Questions and Answers

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 9 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How To Rear Infants)


Following are a few of the questions that have been asked me through the years concerning the rearing of infants:

QUESTION: Is it better to teach children in a group or on a one-to-one basis?

ANSWER: A child who early in life does not develop deep one-to-one relationships often has difficulty developing these relationships in adult-hood. This is why it is better for a child to grow up in a home than in an institution; that is, if the home is what it ought to be. In institutional living, the child relates to many people but without close contact to any one individual. Children raised in institutions often are delightful people, but they have not been trained in giving themselves to an individual and to a meaningful relationship.

Though I do believe that families should spend some time together, I also believe that every parent should spend time alone on a regular basis with each child in order that he may get to know him as an individual. Susanna Wesley, the famous mother of John and Charles Wesley, did this. Though she had many children, she gave each one an hour a week when she taught him and trained him. It is, I think, very important that even in infancy this one-on-one relationship be established. Not only should there be times when Mother and Father and all the children get in the car and go somewhere or fellowship in a room together, it is also important that each child get to know each parent in a personal way.

QUESTION: What is the most important need in a parent's personality?

ANSWER: Consistency! It is vitally important that the parent be consistent in his reactions if the baby is to learn properly. The baby learns from each situation that he encounters. His mind records parental response. It is vital that this parental response be consistent. Suppose, for example, that he points his finger to you and says, "No, no, no, no, no!" and the first time he does it, you laugh. Then the next time he does it you become angry. Then your child will have to test you again and again in order to see which reaction will be the most prevalent one.

Suppose one time he throws his cup on the floor. You smile because you are in a good mood, and very lovingly you say, "Don't do that again." Then the next time he throws the cup on the floor in the same manner, he wants another smile. This time you are not in such a good mood. You become angry. You spank him on the hand, and scold him vehemently. The child has no way to record a consistent pattern of behavior on your part. He may continue throwing the cup on the floor until he finds what your usual reaction is going to be. In other words, it confuses the child when the parent acts inconsistently. The child needs to know what his behavior will do to you and what kind of response each action on his part will bring from you. The truth is, your baby is a research scientist, and you are his laboratory. He is studying to find out what responses you will give to various stimuli. This little scientist will discontinue his experiment when he finds a definite trend. Hence, it is tremendously important that the parent be predictable and consistent in his behavior and his response.

QUESTION: Pastor, I am expecting a baby, but I am not married. Should I keep the baby or place it for adoption?

ANSWER: There is no set answer to this question. There are, however, a few guidelines by which I go in counseling unmarried expectant mothers.

1. If you love the baby's father and he loves you, and you want to marry and you are mature enough to marry, then do so.

2. If you are not mature enough to marry (seek wise counsel about this), then do not let the fact that you are pregnant lead you to the marriage altar. One mistake doesn't correct another, and two wrongs don't make a right!

3. Do not marry just to give the baby a name and a father. Sometimes the girl's parents rush their daughter and the young man involved to the altar in order to save face. The two marry so the baby will not be born without a mother and father who are married to each other. As soon as the baby comes, separation comes and soon, there's a divorce. This type of convenient marriage doesn't save face and is not wise; in fact, it is not right! People should marry for love, not because of obligation.

4. If it is impossible according to the aforementioned guidelines for you to marry, then I would suggest that you place the baby for adoption. Contact a godly pastor. He will have people in his church, or in his acquaintance, who for some reason cannot have children. The pastor and the couple may contact an attorney who can make legal arrangements according to the laws of the particular state involved. In such a situation, the unwed expectant mother should not know now or ever who the adoptive parents are. The adopting parents should pay for the legal expenses, the hospital bill, the doctor bill, and if possible, even provide money anonymously for maternity clothing for the unwed expectant mother.

This kind of advice is not very popular today with all the illegitimate children there are, but it is far better for the baby to have a Christian father and mother and a good, solid home than to grow up in a situation where there is no father and where soon he will learn that he is an illegitimate child and that his mother conceived him in sin. People sometimes argue with this advice, but they don't have to see the child at school filling out the form that says, "Father's name." They don't attend the first piano recital and hear the other children say, "Where is your father?" They do not see the child as he grows up having to answer on questionnaires and application forms hundreds of times the name of his father and there is no name to put there. (Every reader would agree with this writer if he had had the experience that I have had in dealing with such cases.)

QUESTION: At what age should I put my child in the church nursery?

ANSWER: Put him there as soon as you, Mother, are strong enough to come to church. Usually this would be within two weeks. The child should get the idea immediately that there is a big building that you go to every week. His little mind thinks, "Some real nice people see me there. Those real nice people all have big black books with them and they seem so happy." These things should register in the child's mind as soon as possible.

Yes, I know that all the church nurseries aren't as clean as they should be, but all of your houses aren't as clean as they should be either. Take the child to God's house, and put him in the nursery the first Sunday and every Sunday when the parents are able to attend.

QUESTION: When is a child old enough to be spanked?

ANSWER: This is a disputed question. I will tell you what has been done to our children. I spanked them as soon as they were able to walk. This may be as early as nine months. In the case of our children, it was nearer to a year. When I say spank, I do not mean slap, hit, attack, or beat, I mean, spank. I recommend using the open hand on the child's little bottom.

In my book, HOW TO REAR CHILDREN, I go into great detail explaining how to spank. It is, however, important for an infant to be spanked sooner after the wrong is done than for an older child. A spanking should always be associated with a crime, and the child should know that the spanking is associated with the particular wrong that he has done. Time moves much slower to an infant which means the spanking cannot be quite as planned as it is with an older child. It must be almost as soon as the crime is committed so that he may connect the wrong and the punishment.

QUESTION: What is the main reason babies cry if they are not sick or hurting?

ANSWER: Boredom! When the baby is born, he is capable of doing several things. He can feel, he can taste, he can see, he can hear, he can smell, etc. The baby has a natural desire to use these gifts called senses. If he does not have ample opportunity to use these gifts or senses, he becomes bored.

When babies become bored, they show their boredom by crying, and they usually cry until somebody does something to alleviate the boredom. This means the baby should have sufficient toys, attachments to his crib and, yes, even attention from the parents to keep him from being bored.

QUESTION: Is it true that a child cannot see until he is six weeks old?

ANSWER: Absolutely not! The child can see his mother while he is still at the hospital, and no one can disprove this.

QUESTION: Is an infant's smile caused by gas?

ANSWER: Absolutely not! An infant smiles because he is happy or pleased. He may smile at his mother immediately. Do not forget that the infant is a human being; so I am; so are you. Having gas on the stomach doesn't make me smile; it doesn't make you smile; and it doesn't make a baby smile. It may be the baby will smile at the very moment there is gas, but this does not mean the gas causes a smile. A baby is human. He smiles like any other human. He smiles because he is pleased or happy or because he loves you or is expressing that love.

QUESTION: I have an adopted child. When and how should I tell him that he is adopted?

ANSWER: By all means, tell him. Start when he is a little child telling him that there are two ways mothers and fathers get babies. One is that God brings them into a home and they stay there. The other is that God sometimes lets parents go to another home and choose their baby. Make this last method seem very appealing to the child. Keep teaching it to him until he is five or six years of age. Tell him that you were very fortunate in that you got to choose your baby. Let him know that he was born of someone else but that God gave him to you for a special reason. Handled properly, the child can feel even more loved than the one naturally born.

QUESTION: I am a mother rearing a child alone. What can I do to substitute for my child not having a father?

ANSWER: My mother faced the same problem. I can tell you how she solved it. She chose men whom she admired and whom she wanted me to emulate, and she let them be a father-image to me. She pointed them out and told me what qualities they had. She would ask me to see what qualities I thought they had that were good. We discussed them, and she told me that was what she wanted me to be like when I became a man.

She would often talk to one of these men and ask if he could be a little bit close to me.

She also saw to it that I was around masculine men. She encouraged me to participate in sports so that I would be around coaches and men that are athletic. In other words, she encouraged me to get to know masculine men, to be around them. Then in a subtle way, they helped me.

QUESTION: What can I do to prevent my child from becoming a homosexual or a lesbian?

ANSWER: There is not one definite answer to your question, but there are a few things worth remembering. First, I would suggest that little boys play with little boys, and that little girls play with little girls. This not to say that little boys should never play with little girls, and that little girls should never play with little boys. It is to say that by far the majority of a child's playing should be with his own sex. So much of the sex drive is caused by the unknown. If a little boy plays with other little boys, there will be a mystique about girls, but if he plays with little girls too much, they will become commonplace and there will be a mystique toward little boys. The human race is so constructed that when something becomes commonplace, it is not nearly as attractive to us. The old adage, "The grass is greener on the other side of the fence," applies here. In childhood this grass on the other side of the fence should be the opposite sex. If it is one 5 own sex, there would be a curiosity about that. Now I'm aware that the modern psychologists will say, "Let little boys see little girls, and let little girls see little boys, and let them become acquainted with the biological differences, and let them see each other unclothed." Let me remind you that that same generation of modern psychologists is turning out an unbelievable amount of homosexuals in our country!

