The first day a baby comes home, a new mom’s primary concern is health and nutrition for her brand-new child. As the sleepless nights and multiple feedings give way to pattering feet and sippy cups, it dawns on us that our children need more than just good health and nutrition—they need spiritual growth as well!
Our children aren’t born Christians. They must be discipled in the truth! That’s a big responsibility, and it’s hard to know when or where to start. Can you disciple a baby? I think you can! Spiritual training creates a foundation for who our children will become as they grow older. While we can’t control their choices, we can provide a home centered around the gospel and daily discipleship in the truth.
The following five tips will help lay a foundation of godliness on which you and your child can build as she matures. An added benefit? Practicing these things leads to a more peaceful home environment, less stress on your relationships and more joy in your motherhood journey!
1. Establish loving boundaries.
We talk about “child-proofing” our houses—and we definitely need to put away those hazardous objects that little hands are quick to grab. But it’s as important to “house-proof” your child as it is to child-proof your house! What’s house-proofing? It’s teaching your baby healthy boundaries from the very beginning.
This can begin as soon as your baby can sit up or crawl. Make it clear what they can’t touch (cords, sockets, decorative items on tables) and what they can (toys, couch, pillows). By intentionally choosing which objects are okay and which are not, you teach your child to respect their environment, learn obedience and be content with what they are allowed to have.
This is a perfect example of God’s character. God’s righteousness shows us the boundaries of right and wrong; His love helps us walk in that truth. Our parenting is a picture of who He is when we balance these two principles.
2. Cultivate an attitude of honor.
“Honor” is a lost word in our culture. When we honor someone or something, we have high esteem for them or hold them in high regard. Create a home that treats people with an attitude of honor!
This will be revealed more than anything in how we talk to our spouses and children. If our faces and tone are sharp, we’re failing to honor people as bearers of God’s image. Set an example of talking positively about your spouse and others in front of your baby. At the beginning, this might seem pointless. But it’s changing your heart, which will set an example for your child when she’s old enough to comprehend it.
Also cultivate an honor for God. You can begin “devotions” with your baby as early as you like—keeping her with you as you read with your spouse, reading a child’s Bible and teaching her to sit on your lap until you finish the story (another great habit to teach from a young age!).
3. Encourage independence.
Moms don’t like to see their babies struggle. It’s so hard to see them learn to walk, falling again and again! But without struggle and difficulty, there is no growth. This principle is monumental to the pursuit of godliness. The Christian life is not easy, nor is it designed for our comfort. Being a Christian requires the ability to think and act independently of the status quo. Encourage independence by letting your child learn a few things the hard way.
Practically speaking, this means giving your child small, age-appropriate chores, such as loading the dishwasher, clearing her plate and putting away toys (my daughter started learning this at 14 months, once she could take a few steps). Take the time—even when it’s painfully slow—to teach the importance of caring for what God has given us, helping others and doing things we don’t like to do in order to honor God.
4. Be consistent!
This is one of the most important things a new mom can do, particularly regarding boundaries. If a picture frame is off limits one day and fine the next, your baby will think “No!” means nothing. The loving thing to do is consistently create a framework in which your baby learns right from wrong, honor from dishonor, and obedience from disobedience. When rooted in the ultimate accountability of a loving God, this gives your child the basic elements of his future worldview.
Being consistent is hard. Personally, I don’t often feel like fighting a battle over whether or not my daughter grabs a picture frame. But it’s not just about the picture frame; it’s about her heart! She needs to be shown—until she’s old enough to understand—that my love is what calls her to obedience.
5. Live your faith in front of your child.
Finally, the most impactful way to instill godliness from the beginning is to live out your faith in front of your baby. Don’t segregate your quiet time away from her—do it with her there! Pray with your spouse in front of your children. Actively disciple others, and bring your baby along. Nothing will speak the gospel louder to your growing child than to see it actively influencing your life as her mom.
For more thoughts on motherhood, check out Phylicia’s post 5 Myths Single Women Believe About Motherhood.