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Lady With a Lot of Questions

November 15, 2000

1. “When your baby is sleeping in bed with you, when do you have relations with your husband?
Moving the baby or yourself should not be too much of a problem. Don't let a child get in the way of your marital bliss. Make sure it is bliss.

2. “When Beka was old enough to sleep on her own and you had your 2nd child, did Beka get moved to a bed by herself, or did you wait until both children were old enough to sleep together apart from you?”
We never had 2 children in the bed with us at once. We had the baby there for warmth (our house was always cold in the winter), and because I can't hear well, I wanted my babies close. It was also handy to just roll over to nurse. I asked the Amish ladies, who live close by, and all of them have their babies under 1 year sleep with them. If you hear well and your house is warm, do what suits you. We did have a tiny room adjoining our bedroom where we placed our first child. But that, again, was because I could not hear well. It was nice having a side room because we could tell her a story while we were all in our own beds, and she enjoyed the camaraderie. But then we could close the door when we needed to. No law, just do what seems best for your family.

3. “Because my daughter did not sleep with us as a newborn or infant, she had to cry to let me know she was hungry. She still does that periodically while she is waiting for her food, now that she is 10 months old. I am afraid that if I waited to feed her until she stopped crying, she might never stop. Am I reinforcing her behavior by feeding her when she is upset?”
Feed the hungry baby. It is best to try to feed BEFORE she gets too hungry so as not to cause her to become frustrated with hunger and thereby reinforce her crying demands, but if you have waited and she is upset, there is no sense in making a bad thing worse. You can train her out of her crying for food by letting her see you prepare it (or preparing yourself) and telling her to stop crying. Just as you are about to feed her, tell her to stop crying and you will feed her. You do this when you are sitting in front of her, preparing to feed her. When she stops, brag on her for not crying and then reward her with food. By this you are conditioning her to the concept that she gets fed when she is not crying.

4. “Did you keep your baby in the same room with you when cooking or cleaning or did you leave her to play alone?”
I enjoyed my baby being a part of my life, so from the beginning I would move her from room to room so she could watch me and hear my voice as I sang or talked to her. When she got 8 or 10 months old, and was playing on the floor, I would come and go as needed, from kitchen to living room, without carrying her, but I always kept up a flow of joyful, cheerful singing or talk. If I finished cleaning a bedroom and knew I would be in the kitchen for a while, I carried her to where I would be working. I tried not to let her develop a fear of being left alone by her looking around and not seeing or hearing me and then panicking. This fear is hard to conquer once it is established. If she did start to cry in fear I would call out cheerfully, “Here I am. Come find Mama!”—and this while laughing and playing. When she made it around the corner, I would swoop her up in a happy tone to break the cycle immediately and put her fears to rest in the joy of the moment.
While we are on the subject, let me take the opportunity to broaden my answer, to be more relevant to an issue about which others have inquired. Never force a small child to long endure isolation, fear, hunger, or any stress they cannot handle. You cause a child to learn self-control by metering out the trials in increments that the child can manage. If you increase the stress level daily, but never beyond the child’s ability to cope, the child will soon become a seasoned veteran, while remaining emotionally secure.
If a child came into my care that was already full of anxiousness and fear, I could break him of it less than six months by creating absolutely secure situations in which I allowed a very small amount of stress to enter, never enough to destroy his security, but enough to test it. For example, if a child screamed when left alone, I would not leave him alone until I could do so without him screaming. Now I am assuming we are dealing with a child that is genuinely fearful, not one who pretends fear in order to control others. Each day, in the midst of great security, I would play games of hide and seek, in the same room. Duck behind a chair where the child cannot see you but knows where you are, laughing all the while. When the child learns to endure one level of being alone, take it further. Tell the child that you are going to step around the corner and come right back. Go only as far and stay only as long as the child can endure without loosing it—even if it is just two feet and three seconds. Over a period of days or weeks, increase the distance and time the child is left alone, until he can manage isolation without fear. That is training.

5. “When did you discuss reproduction with your child?”
It is not a subject that we ever attempted to keep secret. They learned about it at the same rate that they learned how a car works or about the sun and moon. We always had animals and were very forth-right about the mama dog being in heat and “Wish those boy dogs would go home.” Although, we always enjoyed a new batch of pups or kittens, and we tried to see the babies being born. I remember getting a book at the library and learning (with my children) that a female dog can carry pups from three different males at one time, so the pups can come out looking like poodles, hounds, and chows. We went looking in the library for this information because we had a litter of puppies that appeared to be from three different male dogs. When life is lived naturally, the natural part of life is understood naturally. Many people on our mailing list that have animals are smiling as they read this. They think the city-slickers are funny in making this an issue. As for how to, or when to, talk to a child who is raised in the city and has not observed animals, I don't know; you figure it out and write me so I can pass on the info.

