These are some questions I’ve been asked recently so they’ve been on my mind quite a bit:
Can I sleep train my child as a gentle Christian parent?
Can I love my children like Christ loves us and still foster independent sleep for them?
Short answer: Absolutely!
Long answer: Keep reading!
First things first: Please note that it is always to our benefit to read the context surrounding passages instead of just 1-2 verses themselves, so please take the time to explore the context of these references and consult your spiritual leader(s) with additional questions. I make no claim to be a religious leader or pastor and I hold no academic degrees in theology or divinity. I am simply a lifetime believer, mom, PA, and sleep consultant.
Now, back to the answer!
God made us in His image and He is our role model for many things; marriage and parenting are just 2 of those things.
A strong marriage contributes to a solid foundation for parenting, and things like hectic/stressful bedtimes or co-sleeping, for example, are definitely going to get in the way of a healthy marriage at night. But I won’t focus on the marriage aspect for this blog post.
In regards to parenting, God gives us the will to make choices (1 Corinthians 10:23, Galatians 5:13) and to learn and to be autonomous in a world in where there are many ways to do things. In the same way I don’t believe we should take away autonomy from our children by mistakenly thinking that doing things for them is the only way to love them.
One lesson I learned a long time ago (from a children’s pastor!) is this very important note:
God never promised there wouldn’t be storms, but He does promise to walk through them with us!
(John 16:33, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Isaiah 25:5, Psalm 34:4, Psalm 46, Psalm 57:1, Psalm 89:9, Psalm 107:29)
God is our refuge, and He walks with us through life’s storms. We seek Him and try to model this for our children so that they will seek Him as well. But our children need us for refuge, too, and we can practice this from the modeling God gave us through His word.
Our kids are going to not like things. They’re allowed to not like them. Sleep training, or sleep learning, might feel like a storm for a family, but we are NOT leaving our children or abandoning them. We are walking through this “storm” with them.
It’s not our job as parents to stop big emotions from happening – it’s our job to support our kids through those emotions so that they learn the coping skills they need and gain the confidence they need to handle these emotions in the future. We live in a society that doesn’t want to feel. At all. But feelings are important and we should always be prepared to validate our children’s feelings and then guide them through those feelings rather than shoving them deep inside or muting them.
In the grand scheme of things sleep learning is such a small “storm” once we get through the first few hard nights, but it’s very hard to see that when you’re just beginning or haven’t even started yet.
Just remember that you can love your child biblically through learning the skills of independent sleep!
Now you might then be wondering: how can I encourage safe sleep for my child while still connecting and fostering spiritual growth?
Use the bedtime routine to connect even more with your child! This can be an additional opportunity to grow in your faith together. In my own home, before our bedtime prayers, we read 2 books to our toddler at night: one is her children’s Bible (we use this one, not an affiliate link!) and the other is a story of her choice. Our goodnight song is “Jesus Loves Me” and now she loves to sing it herself, too! Finally, our goodnight phrase has always been (since birth!), “Good night. Mama, Daddy, and Jesus love you so much.”
Use this quiet time at night to connect with your child. As they grow older, you might even choose to add in devotionals or moments of reflection as a family. Tie in your faith in a way that feels right and works best for your family.
One last thought: if you are reading this today and you’ve been assisting your child to sleep, this blog post is not meant to pass any judgment or give you a lecture on independent sleep practices. If this works for your family, a safe sleep environment is being maintained, and everyone is getting the rest they need, I celebrate that with you!
But if you’re here because you want to start the journey to independent sleep and you don’t know where to start, please contact me to set up a consultation. I would feel so blessed to guide you and your child every step of whole way.
Wishing you many restful nights,