thought would work so perfectly, simply doesn’t work for me.

In her excellent book, The Fruit of Her Hands, Nancy Wilson gives a wonderful encouragement to all mothers: distinguish between principle and methods.

Principles are are standards that God has laid down in His Word that we must follow. 

Methods are ways of carrying out those principles. 

God has given us principles like “love your children” and “raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” How we carry out those principles varies. Widely.

That is part of the glory of motherhood. Each Christian mother reflects the principles slightly differently. This is also part of the challenge of motherhood.

Little Boy Playing

photo credit

When a method isn’t working:

Do you ever feel like all of a sudden, a method that seemed so sound simply stops working for your child?

Recently, my two-year-old son developed terrible panic when laid down. The moment I put him in his bed, he screamed and grew irrational and climbed out of his bed. He did this over and over. Every day.

I was exhausted and bewildered. I tried pretty much everything to get him to calmly lay down. Nothing worked. What was I doing wrong?

At Christmas I mentioned the problem to my mother-in-law. She has eleven children and after thinking about it for a while, offered advice.

Stop giving him naps. Let him play so hard during the day that he’s exhausted at night and actually wants to go to bed. Make bed a place he wants to go.

Stop giving him naps?! That was not what I wanted to hear. I know some kids who nap ’til they’re five and that’s what I wanted. But nowhere in Scripture does it say that children need to nap. “Take a nap” is not a principle of parenting. “Love your children” is.

So far, this method is working. He has a quiet time not in his bed and at night is so tired he usually doesn’t fuss at all.

Maybe your kids take wonderful naps (I hope for your sake they do!) Maybe it’s another area where the tried-and-true methods are not working.

Distinguish between principles and methods. Follow God’s principles, but just because a method works for one mom (or even most moms), doesn’t mean it will for you. It’s okay.

Part of A Handful of Heart, Better Mom Monday and Teach Me Tuesday

Post Signature


  1. Kasey says

    This is so true. I get so hung up on methods that I fail to see that I am not giving God any room to work. And for what it’s worth, I have had some children who napped for years (one that needed one until he was 7) and others that stopped around 2. Yes, it is hard to give up that little space of “peace” during the day, but having them go down so nicely at night made it worth it!

    • anna says

      Thanks for sharing Kasey! It’s so easy for me to compare to other mom’s kids, but each child is so unique. Thankfully Will still has a “quiet” time, it’s just not in bed anymore.

  2. says

    I am really struggling with the nap thing! My 3 year old sort-of still needs one but then she has a tough time going to bed at night. But if we skip her nap, she is horribly cranky the last 3 hours of the day….and selfishly, I do like the quiet time, I’ll admit it 🙂 So we’re still working through it.

    Thanks for sharing what worked for you. I’ll have to check out that book too!

    Funny thing is that I’ve stumbled on your blog two days in a row now…I’m taking the hint and following now 🙂

    • anna says

      Awww… Thanks! 🙂

      Oh! I can so feel your pain. My daughter gave up her naps really early, but I think she got her dad’s genes and just doesn’t need as much sleep. Will on the other hand… 😉

  3. says

    What a great post, Anna! And what wonderful advice your mother in law gave. That’s why we need the older ladies, the Titus 2 type mentors in our lives. Without them you’d no doubt still be having a terrible time at napping and not knowing why.

    • anna says

      I know! I am SO blessed to have a wonderful mother *and* mother-in-law, both of whom have raised large families.

  4. says

    This sounds very similar to my situation. My three year old stopped taking naps about a year ago. However, unfortunately, it does not make her fall asleep earlier. She fights sleep so hard that it’s a constant struggle. My other daughter is exactly the opposite. All we have to do is lay her in her bed and she goes right to sleep. Every child is so different, so switching up methods is a must.

    • anna says

      So sorry Katie! I know how exhausting a sleep fighting child can be. Have you tried any natural sleep aids? I’ll pray for wisdom and grace for you.

  5. Laurie says

    Thank you for this wise counsel! I remember a pastor’s wife once referring to the “principles” of Scripture and the “applications” of those prinicples. For example, her husband wanted the children to be well-rested, clean, dressed, fed, and to church on time on SUnday morning. No small feat for a Mama of many. So she realized that to complly with the Scriptural principle of honoring her hubby she needed to strategize. What she found was that baths needed to start at 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays with dinner at 5:00. This was her “rule” in order to fulfill her greater purpose of honoring her hubby. Your article jogged that out of my memory. 🙂 Thank you for sharing how you sought advice from your mil as well. I think sometimes we forget to go to our parents instead of our peers. God bless you! ~Laurie

    • anna says

      Thanks so much for stopping by Laurie! My husband isn’t a pastor, but we have to leave for church at 8 to get there on time and I am always running behind. What a great example the pastor’s wife is! Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *