Q: How do you tackle the issue of making sure our children keep a schedule and letting your baby “cry it out” if they just won’t go to sleep even though they ARE tired? My husband and I felt strongly that the “crying out” method was not something we wanted to do, but there comes a point where they need to learn to fall asleep on their own. We don’t want to ignore her cries. Our LORD always answers our cries, and I desire to take my way of parenting from Him. I am just not sure what to do.
A: First of all, let me stop a minute to highlight a remarkably wise phrase, “I desire to take my way of parenting from Him.” What wisdom! Now as you open the Scriptures, every single passage and verse and principle will apply to the way you and your husband guide your child into maturity. Since the Bible is vague about specifics (such as sleep training), you will need to reach into what the Word teaches about how God relates to us in learning to relate to your child wisely.
That said, I need to correct a misperception, one I have heard often in response to this idea of allowing a child to cry.
God does not always answer our cries- at least not in a way we can hear and feel and understand.
What better example of this than Jesus’ last moment on the Cross? God’s own Son cried out in despair,
“My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
There is no explaining this gut-wrenching anguish away. Jesus felt abandoned.
God did not reach down and rescue Him, nor did He relieve His pain. In that pivotal moment in time, God chose to step back and watch.
To understand this, we have to turn to Psalm 22. Jesus was quoting this “Cry of Anguish and Son of Praise” as He submitted Himself to the agony of the cross.
“My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning. O my God, I cry by day, but Thou dost not answer; and by night, but I have no rest.”
Do you see what Jesus was saying? Sometimes God is silent. Agonizingly so. But read on, there is always a reason for His silence.
“Yet Thou art holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In Thee our fathers trusted; they trusted, and Thou didst deliver them. They cried out, and were delivered; in Thee they trusted and were not disappointed.”
Here’s what we can learn from the way the Father dealt with His Son: when God does not give us what we want, we can and must trust Him to care for us as He believes best.
After listening to hundreds and hundreds of hurting women over more than three decades in ministry, I have come to believe that the person most likely to grow into beauty by trails, is the one who understands that her sole “work” is to entrust her life to Jesus’ loving care- even when it hurts.
We mothers have a unique opportunity to carve this concept deep into our children’s hearts as we live out the loving care our Father gives us.
And that, is a very long way of explaining why I do believe that sometimes a mother’s most loving act is to watch from a distance while her child cries out his frustration at having to go to sleep when he really doesn’t want to.
Every one of my four children had to learn this lesson in infancy. But like the Father, I was always there, hovering close, listening to the tone of their cries, timing the duration, sometimes coming in to pat his back and gently insist that he go to sleep. And when the sobs went on too long, I would go in and rock and sing to him until he could settle into exhausted slumber.
A little practical advice:
- The earlier the better. Once a child is mobile enough to sit up in the crib, grab onto the bars, and stand screaming for relief, there is hardly a mother alive who is going to be able to outlast him.
- Do everything you can to establish a strict routine around bedtime and nap time. Turn off any t.v., read a story, rock him while you sing the same song (we about wore out Amazing Grace- it’s the perfect tempo for a rocking chair). Many children just need a lot of help winding down.
- Pick up any messes in his room. Some children need visual peace before they can settle down to sleep.
- Choose a soft blanket that is used only for bedtime. Don’t let him carry it around while he is playing. This becomes another signal to the child’s heart and mind that sleep is good and comforting and welcome.
- Be aware that this too shall pass. Don’t give in too easily. Every child seems to go through periods of resisting sleep. Your job is to decide for him if he physically and mentally needs the rest. That is not his decision to make.
Over time, your child will learn to trust you. He will know that you are always there for him, but not at his beck and call. He will respect your authority in his life. As inconsequential as naptime may seem on the surface, I believe it is one of your first opportunities to train your child to someday submit his will to God. The writer of Psalm 22 seemed to understand this:
“Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother’s breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; though has been my God from my mother’s womb.” Psalm 22:9,10
From my heart,
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