For this post to make any sense whatsoever, you need to read "Problem Children" first.
It probably should go without saying that not everyone agrees with the way we taught our toddlers to interact with our babies. In fact, we've heard several common objections:
You must be crazy. Why on earth would you go through all this huge lengthy process? Why not just spank the toddler the first time he even looks crossways at the baby?
First of all, it really wasn't a huge lengthy process with the only intent being to prevent the toddler from hitting the baby. If our desire was behavioral conditioning of the toddler, we certainly would have gone about it an entirely different way. But we were setting the stage for a relationship that will last, we hope, our children's entire lives.
My mother was my inspiration for this. She nurtured a very strong bond between my older brother and me. I'll admit that I took her ideas and ran with them.
Frankly, although I may have made our preparations sound tedious and boring, they weren't. It was both fun and easy to talk about the upcoming baby, to practice "gentle", to reminisce about when the toddler was a baby, to laugh about toothless babies, etc.
Weren't you being dishonest when you made it seem as if the newborn baby adored his older siblings?
You know what? I'm really not sure. I do know that my newborns have reacted differently, with something like a focused fascination, to their siblings. And it seems like only a moment before our babies are obviously gaga over the "big kids". If you want to get a tiny four or five week old to laugh out loud, I've noticed, just call in the toddler. It works every time.
Plus, we do all sorts of silly stuff with our newborns. We talk in goofy voices, pretending to be them. We had one put the first ornament on the Christmas tree, despite the fact that he was only about a day old, and sound asleep at the time. We blame the newborn for eating the last of the leftovers or drinking the last of the juice. We pretend the newborn can read. What can I say? We're kinda weird and it's quite possible we were very short on entertainment during our season of having babies. Maybe that's why we saw the enormous entertainment value of our newborns.
But none of our children have complained, "You deceived us! We really believed that Newborn #5 got up in the middle of the night and cooked himself a snack!" And, while our children laughed at the pretend newborn antics and giggled at the idea of the newborn being all crazy about them, none of them ever thought the latter was make believe --- since, before long, it became truly obvious that they baby was crazy about them!
What's the big deal about toddlers hitting babies? Isn't it perfectly normal? Besides, I don't want to raise wimpy kids. I think getting smacked around as a baby helps kids toughen up.
We're just as concerned about what the hitting does to the toddler as about what it does to the baby. To be frank, I abhor bullies. I don't want to raise children who think it is OK to bully tiny, helpless newborns. I don't my children's relationships with each other to be marked by bullying.
Plus, I really don't buy into the idea that being bullied will make someone tougher. I was bullied quite a bit in school, and it turned me into a timid little mouse who, by the time I was in junior high, tried to sneak down the halls as silently and unnoticed as possible, just to avoid my tormentors.
Several studies confirm that being the victim of ongoing bullying typically has two consequences: either the victim becomes somewhat of a wimp, or the victim turns into a bully himself.
But even if that were not the case, I don't see how allowing kids to smack tiny babies is something that fits into a Christian ethic. If offending little children is worthy of millstones, what would Jesus think about us allowing our children to hurt the tiniest and weakest among us? What would He think about our attempting to justify this by claiming it is in the helpless baby's best interest?
Why don't you just admit it? You baby your babies!
Uh, well...yes, I do. And I'll freely admit that I think that babies should be babied. After all, they are babies!
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