Large Family Parenting Style: 4 Moms

Large family parenting style is today’s topic for 4 Moms, 35 Kids: How Moms of Many Manage

This weeks topic came from a reader question.

Do you have a particular parenting style you use? Has it changed as you’ve had more children?

moms of many manage

I do not believe that there is one right way to parent nor one correct parenting style.  There are a lot of books and teachers who say the opposite, but I’m convinced that there is great danger in a method that takes principles from God’s Word and ends with the conclusion that the bibilical way to parent is to have your child on a 3 hour feeding schedule by 6 weeks (or whatever other ‘biblical’ standard that’s not actually found in the Bible). I’ve posted my concerns about this type of dogmatic teaching about parenting in the past (read the discussion in the comments to see what I believe are some of the specific errors).

That said, there are biblical principles that every parent must apply, however, these will look differently with different parents, different children and different circumstances. I will share some of our specific applications of these principles, but they are simply that, our applications of  principles we find in God’s Word.

Our parenting style has changed over the years, but the primary reason is that our circumstances have changed.

When we had four children 3 and under I needed to nurse the baby, get 4 small children dressed and bathed (including diaper changes), get myself bathed and dressed, make 5 beds, start laundry, make breakfast, set the table, spoon feed one or two little ones, wipe 4 small faces and 4 sets of hands, take a couple littles to the bathroom, clear the table, wipe down the high chair, brush everyone’s teeth, tackle the inevitable disaster that one (or more) of the little ones created, nurse the baby, take little ones to the bathroom (again) and by then it was time for lunch. My parenting style needed to be very organized in order for me to accomplish all of my responsibilities and, generally speaking, I did not have time to accomplish anything beyond the necessities. I wasn’t as laid back as I am today and we expected more from our children at a younger age.

Today, it’s much easier to head to the park, feed the baby on demand, finger paint or run to the grocery store. I’m not spending all my time surviving, I’m able to do some of the extras that would have been extremely difficult 11 years ago. This allows me to parent more how I prefer to parent and it allows me to be more of a ‘Yes Mom

Some basic parenting principles

Children need parents. This is obvious in the design of creation. Biblically, children are only created within the protection of a marriage covenant.  It’s obvious in God’s protection of marriage and abhorrence of divorce and it’s obvious throughout Scripture as you see that the commands about raising, training and teaching children are directed to the parents.

Our personal application:

We generally chose to maintain the family unit. We rarely use babysitters to go somewhere without our children. When Mark and I wanted to have a ‘date’ we planned creative ways to spend time alone together. When I needed to go to the OB or run errands I took all the littles with me.

Now that we have children old enough to babysit it’s much easier for Mark and I to spend time alone together. We try to regularly get out for a quick lunch together while the children eat at home. Other than that we don’t leave our kids unless they wish to be left (our big kids sometimes enjoy staying home and reading, playing games or catching up on school work). I still head to the grocery store and the OB with several (or all) children in tow.  Running errands with little children is a special blessing to both them and to me.

We’ve chosen to homeschool. We believe that God had a good purpose when He gave the responsibility for educating children to the parents and we believe that the best way to fulfill this responsibility is to educate our children at home by following the patterns that God has given us in His Word.

We focus on our marriage. Yes, we believe that a good marriage is an important part of parenting.

Children need God.

Our personal application:

We pray and beg that God will see fit to save our children and that they will love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

We focus first on our relationship with God and next on pointing our children to that relationship.

I recently had a conversation with some of our middle children (6-9 years)  about their Bible reading and prayer life. It was lovely to hear about the habits that God is forming in their lives, not because it’s something that we require and check up on (although we do require daily Bible reading), but because they recognize that Mark and I really do believe that relationship with God is more important than learning to read (or anything else for that matter) and so it’s become important to them.