The wise parents of a little boy will teach him that the body of a little girl is sacred, and they will see to it that he plays with other little boys. As he grows older, this mystique will follow its normal course, and he will be attracted to the opposite sex or "the grass on the other side of the fence."

One of the best ways of doing this is to lead the boy to develop interests that are masculine. This means his hobbies, his activities and his interests should be masculine to the extent that it will require him to be around other boys. The same is true for little girls developing feminine interests. (Please obtain and read the author's booklet, "Is the Homosexual Sick or Sinful?" It will throw added light on your question and its answer.)

QUESTION: Does my child hate discipline?

ANSWER: Quite to the contrary! Children actually like discipline; they enjoy it. Life is more predictable when parents set rules and enforce them with consistency. Children like things that are predictable and that have pattern. There is also security in having boundaries set by strong leadership.

Quite often a teenager will come to me and ask me if I will spank him. When I ask him why, he says, "My mother and dad never spanked me. I wish someone loved me enough to spank me now."

Of course, this discipline must come from loving parents to children who trust them. When the child learns to trust Mom and Dad, he will be glad for the boundaries they set, for he will know it is for his own good. This discipline, regardless of what shape it takes, should teach the child, even in infancy, that doing wrong brings discomfort and not comfort and that the pain of doing wrong is far greater than its enjoyment.

All over America today older people with nothing wrong with them are lying in rest homes forsaken and forgotten. There are those for whom it is best to be in such an environment, but there are tens of thousands of these dear older people who, because their children do not want to bother with them, are placed in these homes. These are the parents who did not have a close relationship with their children and/or who did not punish them for wrong. They helped to teach their children irresponsibility. Now that the children have grown up and the parents have grown old, the sons and daughters lack the responsibility to take care of their obligation toward the ones who reared them.

QUESTION: What are the most important things to remember as I discipline my child?

ANSWER: First, always warn the child in advance of what the punishment will be for his wrong. This warning can be by telling him if he is old enough. If he is not old enough, he must learn it by the consistent and predictable punishment meted out by the parents. This is what makes punishing infants so difficult. You can't tell a one-year-old child in advance what the punishment will be for his wrongdoing, but he must be taught the pain of doing wrong. This is where spanking enters. A child must be spanked when he gets close to danger. You can't tell a child who is 11 months old that he will be electrocuted if he plays with a wall socket. You cannot tell him that he will fall out of a window and kill himself if he crawls near the windowsill. It is far better to give spankings than to endanger his life.

The pseudo child psychologist will preach from the housetops against spanking a child; he would do better to realize that it is better for a child to have a little physical discomfort on his bottom end than to be lying dead. Self-styled experts had better understand that it is more child abuse to risk the child's chances of being electrocuted than to sting his bottom a little bit in teaching him not to play with a wall plug. There are those (who, by the way, have never successfully reared a decent child) who believe that anything a child does willfully should be accepted and that he is only expressing his feelings, and if we limit him in his behavior, it will cause frustrations in his personality. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The child should be frustrated in his attempt to do wrong! When he is old enough to walk around, he is ready for discipline, punishment and, yes, spanking. He will be a lot less frustrated concerning what he can and can't do.

When each of our children was about a year old, I took him on a guided tour of the house, and when he felt he wanted to go his own way, I gently but sternly spanked. We didn't move the vases in our house, rearrange the furniture or take the pictures off the walls. We are reminded in holy Scripture, "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." Hence, chastening should be an expression of love.

Suppose a child tears a paper. Scold him when he tears it the first time. When he tears it again, include a mild spanking and a disturbed "No." If he tears it again, react in the same way. In a while the child will get the idea that the parent is consistent, always rendering the same punishment for the same crime. This same procedure may have to be carried out about many, many things until the child knows and can see that a pattern has been set.

When David was a little boy, he would throw his chocolate milk on the floor. He turned over the chocolate milk and laughed as it spilled on the floor. I reacted firmly with both displeasure and punishment that he shouldn't do it. He enjoyed seeing the floor colored with a chocolate color. Following this deed that caused this enjoyment was a painful punishment. He finally got the idea that the enjoyment was not worth the pain. He was convinced that seeing a chocolate covered floor through tears with a hurting bottom was not as much fun as he thought it was.

