News Articles

Babies come without instructions, so parents need help and guidance

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Computers come with instruction manuals. So do cameras, lawn mowers and bicycles.

But when an infant is born, parents too often feel like they’re on their own to figure out how to raise a healthy, well-behaved, loving child, according to Melinda Mahand and Richard Shahan, who led daily sessions on parenting during Discipleship and Family Week, July 1-7, at Ridgecrest (N.C.), a LifeWay Conference Center.

Mahand, a freelance writer and editor from Franklin, Tenn., and Shahan, minister of childhood education at Hickory Grove Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C., also wrote the facilitator’s guide for “ParentProject: Tools for Godly Parenting,” a course for parents of children from birth to two years old.

To get started, parents need help in “getting to know their child the way God knows them,” Mahand said.

“Before parents can know what to do in stressful situations, they have to know who their child is,” Shahan added.

“There is so much the parents can do. We don’t want them to miss anything in laying the foundation for spiritual growth,” Shahan said.

However, he said, some parents become so stressed by the challenge of parenting they cannot enjoy the experience.

“I love being a parent, but it’s not fun to some parents,” Shahan said.

One source of stress for parents, Shahan said, comes from not understanding the complexity of relationships in the home. With a couple, three relationships exist; each has a relationship with self and the couple has a relationship with each other. When a child is born, the number of relationships escalates to seven — three members with relationships with themselves, each parent with a relationship with the child, the spousal relationship and the family of three. When a second child is born, the number of relationships more than doubles to 15.

“This is what parents don’t understand,” he said. “It is stressful.”

In addition to knowing the child, topics in the eight-session course include: comforting your baby, health, discipline, mental growth, toddler basics and hot topics such as working outside the home, mother burnout and handling criticism.

In the area of discipline, Shahan said parents must learn the difference between outright misbehavior and actions caused by hunger, fear or being tired.

“With my first child, I had to learn he was very sensitive to hunger pains,” Shahan said. “When he got hungry, he lost control.”

Mahand said helping a child develop self discipline begins with parents modeling appropriate behavior. When a child behaves well, his or her efforts should be reinforced.

“If we reinforce appropriate behavior, then appropriate behavior will be repeated,” she said.

Shahan said parents of young children often must change the environment of their homes to plan for appropriate behavior by their children. This may include putting breakable items out of reach and covering electrical plugs.

“Sometimes we have things in the house that automatically set up the child for failure,” he said.

In addition to the facilitator’s guide for group study, ParentProject includes a home edition for parents by William Sears, a Christian pediatrician, and his wife, Martha Sears, a registered nurse. They have written 32 books on parenting.

The home edition includes devotionals, games and activities, articles on parenting issues, encouragement cards, a journal, bibliography and index.

Larry Dry, manager of the children/preschool section in the discipleship and family group of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the home edition can be given to new parents, even if they are not taking the course.

However, he said, parents learn valuable lessons from each other when they share together during the course sessions.

Dry said future editions of ParentProject will be released to provide help in parenting older children.

LifeWay’s discipleship and family group sponsored the conference.

    About the Author

  • Linda Lawson