Nurturing the Heart of a Child.
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I'm Dr. Barbara Sorrels -  a mom, grandmother, child development specialist, and served as University Professor, Children's Pastor, teacher, and consultant.
When you understand some basics of child development, parenting becomes less mysterious and more wondrous.
As founder of the Institute for Childhood Education, we're helping parents, teachers, & child care facilities create nurturing environments.
Child development is amazing, and a glimpse into the mind of our Creator. I'm here to help you nurture your children, grandchildren, and the kids you care for. Read more →

Podcast #4: 

The way we view our children has a profound impact on how we parent  – and respond to our children.

This episode begins to expose some popular views our culture holds of children, which can be extremely detrimental.

We discuss the lies – and then share the truth – about children that can change the way you view parenting!

Listen here: Click here to open in new window

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Here’s our printable  Nurture Notes PDF:  Nurture Notes 4 – Dr. Barbara Sorrels

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Enjoy!

Krista and Dr. Barbara

 


The way in which we perceive, or place value on, something determines how we care for it – or not.
Example: finding a ring on the ground. It might be a trinket, or something of value, depending on who it belongs to. Who it belongs to gives it value. Our children belong to God which makes them extremely valuable.

 

Let’s first lay a foundation of truth as to how God sees children, so that we can point out the lies in our culture at large – and specifically within Christian culture.

 

How does God view children?

 

Very Good- Genesis 1:31-In creation God called humans very good whereas all the rest of creation was just good. Even when He knew we had the capacity to sin. God recognizes their goodness. 

 

Hebrew culture valued children. Festivals and traditions were designed to pass on their faith in a way children could understand.

 

A gift – Psalm 127:4-5: Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.

 

Formed by God- Psalm 139: For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your words, And my soul knows it very well.

 

Known by God and set apart- Jeremiah 1:5: Before I created you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart.

 

Matthew 18:3: Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

Matthew 18:10: See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

 

Beware modern society – even popular Christian culture
Just because something is in print does not make it true. We need to use discernment and know the Word of God. Look into the credibility of who you are reading and getting information and advice from.

 

Often a hint of truth is twisted into something detrimental.

 

Here are some very harmful lies, as presented by popular Christian authors

 

 

Lie Number One:

 

“Even a child in the womb and coming from the womb is wayward and sinful” (Listen to podcast for reference)
“The child is a sinner. There are things within the heart of the sweetest little baby that , allowed to blossom and grow to fruition will bring about eventual destruction. The rod functions in this context.” 

 

What is the lie? Children are born fatally flawed and – in a sense – out to get us.

 

That’s very different than saying that a child is born with a capacity to sin and is born with a will that chooses sin. Never in scripture does God call children wayward.

 

In scripture God makes it clear that children are a gift and a blessing.

 

Lie Number Two:
“This tendency toward self-will is the essence of “original sin” which has infiltrated the human family. It certainly explains why I place such stress on the proper response to willful defiance during childhood, for that rebellion can plant the seeds of personal disaster”  (Listen to Podcast for reference)

 

“A child very quickly demonstrates his fallen, depraved nature and reveals himself to be a selfish little beast in manifold ways. As soon as the child begins to express his own self-will (and this occurs early in life) that child needs to receive correction. My wife and I have a general goal of making sure that each of our children has his will broken by the time he reaches the age of one year. To do this, a child must receive correction wen he is a small infant.”

 

(Can you believe the language used above to describe children? What type of nurture comes from this view?)
What is the lie?
It’s the parent’s job to fix the fatal flaw.

 

What is the truth?
It’s not our job. It’s God’s job. Only the redemptive work of God can redeem the sin nature of a child. The role of the parent is to demonstrate the grace of God and love the child to Jesus. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. It is our job to love that child as Jesus would.

 

Lie Number Three:

 

“A temper tantrum is an absolute rejection of parental authority. Parents should isolate the child (with a promise of consequences) then follow through with chastisement (spanking) after the child settles down.”

 

Tantrums are a form of challenging behavior that can be eliminated by one or more appropriate spankings. 

 

Disclaimer- following some of the principles in these popular books can undermine healthy attachment. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned against some of these books.
What is the lie?

 

Children’s so-called bad behavior is a manifestation of their sinful heart and willful disobedience and must be handled with power, control, and coercion.

 

What is the truth?

 

Most of children’s so called bad behavior is often the result of unmet or misunderstood needs. Instruction and correction in the context of unconditional love by a parent who models grace changes the hearts of children- not punishment or harsh discipline.