He then looked at the chocolate milk, looked at me and I was still frowning. I raised my hand as if to punish him again. He then said, "No, no, no, no!" He took the chocolate milk and held it in his hand and did not spill it. Immediately a smile came across my face, and I hugged him and told him how proud of him I was. He soon discovered that restraint was more fun that yielding to his temptation. He discovered that his dad was consistent and predictable and that the pleasure from his dad's smile and loving gestures was more fun than a chocolate covered floor.

If the child is allowed to do things that are destructive or dangerous without seeing the obvious displeasure of his parents, he will continue with his wrongdoing.

Some parents who find punishing and spanking unpleasant to their own taste remove every object in the house that they think could cause trouble and thereby preserve the child from ever facing a situation where he could do wrong. Because of this, the child is never taught to control his own appetites, to discipline his own taste, and to learn self-control. It is far better to have him find the little pain that comes with little wrong when he is little than to leave him undisciplined and have him know later the big pain that comes from big wrong when he is big and then finally have him know the eternal pain that comes from the eternal wrong of rejecting Christ when he is in eternity!

QUESTION: Just exactly what does it mean in Proverbs 22:6 when the Lord says, "Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it"?

ANSWER: In the original language, the word for "train up" has to do with the inside of a mouth. To be quite frank, it compares a child with a horse, and his training is compared to the use of a bridle placed in his mouth. James 3:3, "Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body." An untamed or untrained horse has a bridle put in his mouth. That bridle is used by the trainer to teach the horse to obey him in the way the trainer would have the horse to go. Just as the horse trainer brings the horse into submission to the will of the trainer, even so it is our job to train up a child so that he will submit himself to the will of God.

QUESTION: What influence does television have on an infant?

ANSWER: Researchers tell us that very young children watch television for of their waking hours. This limits the growth of a child's brain capacity! It makes him more restless and fussy. It is too noisy and stimulating. It has contributed largely to the changing pattern of behavior among our children. It also takes him away from one of the most important things of childhood and that is reading. I would suggest that if a child is allowed to watch television at all, it be for not more than one hour a day and that the program be carefully chosen by the parent.

QUESTION: During the nine months of pregnancy, what are some things the expectant mother can do?

ANSWER: In general, be as happy as possible. Avoid tension and strife. Be as calm as possible. Live by a planned, disciplined schedule. Think happy thoughts. Read good books, and enjoy the days of waiting. I do not know how much is translated from mother to baby during pregnancy, but I do know that such habits will make for a better mother.

(Much of the material throughout this manuscript pertains to the preparation of the mother for baby's arrival.)

QUESTION: What are some negative attitudes that develop in the heart and mind of the new mother?

ANSWER: The new mother may become unsure of herself. She may feel a sense of inadequacy. Then a new mother may even feel resentment. Up until now her time has been her own. She has been free to go and come. She has not been tied down. Suddenly this freedom has been taken away from her, for the little one demands most of her attention. During pregnancy the mother should be aware of these possible reactions and prepare for them.

This resentment could come because of a false assumption that the baby will draw the mother closer to her husband. Then she finds that this little peacemaker can become a divider, and instead of bringing them together, the newborn can become a wedge to separate them. This possibility should be realized and preparation during pregnancy should be made.

QUESTION: What are some negative things that can enter into the father's mind?

ANSWER: The father could become jealous of the attention his wife gives the new baby. His wife's total life has belonged to him. Now she has so much responsibility for the child, and he may feel abandoned. These possibilities must be considered.

The couple must not only prepare for them, but the young mother must give extra attention to the husband, and both of them must work hard to be close during these important days.

QUESTION: What is the most important thing for a father to be?

ANSWER: The most important thing for the father to be to the child is a good image. The first idea that the child has concerning what God is like is that of his father. He has never seen God; consequently, his earthly father is an image of his Heavenly Father. Because of this, the earthly father must be as near as possible what the Heavenly Father is. One day the child will know the Heavenly Father in a personal relationship, but until he is old enough to transfer that image, his father is God to him. Now don't misunderstand me. The father is not in a real sense God, but the father represents God and has power of attorney from the Heavenly Father, and he is to present God's image to the child.

QUESTION: At what age should the parent begin teaching the Bible to the child?