Your day to day decisions are vitally important in this regard. It doesn’t matter how often you say that relationship with God is the priority if you don’t demonstrate this by your actions. Are you willing for your child to fall behind in their Bible reading or skip family worship so that they can complete a school assignment or make it to soccer practice on time? This is where our children really see our priorities. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Children need physical care. Food, clothing and shelter are all responsibilities that God gives to parents.

Our application:

We try to examine every parenting decision in light of God’s Word.  We pray that our primary question when we have a newborn who isn’t gaining weight, a 2 year old who won’t sleep or a 10 year old who struggles with unkind speech is what is what does God’s Word say about this.

Children need emotional care, relationship and comfort. In addition to having a clean diaper, being fed and burped and getting adequate sleep, children need relationship and comfort. This seems assumed throughout Scripture as God uses the picture of a mother comforting her child to demonstrate how He cares for Israel. (Is. 66:11-13)

Our application:

Would you like it if your husband came home from work and said, “Well, you have clean clothes, you’re fed and you’re not sick. You must not need anything from me and besides you need to learn to be less dependent on others for your happiness.” and then proceeded to head out to spend the evening bowling? Yet, this is advocated over and over when it comes to babies. Our little ones need their mommies and daddies. (rant over)

We hold and wear our babies. We show lots of physical love to our babies.  We I co-sleep with our babies. We  I nurse our babies at night. We talk to our children. We spend copious amounts of time with our children. We show our children that they are important to us, not because of their accomplishments, but because God created them and they are amazing people. We love being with them. We love getting to know them. We show our children that they are important, not by sacrificing so that they can have the newest, latest, most cool gadget or clothing item but by giving them ourselves and our time.

This is a blessing to the parents as much as it is a blessing for the children. Don’t miss out on time with your kids!

Children need guidance. (1 Thess. 20:11-12) I’ve posted about how children need both discipline and instruction all based on a heart relationship.

What have I left out? What else do you want to know?

Now, head on over to see what the other moms of many have to say about parenting style.

Smockity Frocks
Life in a Shoe
The Common Room

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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23 Responses to Large Family Parenting Style: 4 Moms
  1. Katie
    September 15, 2011 | 11:00 am

    I love this! Thank you very much. I just read the book The Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson and chapter three mentions this. It was such an encouragement. It makes it easier to love and deal with friends who are being obedient to biblical principles, but it doesn’t look the same as the way my husband and I are doing it.


  2. Emily
    September 15, 2011 | 2:26 pm

    I completely agree about children needing their parents. I was recently thinking about how babies can’t eat solids until six months or so, and how I see that as God’s way of telling us that babies need to be close to their mommies. (This was while reflecting on small babies in day care.) We are created to respond in nurturing ways. Children need connection and touch just like the rest of us. If I were crying and no one came to comfort me I’d feel horrible, and that’s not what God does for us either. The best way for small children to feel of God’s love is through the comfort of their parents, in my opinion. It’s nice to hear someone else saying this. I sometimes tear up when I see people trying to shush their crying babies in an infant car seat (at a store or restaurant or church) and I want to just go pick the baby up and hold it!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I agree with you completely. While I have breastfed all of our babies, I’ve never pumped and given bottles in order to be away from those babies. I think that God’s optimal design was for a baby to stay with it’s mom, so that when it was time for baby to eat the mommy would hold the baby and feed it. 🙂


  3. alicia
    September 15, 2011 | 2:34 pm

    Thank you Kimberly, for putting written words to my heartbeat for my children!


  4. Jessica
    September 15, 2011 | 4:14 pm

    I’ve been following you for about a year now Kimberly, never comment but am constantly blessed by you! What an encouragement to hear where you have come from in regards to parenting styles. I am at that season of life you described (with 4 4 and under) and it requires much effort and plenty of His bountiful grace each day to move past “surviving” 🙂 I say that with joy and laughter because I have nothing to complain about. I have full hands and am thankful they are not empty. I often feel discouraged though that I can’t be so laid back as a mother right now. I want to be more of a “yes” mom but it seems that if I were, everything would fall apart by 10am!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:


    May God bless you with strength as you enjoy your busy days.

    My four children who were once age 3 and younger are now all teens and pre-teens and with them we have all sorts of adventures with our ‘now’ little ones. Watching our teens interact with our babies is a special blessing that I didn’t even imagine before.


  5. Claire
    September 15, 2011 | 5:44 pm

    Hi Kimberly,
    Your blog is such an encouragement to me and I have been following for quite some time now. I love this post, and I have a 2 yr old and 4 month old. I just have a practical question about how to handle a whiney toddler. I usually try to remind her to use her words and to make a joyful noise not a whiney one, but I wanted to know if you have a better example of how to deal with this issue biblically. Thanks so much!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Claire,

    It sounds like you’re doing a great job with your toddler.

    We also role play, actually practice the non-whiny words to say and practice saying them in a big boy (or girl) voice.

    Also, if our children knowingly chose to disobey us by whining once they understand what we expect of them, we treat that as we would any other form of disobedience, with loving discipline and correction.


  6. Cassie
    September 16, 2011 | 12:32 am

    I would like to know more about you co-sleeping with your babies and at what age you stop that. I always thought it was bad for your marriage but you guys seem to be ok in that regard:) We love having our son sleep with us but for some reason we thought it was very important to have him in his own bed at a very young age. Those reasons are foggy now.


    AKH Reply:

    I would like to hear more about co-sleeping too. My fifth baby has been fully co-sleeping with us; my other children were fully cosleeping until about 3 months and then part timers until about 8 and then completely in their own bed. My baby is now 15 mo. and while co-sleeping is still working well for us at night, I cannot seem to get him to nap by himself during the day. Do you wear your older babies during nap time; would you recommend letting him CIO for nap since he isn’t an infant anymore? I just want some practical advice about how to gently transition him out of our room.

    I appreciate your post so much. I too have never pumped (except for relief from being engorged with a couple of babies). I love mothering my babies and absolutely love reading about how you do the same. If my nursing infants are welcome somewhere that I want to go, I just don’t go!

    I appreciate your views on parenting. Well said.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Great question.

    Our first baby that co-slept not only at night, but also during ALL naps was Bella and it kinda threw me for a loop as we ran into the difficulty of her not getting enough sleep.

    Bella was a difficult baby. She did not want to be worn, she preferred us holding her with our arms and she would not sleep in a carrier (Moby or Ergo).

    Bella literally NEVER, not one time, slept outside of someone’s arms until she was close to 6 months old. She never fell asleep in the car (that did not make for pleasant car rides), she did not sleep when she was being worn, she did not sleep in a swing, or bed or chair, only in someone’s arms. I couldn’t even rock her to sleep and then lay her down as she would wake immediately.

    So, with Bella we worked on gradually teaching her to nap on her own when she was around 5-6 months old. All of our other children had napped on their own at least part of the time from the time they were smaller than that and I think if we were faced with this again, I would aim for that.

    Certainly, children need guidance, even when they are very young and for Bella, I think it would have been more kind to encourage at least some independent sleeping a little earlier than we did. 🙂

    Did that answer your question or confuse the issue further?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Cassie,

    I would probably be kicked out of the co-sleeping club, but this is how it works in our house.

    From the beginning we have a baby bed (a bassinet or pack and play) set up right beside our bed. Some of our babies have slept in that for naps and some of our babies have gone down for the night in that, but it’s always available if we want to have the baby out of our bed.

    With several of our babies, I’ve simply nursed them to sleep while Mark and I were up and then when it was time for bed we just took them into the bed with us. Sometimes after one of the night feedings, I would put them into the bassinet and other times they would just stay in bed with us all night.

    Some babies nursed to sleep and then I would lay them down in the bassinet and they would sleep there until the first night feeding when they would come into bed with us.

    It all depends on the baby, their preference and personality. I had one baby who did not want to sleep with us at all. Go figure.

