Child Training and Sleep Training
Why do I train my children to do or not do certain things?
1. Because the Bible says so. I think the Bible is clear that we are to teach our children God's Law. Thus, our first priority is to teach and train our children to do what is right and not to do what is wrong. Examples: My husband and I train and teach our children not to steal. We teach them to be kind to one another. We teach them to obey us. We teach them to behave politely and respectfully towards others. Etc., etc....
2. Out of good stewardship. Example: I haven't found a single Scripture forbidding dancing on tabletops. But if we let our six children (OK, 5 of them--the baby isn't dancing yet) frolic on top of our dining room table, it wouldn't last very long. So we train our children not to jump on the furniture, eat snacks in the living room, etc. Other families may have different standards and may exercise stewardship over their material possessions in a different way and thus will train their children differently in this area. Good health habits fall in this category as well, since we want our children to be good stewards of the bodies God has given them.
3. Social convention. This really falls under respecting others, but kinda deserves its own category. Examples: if we're visiting someone who thinks children should be seen and not heard, we'll warn the children how to behave. We train them to respect people's wishes as to what name to use when addressing them. We teach them table manners. Etc.
4. Parental preference. I admit it. I have my own quirks. There are some familial standards that have no basis in Scripture, good stewardship, or social convention. But I need to be honest about this. And if I find that I'm making a big issue about "training" my children to do all sorts of stuff just because it's my own whim/pleasure/hang-up, maybe I need to take this attitude of selfishness before the Lord.
What about sleep training?
1. Is it Scriptural? I find warnings about too much sleep in Scripture, but none about too little sleep. Infant sleep isn't mentioned at all. (If I've missed something, I'm sure astute readers will set me straight.) Thus I conclude that infant sleep isn't a Biblical issue. Neither is training our children to be "independent". I would argue that independence is not a Biblical virtue, but will readily examine Scriptural evidence to the contrary.
2. Stewardship--I am not aware of any medical evidence that suggests that babies trained to sleep through the night are healthier in any way than babies who aren't trained. However, I am aware that a number of doctors believe that some sleep training methods may compromise a child's health.
3. Social convention--it might be "in" for babies to sleep through the night at an early age. However, by not training my babies to sleep through the night, I sincerely doubt that I am guilty of treating anyone with disrespect, although perhaps some adamant zealots who are crushed by those who do not jump on the sleep training bandwagon might feel disrespected by my choice. In other words, just because something is a social convention doesn't mean we are bound to do it. We simply cannot please everyone.
Some might argue that, if we don't train our babies to sleep through the night,we are allowing them to treat us with disrespect every time they disturb our sleep. I would argue that I feel far more disrespected when a baby spits up on my one clean Sunday dress just as we're walking out the door to church. Just kidding! However, I don't think baby sleep habits are at all a respect issue.
4. Parental preference--my husband and I have decided that we don't stop being parents just because it's dark outside. We don't suddenly have to be less Christlike at bedtime. And, frankly, we're not as hung up over sleep as we used to be. We have enough baby experience to know that all babies eventually sleep through the night and that parents can cope amazingly well with interrupted sleep. Thank God for this, since during the last part of each pregnancy, neither of us sleeps very well. (My attempts to sneak quietly to the bathroom every hour or so without disturbing my husband usually fail miserably.)
When we decided to get married and have children, my husband and I consciously gave up a lot of our "rights". For example, I gave up my right to have my own bedroom and keep whatever crazy hours suited me. I gave up my right to being selfish about my own body--the Bible tells me that my body now belongs to my husband and Scripture as well as general revelation teaches me that God's design for the family includes my body being available for by babies, in and outside of the womb.
In the early weeks of marriage, I complained to someone that I was convinced that I would never again have a decent night's sleep because I simply couldn't get used to having my husband sleeping next to me and disturbing my sleep. And, I complained, I couldn't function in such a sleep-deprived state. Perhaps we should get separate beds or even separate rooms? Basically I was told to quite complaining and to grow up. Of course married life is different than the single life. Get used to it.
I did get used to it. And I've reminded myself of that same advice over the years. Being a parent is different than being childless, footloose, and fancy free. Grow up. Get used to it.
Just as I discovered that the blessings of marriage far outweighed the inconvenience of having to get used to someone in bed with you, I discovered that the blessing of motherhood far outweighed any inconvenience a tiny bundle of joy might bring.
That's why, quite frankly, I can't understand any parenting program that purports to be Biblical and yet spends so much time emphasizing completely unbiblical issues such as feeding schedules and sleep training.
Just my 2 cents...