While there are very few biblical guidelines about child-raising regarding eating, sleeping, play, etc., we thought that it might be helpful just to hear how some of us did things so you can try what you think might also work for you. This is certainly not complete but gives you ideas to start you on your way.
Small children need lots of sleep. Put them to bed early and let them sleep late when possible. They need 10-12 hours of sleep nightly. This gives you more free time as a couple/family also. If they get out of bed, put them back in. If they continue to get out, warn them, and, if necessary, spank them because they are then being disobedient.
Do not let children sleep in your bed. It is not only dangerous to small children but also places their importance above that of the marriage.
Babies can live on mom’s milk alone until 2 years old—not that we recommend that. Begin foods around 6 months of age, not only because of tongue thrust before this time, but also because it may cause some allergies. Do not put cereal in their milk unless instructed to by your doctor. Introduce new foods one by one. Begin with vegetables, and hold off on all sweets until they are eating other things well. As soon as they are able to eat table food, you may begin to give them that, cut into small pieces. A vitamin with iron for a year or two is fine.
We did not give any true sweets—desserts—until the first birthday. After this, we only give dessert if the plate is clean—they eat all of their regular foods. We do not require our children to eat all of their food every meal, but if they want dessert, they must. We DO require that they eat half of their food or they will get the same food again at the next meal—repeatedly—until it is gone, There are some foods they will not like, so we reduced the amounts of those foods, but we wanted them to eat some of everything.
If a child is overweight, it is clearly the parents fault, not the child’s. You are responsible for what they eat. Childhood obesity will potentially last the rest of their life as fat cells are created in childhood. Avoid it.
We believe that the family evening meal together is one of the most important times as a family. It is a daily team meeting where events, plans, and dreams are discussed in an open and cordial manner. This cannot be underestimated. Just do it, as often as possible. If a parent’s work schedule means they come home late, work some family time around that if possible, such as an early snack/late meal or dessert together.
Everybody seems to make a big deal out of scheduling. “Gotta do this and that” on time—heaven forbid something messes it up! Newborns should eat on demand, about every 2 hours. When a child is about 2 months old, you can begin to lengthen that time over 2-4 weeks to roughly every 4 hour feedings. You might become a slave of either the child or a schedule! We do not believe in no schedule or in a fixed, rigid schedule. We advocate a flexible schedule or a “routine”. Have a nice routine where everyone knows about what to expect, but be flexible because life is not on a fixed schedule. (It really irks us to find parents who cannot do something because baby has to eat or sleep at that time.) This allows time for God to work in ways you might not have planned. Be flexible and enjoy both life and your children more.
Let your children know what behavior is expected of them before you go on an outing. We taught our children to stop immediately if we signal them. I can whistle very loudly, and they learned to stop in their tracks! This keeps them from getting too far out of sight and potentially getting lost. Teach them about strangers—how to act and not act, when to scream or run. Get them to help/be involved when shopping. Teach them how to shop and spend money. Teach them how to behave at restaurants, how a man should treat a woman, etc.
Our family has grown greatly from family vacations. This gives uninterrupted time together, away from home and the chores of life. You can discover better how you relate, what you enjoy, and who you are as a family. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but get out as a family as often as feasible. It builds you as a team.
Teach your children the value of money and work, including depending on God, not money. When they are old enough to understand, consider giving an allowance (not based on work) for a little spending money. Teach them to save and have goals, how to be frugal, and when to spend more for quality. They will learn spending habits from you; be sure you have your priorities straight.
Teach them about giving—to God and church, to charity, etc. Teach them about taxes. (The Bible does talk about this!) (10-10-80 budget)
We suggest saving for your children from a young age. Consider early on what you would like to pay to benefit your children—college, marriage, cars, vacations. We felt that our children didn’t need their own cars, but we had one available for them to use. We chose to pay for their college. There are government tax-free plans to help with this. We also chose to give each of our children, male and female, the same amount of money at the time of marriage for them to use as they chose. (Our girls had amazingly cheap but lovely weddings when they were spending “their own” money!) This is all your choice, but think about it early so you can plan expenses.
Wow. We didn’t have to deal with this when our kids were growing up, but computers and video games came into play in their later years. I would seriously try to delay and/or minimize your children’s time with electronic devices. Educationally, it can teach them very poor grammar and spelling. Socially, it can make them less attentive to others and poor conversationalists. Spiritually, it can waste large amounts of time—which can never be replaced.
We would simply suggest great caution and reticence regarding these. They can be great for learning, entertainment, even “baby-sitting” at times, but rely on them to your peril! They are very addictive—truly.
We do not advocate true one-on-one dating outside of courtship for marriage. Yep, no dating until ready to find a spouse. When the heart gets emotionally involved too early in life in relationships that will almost certainly lead to break-up, that is expected to break a heart and/or be heart-broken, and it teaches us to be careless in choosing a mate, that relationships do not have as much meaning. This may well lead to divorce.
We advocate group dating with healthy peer groups, ideally Christian groups. This helps us to get to know people—and what we are looking for in a mate—without the heart being bound and broken over and over. It hopefully teaches our children to value people and relationships so that they will marry for life.