    Generally we find there comes a time when it seems the baby is being awakened by US. When this happens we transfer them either out of our bed or the bed out of our room, depending on where they are spending most of their sleeping time. (Again, this is based on what they seem to want.)

    Our little ones have all been out of our room by their first birthday, some as early as 7-9 months. Oh, and we’ve never had any issue at all with the transition, perhaps because it’s gradual and we generally take our cues from the baby.

    Did that answer your question?


    Allie Reply:

    As another co-sleeping mama (although we are much less structured with our sleeping arrangements & our babies/toddlers/preschoolers share our bed quite a bit longer, hehe) I just have to add a couple book recomendations to this string of comments… 🙂

    1. Good Nights: The Happy Parents’ Guide to the Family Bed (and a Peaceful Night’s Sleep!) by Jay Gordon

    A very encouraging book that addresses almost any concern or question you may have about co-sleeping & includes many studies & research that show Joe beneficial co-sleeping is. Disclaimer: this is a secular book & refers to evolution-type thoughts a few times, but I simply skipped over those parts or read them with a grain of salt! 🙂

    2. The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night AND The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers: Gentle Ways to Stop Bedtime Battles and Improve Your Child’s Sleep (this book was much more helpful for us & our situation) by Elizabeth Pantley

    Both books were available at my local library, but I do intend to purchase the second one to have at home for future reference. These books are, in my opinion, a perfect balance of loving night time parenting yet still teaching your children healthy sleep habits. The author is extremely supportive of breastfeeding as well, which is very encouraging. Disclaimer: More secular books, so therr are some references to “partners” & other “politically correct” terms are occasionally used.

    Hope these help anyone who is interested in co-sleeping. My husband & I can’t imagine not having that special bonding time with our children! 🙂


    Allie Reply:

    Forgot to mention what a fantastic post this was, Kimberly. You are such a blessing to me! 🙂


  7. In the Nursery of the Nation
    September 16, 2011 | 9:40 am

    Kimberly–I am a fairly new reader. Just had to send a great big thank you for this post– exactly what I needed to read today.

    We too are co-sleepers, although not militant about it. My 13 mo old is still sleeping with us but we are transitioning him to his crib. We recently got him to the point of falling asleep alone and in his bed. Then he wakes and spends the rest of the night with us. At least this way hubby and I can get to go to bed alone 😉 Not that there aren’t other creative ways to share that alone time, but it is nice nonetheless! Also, we’re expecting number 8 soon, and so I do try to get one baby out of our bed before the next one is born. Co-sleeping and nursing during the night also gives my body more time between pregnancies (although everyone is still less than two years apart 🙂

    My favorite part of your post was not about co-sleeping however, but your statement about priorities. What do we say to our children when their math assignment takes precedence over their Bible? Or if their spiritual life is merely “checked off a list” to ease our conscience. Unfortunately, I can slip into that easily 🙁

    Thanks Again,


  8. Jamie
    September 16, 2011 | 11:32 am

    This post was so encouraging! I agree with so much of it. I was nodding my head in agreement through the part about not leaving our kids with babysitters often and how children need us for more than just their physical needs when I sheepishly realized I just left them for five days!!! :). Granted, it was a very special and rare occasion… I am rejuvenated physically, emotionally, and spiritually! Thank you so much for your encouragement. Your entire family has blessed ours!


  9. Misty -
    September 16, 2011 | 2:56 pm

    Great stuff! But I was wondering, what do your kids do while you are at the OB after the waiting room? Do they come in the exam room with you? I hope this isn’t too personal. I apologize if it is. I am just trying to figure out how I would do that if I ever needed to. I have a grandma that babysits when she can, but she might not always be available.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Typically, they just all came into the exam room with me. They love hearing the heart beat and watching the doctor measure how much the baby had grown.

    I assume that you’re talking about when it’s necessary to have a more involved exam. Thankfully, with my OB, those only occurred a couple times each pregnancy. While they were all small they just came into the exam room with me. There was a little curtain for me to change behind and when the doctor did the exam I was draped with a sheet. I was able to remain completely modest to them.