 

Parental selfishness and convenience can lead to childrens’ challenging behaviors. Our culture wants parenting to be convenient and easy and all about us.

 

 
One of the greatest myths of our culture is that we can have it all. We can have it all but not at the same time.
There are seasons of life. When we choose to have children, we are choosing them over our own aspirations, dreams, and personal goals.

 

So how does this matter in daily life?
How we view and value our children affects how we care for them.

 

Infancy: If I view the infant who wakes up in the night as evidence of his flawed character then I will either ignore his needs or respond harshly. If I view the child through the lens of grace and as gift, I will respond with loving compassion and soothe the baby back to sleep no matter how inconvenient loosing sleep is.

 

Toddler: If I view the “no” of a toddler as an act of willful defiance, I will respond with power and control with the intention of overpowering his will. But if I see the child through the lens of grace and as a gift, I will see his no as a declaration of independence and celebrate his growing autonomy.

 

This is where understanding child development equips to you be a better parent because you understand the why of behaviors in each stage. I would respond with empathy to his frustration and handle it with gentle redirection rather than harsh discipline or punishment.

 

Preschooler: If I view the preschooler who whines incessantly as a manipulative child, out to get his own way, then I will begin to feel like a victim myself, and may lash out in irritation and anger.

 

But if I view the child as someone who doesn’t quite know how to verbalize his discomfort or distress, then I will respond with compassion and help him to find better ways of expressing his needs and discomfort.

 

School age: If I view the school age child who sulks and balks at doing their homework as a lazy and unmotivated child, then I will respond with disgust and frustration. I may take away privileges, or use coersive strategies such as taking away tv time, friend time, allowance, etc.

 

But if I see the child’s behavior as an indication of a lack of understanding or feelings of incompetence, then I will respond with support and find the help the child needs to be successful.

 

Take some time to consider how you view your children and is that view grounded in God’s view of children versus a misguided twisting of truth. Or is it guided by your own convenience rather than a true understanding of the needs of children?

 


Be encouraged!
Renewing our minds to correct belief about children makes us better parents.

 

Podcast #3:

Listen here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/1vh0ugxcsvgc260/Episode%20Three%20-%2011_3_17%2C%203.23%20PM.mp3?dl=0

Listen and subscribe in  iTunes  or  Stitcher

Here’s our printable 1-page Nurture Notes:  Nurture Notes 3 – Dr. Barbara Sorrels


 

Most parents associate discipline with punishment. But there’s a big difference for you and your child!

 

The word “discipline” comes from the word “disciple”—someone who is a follower of the teachings of another. So let’s ask ourselves, “Am I the kind of person I want my children to follow?“

 

If we look at the life of Christ he did not influence his followers by punishing people—he did it through:

 

– Instruction

– Correction

– Coming alongside and modeling words and behavior 

 

Children don’t always listen well, but they are always watching and imitating us. 

What’s the most powerful tool for shaping behavior? Relationship. My power to influence and lead my child is directly related to the strength of the relationship that I have them. True discipline connects whereas punishment alienates.

Time outs, spankings, or taking things away are the most common forms of punishment that I hear moms talk about. But does punishment change behavior, or is there a better way to think about this?

Why do we think we can make children do good by making them feel bad?

Consequences vs. Punishment

Traditional approaches to parenting basically start with the underlying notion that making children feel bad will somehow make them want to do good.

“Time out” is an example and probably one of the most popular forms of punishment. This assumes that children engage in inappropriate behavior because they choose to and isolation and separation will make them want to change.

What is wrong with spanking? It teaches children that power and pain dominate. I want you to be “nice” so I hit you. That doesn’t make sense and undermines the fundamental role of the parent as a child’s protective shield.

When children feel threatened, they are biologically driven to seek safety and protection from those who love and care for them. But when those who love and care for them are the source of the fear, the child has no where to do go. It is psychological poison.

Think back to our relationship with God. The more we love Him the more we want to please and obey—and deepen our relationship.

A consequence is the result or effect of an action or condition. All of our behaviors, attitudes, and actions have a consequence—positive or negative. The consequence for studying for an exam is increased likelihood that I will pass it. The consequence of pulling the cat’s tail is that the cat will likely scratch me.

Children should always be held accountable for their actions in a way that informs and teaches them the appropriate thing to do. Through demonstration, modeling, coaching and practice.