Even one-on-one dating/courtship preparing for marriage must be done carefully. Ideally, they do not find themselves alone in a situation where they are tempted to sin by fornication. Make it a rule for teen-agers not to be alone at your house inside with a friend of the opposite sex (the appearance of evil, if nothing else). You can teach this by not ever being alone with someone of the opposite sex (except your spouse, of course). Teach them Biblical sex. Create in them a desire for a healthy, marital sex life by espousing the values of such yourself. God made sex to be wonderful for marriage (even worship!), but not outside marriage.
Know the family where your kids want to sleep over. Do not allow it with a single parent who has a live-in boy/girlfriend. That said, it you feel it is safe, somewhere around the age of 6 it is reasonable. We tried to let our children’s friends know—before they asked and including into the teen years—that our house was Christian and safe—we do not allow sex, alcohol/drugs, etc. This helps them to trust you and open the conversation so that you can know them better also. We had graduation trips with our kids’ friends coming, of both sexes, and we wrote and distributed clear guidelines of what was expected. They all came, and we all had great times. (This avoided problems with kids wanting to go on senior trips to PCB, etc.)
This is a tough area, and those of you who are single parents will be very limited in choice. Pray and do the best you can.
We recommend, whenever possible, trying to live on one salary and, normally the mother, staying home to raise small children. This seems to be the most biblical, and it helps your children see that they are a priority in your life. We have very rarely found someone who wishes they had spent more time away from their family. You may need to make significant changes in your lifestyle to do this, but this, too, may teach your children the most important values in life.
It is sometimes possible to have family take care of children, especially for part-time work. This is healthier than daycare, but is has its own issues, too. Some folks may defer working outside the home until the youngest child is in school. Others may find jobs they can do from home for extra income, or working weekends only when the spouse can watch the children. That, however, has problems, too, as the marriage relationship may then suffer, sometimes significantly.
All this takes a great deal of prayer to decide, and consider wise counsel from your mentors or pastors.
Hobbies are wonderful for physical, mental, and social growth. That said, they can become so important that they cause real family problems. We all need water to live, but drinking too much is deadly. Too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. Again, you must pray and weigh the time constraints, problems and benefits of hobbies. Is it the best use of time or only a good use? Does it put undue strain on the family as a whole? Does it affect our spiritual times/walk? Most of our children will not become professional athletes or entertainers, and it may not be worth the total expense for some hobbies. Use moderation whenever possible.
We were an unusual case since we lived in China during the early schooling years. After that—long story—our kids went to Christian school through middle school, then to Columbus high. We wanted them to begin to experience the “world” of non-Christian school while they still lived at home so they could bounce ideas and cultural issues off us instead of their peers at college. It worked well for us.
A good public school system is certainly an option, but today’s culture and society are arguably exposing our children to far too many ungodly influences and topics at too young an age. This means that a parent must be diligent in finding out what is going on and educating them about Truth. The easiest way to do this is to know and have a good relationship with their teacher. Find out if they are Christian, etc. Being involved in any of their schools is essential.
Christian schools are a viable option, but not all are very Godly, and some have poor academics. Cost is certainly another issue. Investigate the school carefully before going there. You may need a second job, too.
Home schooling is becoming a more and more attractive option for many believers. The curriculum is more detailed and affordable, helping the parent require less preparation. Talk to others in church about what they have done.
We hope that you have a good relationship with your in-laws, but this will greatly determine your interaction with them. Remember that you must still honor your parents after marriage, but also must “leave, cleave, and become one flesh”. Your own family is your first priority, but try to honor and involve the grandparents as much as possible. Another consideration is reluctance in spending more time—is it inconvenient? Are they a bad influence? Is it dangerous? Are they simply different from you? The seriousness of these answer determines what you should do. As above—PRAY ABOUT IT and then act. If you have issues over things with grandparents, decide what is important to have enforced when the kids are with them, discuss it with grandparents, and ask for their cooperation and help (make them part of the “team”). Some things will not be a big deal! If kids grow up being a little spoiled at Grandma’s, they will live through it! Save battles for what matters.
Begin having nightly devotions and/or Bible reading at a very young age. As soon as your children are interested in books (we assume that they will be), begin having Bible readings from a children’s Bible. Try to find a Bible that is more complete, that covers lots of scripture and biblical stories, not just 8-10. After you read, then begin teaching about what you just read. Apply it to your life—and their life! Show them that the Bible applies to them every day in everything they do. Let them see how important it is to you and the family.
As they get older, try to transition into some type of daily devotional time. This may include scripture, prayer, and a word of teaching or encouragement. A possible time might be at mealtime. While you may not get to this every day, try to as often as possible. As children get older and have their own relationship with God, teach them what a personal quiet time looks like. (Let them actually see you doing it as they grow up!) If your teenager does not profess Christ, be careful not to MAKE them do something that is not in their heart. We don’t want to teach Phariseeism. You can require them to attend church with you, and even to be respectful for family devotional times, but you cannot and should not force them in God-related things to the point that they grow up resentful and negative.