    By the time our oldest child reached 4 or 5 years (and I thought they would begin to wonder about what the doctor was doing) the children would sit in the hall just outside the exam room door during the exam. The youngest one or ones (who still needed the comfort of mom’s presence or mom’s watchful eye) would still stay in the exam room.

    Often I would hear one or more of the nurses talking with our children out in the hall. Our children loved the nurses at the OB’s office and the nurses loved the children. I honestly miss those days of lots of little ones running around. 🙂


    Misty - Reply:

    Thanks. That was very helpful.


  10. The Momma@The Straightened Path
    September 16, 2011 | 4:00 pm

    This reminded me of a post I read on here a while back that greatly encouraged me. With my first two children I was a Babywise Mom through and through. It became less practical with my third because we needed to be on the go so much with the older two. With my fourth I have all but thrown the book out the window. I am for the first time feeding on demand and not focused on sleeping through the night. He is 7 months old now and this is the longest I have ever been able to nurse! (Go figure, right?lol) I felt encouraged by the post from long ago because you mentioned something about your parenting styles changing/adapting the more you grew personally and in family size. There is nothing wrong with that and I was thankful to have that in the back of my head this go around. I think in some ways with the third child I had been such a big supporter of Babywise in the past that I felt like I’d be a hypocrite if I quit backing it so wholeheartedly. Does that make sense? Anyway, I never let you know that I really enjoyed your blog so I thought I would do so now.


    Rebecca Reply:

    This is an informative comment section, as well as the article itself. Thank you.
    I’m curious about this idea of co-sleeping and feeding on demand while having lots of children. I read Babywise (though I don’t follow it currently) and my thought was that when I have more children (I only have one 10 month old currently) I would need more structure- like feeding and having naps on a schedule instead of on demand.


    The Momma@The Straightened Path Reply:

    I have 4 children so far. 7, 5, 2, and 7 months. Structure IS important for me and mine. We (now) feed absolutely on demand the first 3 months to establish a good milk supply. I do still use the wake/eat/play/sleep cycle that Babywise proposes. This adds much predictability to our day. With my oldest two children I would not give on that routine though unless I knew they were truly hungry OR there was a natural disaster. lol Now, I realize that there are other reasons for nursing besides nourishment. I read an article by Nancy Campbell that explains God comparing his relationship with Israel to that of a mother and her nursing child. There were 4 things that it described nursing to be. Nourishment, comfort, Oh I can’t remember… Here is the article though…
    Hope this helps you along your way.


  11. Kim
    September 23, 2011 | 1:16 am

    Hi, I recently re-visited your site and I am totally hooked on your site now on your family life style and what you believe in (we have many things in common but I only have 3 kids :). I have many questions that I would like to ask you in regards to parenting and some other topics but
    since I’m reading parenting post, I want to ask you or other moms this. Do you have any advice for disciplining a destructive, non compliant 2.5 year old? (DS). This is my 3rd child and I didn’t see this coming so different from the other 2. I discipline him right after he does things that are not acceptable but he doesn’t show much remorse or seem to understand the situation. Among other things that happened today, he bit his older brother’s nose while playing with him, dump (knock deliberately)a water on the nook table, insisting on wanting candy or things out of fridge that I say no to and he screams, throws tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. This happens from morning to night usually (constant battle) and I am very discouraged. He gets into trouble especially when I’m not next to him. I want to know how to lovingly discipline him and teach him to obey from the heart. I know we need lots of prayer so aside from that, I would like other seasoned moms’ advice on how they handled a child like this.
    We only have 3 and would love to have more (actually we are trying and praying for #4) but I wonder how I’ll handle a 4th when I have the situation like this is going on…
    I’m sorry for the long post. Thank you so much for your thoughts on running errands with children also, that gave me much encouragement. Since I homeschool also I rarely have time by myself going shopping but after your posts, I try to embrace the time with the kids. (My kids are 9,5,2).


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