6. “Did you allow your children to go to sleepovers or play outings at a friend's house? If so, how did you assure yourself that she would not be subjected to abuse of any kind—especially sexual? I have always heard that most molestation is perpetrated by a family friend or relative that is trusted.”
You heard right. If you read our mail you would NEVER let your child have sleep-overs with other kids. When our porn article came out, we got a flood of letters from adults who were exposed to porn while sleeping over with a good friend or relative, or had friends over to their house that brought it with them. These adults say that from the age of six or seven, when they first saw the pictures, they were addicted and have been all their lives. We also receive so many letters from people who for years were molested by their brother's friends while the family slept. The little girls were always too sleepy and confused to be able to tell what was happening to them every Friday night when big brother had his friends over. Parents never knew why little Suzy was such a problem when she turned 13 years old. I will repeat: anyone that has ever counseled or read as many letters as we do would NEVER open their children up to this possibility. It is too common and too terrible.

7. “My daughter is totally uninterested in crawling. She likes walking by holding our fingers. If I put her down on all fours, she cries like she is in pain. Should we put her down anyway and let her cry until she stops, or should I spank her for crying?”
Don’t spank her for doing what you have trained her to do. Have you been down on all fours lately? It hurts! But babies seem to build a set of tough hands and knees after a few days. Put her on a quilt on the floor and give her toys to play with. When she wants to come to you, encourage her to make it on her own. It sounds like you are carrying her around or assisting her in walking. She needs to develop independence in getting around. This is an important part of her physical and mental development. When you stop being her legs, she will learn to use her knees.

8. “Please write down a typical schedule of your days when you had young children—the times you got up and went to bed and generally what you did each day. Also, did you put your infant to bed before you came to bed, even though it was sleeping with you?”
I would lie down and nurse the baby asleep and then get up to spend the evening with my husband. My baby slept fine whether I was there or not. My husband worked at home, and I often worked with him doing whatever he was doing at the time, so our schedule revolved around him. When I finally had too many children to be with him all the time, we developed more of a routine. Each night I tried to put on a slow cooking crock-pot of beans or stew to cook for the next day. This would serve as lunch.
Babies and small children tend to wake you up earlier than nature does. I nursed the baby in bed, while the other children piled into bed to visit daddy. After 10 minutes we would get up, dress, do light clean up of the bedrooms, and head to the kitchen for breakfast. While Mike and the boys headed out the door, Beka would help me clean the house or get the baby girls cleaned up and dressed. I never finished before Mike and the boys were back for a big lunch. We all laid down for an afternoon rest. Beka read quietly in her room; Gabe and Nathan listened to Bible story tapes and read along in the picture book; the little ones and the old ones slept. Nathan learned to read by listening and reading along with tapes. Gabe needed a bit more help, but the tapes greatly improved his reading, and it all happened while I took a nap with daddy.

After a nap, Beka and the boys sat down to do a few workbook pages, while the 2- and 4-year-olds colored or played. I worked in the kitchen getting dinner ready or folded clothes.
When the children tired of school they went out to play or spend time with Daddy. I got supper (dinner) on the table. After supper the children took turns doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen—from the time they were 6 years old. Now Gabe says it was almost too much for him at that age, so I would consider putting an 8 year-old with a 6 year-old if there is a lot of cleaning up to do. Mike and I tried to take a stroll in the late afternoon, usually to the garden to work or down to the shop to see what he had done during the day. He spent most evenings off teaching or witnessing on the streets. I spent the evening sitting in the car with the kids (reading to them), watching Mike, and praying, or at home reading and visiting with the children. Every day included more phone calls than you would believe, visits most everyday from people Mike had ministered to over the years, and running to the store, canning, or something else. This is a tiny slice of what life was like back then.

9. “Please give examples of the kinds of things for which you used the rod, both as a training tool and as punishment, for children were under 12 months.”
We never used the rod to punish a child younger than 12 months. You should read No Greater Joy Volume One and Volume Two. We discussed this subject several times in those two books. For young children, especially during the first year, the rod is used very lightly as a training tool. You use something small and light to get the child’s attention and to reinforce your command. One or two light licks on the bare legs or arms will cause a child to stop in his tracks and regard your commands. A 12-inch piece of weed eater chord works well as a beginner rod. It will fit in your purse or pocket.
Later, a plumber's supply line is a good spanking tool. You can get it at Wal-Mart or any hardware store. Ask for a plastic, ¼ inch, supply line. They come in different lengths and several colors; so you can have a designer rod to your own taste. They sell for less than $1.00. A baby needs to be trained all day, everyday. It should be a cheerful, directing training, not a correction training. If a 10-month-old plays in the dirt in the flowerpot, a simple swat to the hand accompanied with the command “No,” said in a cheerful but authoritative voice, should be sufficient.

