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.
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.