ANSWER: I taught the Bible to each of our children as soon as he was home from the hospital. Every night I would tell a Bible story. I would act it out. I would take stories like "Jonah and the Whale," "David and Goliath," "Daniel in the Lion's Den," etc. and tell the entire story using such things as pantomime, monologue, etc. I did this practically every night at bedtime from the time the children were a week old.

QUESTION: At what age should the child be taught the plan of salvation?

ANSWER: I taught our children the plan of salvation regularly from the time they came home from the hospital. Now I do not know when such truths begin to register in the mind of a child. Since I do not know when, I want to be sure I am telling the child the truth of God and the way to Heaven when that time does arrive.

QUESTION: What are the consequences in failing to discipline?

ANSWER: Hebrews 12:8, "But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons." What this verse really says is that an undisciplined child is like an illegitimate child. Because he is not disciplined, he will feel like he belongs to no one and will have the feeling that he is illegitimate. Disciplining with love and consistency gives the child security of sonship and true parenthood.

QUESTION: What are the basic needs of the infant?

ANSWER: Food, sleep, love, expressions of that love, exercise, and freedom from boredom. (For a small infant, exercise is very limited since he is confined to the swinging of the arms and legs. This means that the child should not be covered too heavily and that the room should be kept at a warm temperature so the child can have freedom of movement.)

QUESTION: What is the most common mistake concerning the house itself?

ANSWER: The house is too often designed for adults and not for children. When the child comes, he should be given a room if at all possible that is designed for him. Then the house should take on a new atmosphere. A person should be able to go into any room in the house and realize a child lives there.

QUESTION: Are the child's adult years affected by what happens during the first year of his life?

ANSWER: Definitely! The impact of a child's first year on his adult behavior has been documented again and again. For him to be a well established child in his first year with his emotional needs satisfied will help give him emotional stability during his adolescence and adulthood. Meeting these first-year emotional needs, however, is a great task which requires time and patience. The parent must learn to see the world through the baby's eyes. The parent must realize that the newborn baby is not a vegetable; he is a human being, and the foundation is being laid for an entire life.

QUESTION: Does a baby require extended care by his parents?

ANSWER: Extended care is not as important as the kind of care. The baby needs to feel, even by instinct, a sense of self-esteem. When this is established along with emotional security during the first year of a child's life, it will help him throughout the rest of his life.

QUESTION: Should the mother of an infant ever work?

ANSWER: There is no ironclad answer to this question. My answer would be, "No, unless it is necessary for the mother to help in the making of the living or if the mother is rearing the child alone, such as in the case of a widow, etc." In other words, there are circumstances that would require the mother to work during her child's infancy. This should not be done, however, just to drive a nicer car, buy a nicer home, buy nicer furniture, or enjoy more luxuries in life than could be enjoyed if the mother were at home.

QUESTION: If the mother works, should the father help in caring for the baby, doing housework and other duties which are normally wifely ones?

ANSWER: If both the husband and wife have full-time jobs, then they should share the work at home. The wife, for example, could do the cooking and the washing of the dishes, and the husband could do the laundry and some of the housework. The Bible plan is for man to make the living and the woman to do the housework. If, however, the woman must share in the making of the living, then the man should share in the work at home; that is to say, if the woman must help the man do his part, then the man should help the woman do her part.

QUESTION: Is traveling harmful to a baby or small child?

ANSWER: Usually it is not. Babies seem to adapt easily, and as long as safety rules are adhered to strictly, it should not hurt the baby. It is a good idea, however, to take baby's familiar objects along on the trip. Of course, Mom and Dad are most familiar to him, but he should have his own blanket, pillow, toys, etc. so as to make the car, train or plane as much like home as possible and give a homey atmosphere even to a motel room.

It is also a good idea to keep the baby on schedule as much as possible. Travel changes the baby's routine. The wise parent will try to keep the baby as near to his schedule as possible.

QUESTION: How can I alleviate the baby's fear of going to the doctor?

ANSWER: Make going to the doctor a delightful experience by having some enjoyable things to do on the same trip. Teach the child that going to the doctor is associated with a fun time on the way and returning. The parent could make the trip to the doctor a venture which includes going by the park to swing or going by the amusement park for a few minutes and getting something to eat or drink that the child enjoys. Whatever activities that are chosen should be limited to this one venture-that of going to the doctor. Then the child can delight in the trip to the doctor, and the particular day chosen for this trip can bring a smile instead of a frown to his face.

INDEX


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