When your 6-month-old baby grabs sister’s hair, while he still has a hand full of hair, swat his hand or arm and say “No, that hurts sister.” If he has already let go of her hair, then put his hand back on her hair, so as to engage his mind in the former action, and then carry on with the hand swatting and the command. If you found your baby trying to stick something in the electrical receptacle, keep his hand on the object and near the receptacle while giving him a few swats on the back of the offending hand, and this to the sound of your rebuke—“No, don't touch, No, don't touch.” This time he needs to cry and be upset.
If your 10-month-old is pitching a fit because he wants to be picked up, then you must reinforce your command with a few stinging swats. You are not punishing him; you are causing him to associate his negative behavior with negative consequences. Never reward bad behavior with indifference. Tell the baby “No” and give him a swat. If your response is new, he may be offended and scream louder. But continue your normal activities as if you are unaffected. Wait one minute, and then tell the baby to stop crying. If he doesn’t, again swat him on his bare legs. You don’t need to undress him, turn him over, or make a big deal out of it. Just swat him where any skin is exposed. Continue to act as if you don’t notice the fit. Wait two minutes and repeat. Continue until the baby realizes that this is getting worse not better. Most babies will keep it going for 3 or 4 times and then slide to a sitting position and sob it out. When this happens, it signals a surrender, so give him two minutes to get control and then swoop him up as if the fit never happen and give him a big hug, BUT don't hold him in the manner he was demanding. Now remove yourself from the area so as to remove him from association with the past event.
Don’t ever hit a small child with your hand. You are too big and the baby is too small. The surface of the skin is where the most nerves are located and where it is easiest to cause pain without any damage to the child. The weight of your hand does little to sting the skin, but can cause bruising or serious damage internally. Babies need training but they do not need to be punished. Never react in anger or frustration. If you loose it, get your self under control before you attempt to discipline a child.

10. “I apologize for some of these questions being very personal, but we young mothers desperately need guidance from a mature spiritual woman in how to nurture our children. On every side we are bombarded with one group saying we should carry our baby around in a sling and keep it with you constantly, sleep with it and don't spank it. On the other side there are those that say, ‘Never let the child fall asleep while you are holding it, don't rock it to sleep. Don't sleep with it because it will be too dependent on you, and let it cry during the night when it wakes up so it can learn to sleep through the night without eating.’
Of course, there are others somewhere along the swinging pendulum, but you are the first I have heard that matched my gut instincts, that said the baby needs much nurturing and fellowship but also training and discipline. I am in desperate need of guidance so that I don't reinforce bad habits my daughter may have already developed. Thank you for all you do to help our families!”
A. P.

Dear Young Mothers, I would suggest you seek out advice from older grandmothers in your community. I would not look for “spiritual” type women, but just some plain, old lady that has a sense of humor and has maintained a respect and reverence for her husband all her married life (very, very important). Don't ask her to baby sit, and don't take your children over to her house, but just call her and ask her, “How do you cook dried black beans and rice?” While you are talking, ask her a simple question about how she handled a certain problem when her daughter was a baby. We often go to the country store here in our area and talk to the old men who hang around during the day. We have asked them questions about child training and they have loud, funny stories to tell and much wisdom that comes from just living a long, long time.
Debi Pearl (mostly)

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5 comments on “Lady With a Lot of Questions”

  1. Thanks for your wise advise. I really think in this modern era we live in that mother or grandmother live far away and there is no one nearby to rely on for advise, that your comments and recommendations are refreshing and rewarding.

  2. I respectfully disagree with some of these techniques. I believe that Jesus was a champion of children, and was a gentle example of how to influence others. I understand that situations arise where a physical intervention is required, ie a 4 year old causing a ruckus or beating up his sister is a good spanking candidate - a 4 month old reaching for my plate is not. If a child is too young to understand cause and effect, how can you expect hitting them to work? Don't you worry that this just teaches the child fear, or worse, violence? Personally, I have found, after working with children who are abused, that yes, they do cry less, but that's because their caregiver - child relationship is so damaged that they have lost all trust in the outside world to get their needs met. Neglected children actually cry far less than "regular" children, because they have learned that no matter what they do, no matter how hard they cry, no one will come for them. No one will meet their needs. So in essence, these children have "given up". This is a dangerous mindset for a child, and frankly, a sad permutation of the mother-child relationship. A child needs to be able to learn trust, and learn how to communicate ways to get their needs met. A crying 13 week old is far too young to understand the intricacies of manipulation. But they are smart enough to know that they are scared, wet, hungry, etc & can communicate that with a cry. I fear that by teaching mothers that their children are trying to manipulate them, you are setting up a very adversarial relationship instead of one of gentle but firm guidance. Thoughts?

  3. This is just what I needed! I recently joined the ranks of motherhood and have often found myself lost in the details of the "right" way to do things. I am quickly learning that what works for other babies doesn't always work for mine. Or what works one day, may not work the next. This can be frustrating. God has used your articles to remind me that there's no hard and fast rules for our day to day events and that it's more important to approach them with joy (asking God for wisdom for the moment). Plans are great, but flexibility is important. Simple thought but very freeing. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Thankyou for all your advice!
    I'm so grateful for the resources you have online - I am a young mother with two young children, far from any extended family. having the advice of others who have been where we are now is so important! Someday I hope to get your books but for now I'm working my way through your articles online, finding little gems of wisdom for my own situation.