What does discipline look like?

One of the simplest, and most effective, changes parents can make is instead of time out, give a “do-over.” But we must make sure that the child really knows what the appropriate behavior looks like. 

You might have to give your child the words to say. For example, you are sitting at the dinner table and the child demands, “Gimme more potatoes!” 

Say something like, “Let’s try that again. This is what we say, “May I have more potatoes please?” and then have the child say it.

There is a scientific principle at work here. When a child does a “do-over” we’re actually activating the connections in the child’s brain related to appropriate behavior. If we consistently respond and ask the child to “try it again,” each time we do that, the connections in the brain are becoming more established and the child is more likely to demonstrate appropriate behavior.

 

Are there additional strategies to put in our tool box?

People often resort to time out and other ineffective and alienating strategies because they have no other tools.

When you have to say “no,” whenever possible follow it up with two opportunities for a “yes.” If your child says no when it’s time to go to bed, don’t be controlling, but stay in control. Follow up with something like, “Would you like to walk like a gorilla to your room, or dance to your room?”

Rigidity is often an issue and gets in the way of good parenting. Flexibility, problem solving and reason are tools we use as children get older.

Accountability is always is always appropriate. Shame is not. Holding children accountable for their actions builds strong kids with grit. Shaming and punishing them pushes them into rebellion. Letting them get away with bad behavior makes them weak.

We won’t always get it right—it’s not about being perfect but being authentic.

We are going to mess up. But modeling the process of owning your own mistakes, and making it right, allows children to realize that relationships don’t fall apart when someone doesn’t get it right. 

 
 

Podcast #2:

An understanding of child development is so important, because it can completely change the way you parent your child.

Don’t miss the “face painting” story! 🙂 

Listen here:  http://drbarbarasorrels.com/podcast/Episode%20Two%20-%209_30_17.mp3

Listen in iTunes  or  Stitcher

Here’s our printable 1-page Nurture NotesPrintable notes from Podcast #2 – Dr. Barbara Sorrels

Child Development

  1. What does an understanding of childhood development give you as a parent?
  • Children are not just miniature adults! They don’t think or act like adults. So we need different expectations. 
  • Children are born unfinished. The only part of the brain that is mostly complete at birth is the brain stem. They do things for reasons that are not obvious to the adult. 
  • The same behavior at different stages communicates different things, and warrants different responses. For example: sharing or meltdowns.
  • When you hook young children up to measure brain waves , the readings  look like the brain waves of an adult on a psychedelic drug! 

Discipline

Sometimes parents misinterpret a child’s immature behavior as something that needs to be disciplined because they don’t understand that it is a developmental incapacity, or a developmental phase that needs to be better understood.

Examples of a developmental incapacity

    1. The two year old who doesn’t share
    2. Meltdowns can be caused by fatigue, hunger and over stimulation—developmental incapacity to self regulate
    3. We want kids to be “independent” way before they are developmentally ready (sleep through the night, self soothe, etc.)
    4. Don’t confuse “responsible” with “independent

Examples of behavior that is the result of maturation of a child

    1. The 9-month old baby throwing a toy off the tray of the high chair probably just shows they don’t grasp the concept of “object permanence”
    2. Two-year-old saying “no” shows the birth of the autonomous self and is not necessarily rebellion
    3. The four year old potty talk shows they notice the power of words to shock
    4. Five year old who tells stories shows the realization that they can have a thought that other people don’t know
  1. Many parents feel that one of their primary roles as is to discipline their children.  What might discipline look like when you take child development into consideration? 
  • I would agree that one of the primary roles of a parent is to discipline—but in the context of guidance, coaching, emotional support or teaching a new skill—not punishment!
  • Baby throwing a toy: get the plastic links that can attach to the high chair
  • Ignore the “no” and give two “yes”s
  • Potty talk: ignore. Those are not good words—
  • The five year old who tells lies. Not necessarily a moral issue, depending on age and development.
  1. How do we come alongside our children and guide and teach them rather than punish?
  • Focus on the relationship
  • What does my child need? I have to adjust and set the child up for success. Is the tantrum about a legitimate unmet need?
  • A fear-based approach to parenting results in heavy-handed punishment. 
  • Keep it playful
  • Appropriate expectations for the particular age of the child
  • Be in control without being controlling
  • Behaviors that require a consequence

Understanding ages and stages is crucial to parenting. Misunderstanding ages and stages will lead to bad decisions. Keep it playful!

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