by Dennis Michelson
Ecclesiastes 12 and Romans 12:1-2
Introduction: The cover of Time magazine caused quite an uproar this past week. In probably no other culture but ours would such a cover cause such an outcry. The question though, is worth exploring on this Mother's Day - ARE you mom enough?
1. Psychological Considerations
One wonders what Freud would have said about the cover of Time magazine. It depicted a child of over three years of age standing next to his young mother and it was clear that the child was nursing. Freud warned in 1905 that weaning a child too early or too late would lead to maladaptive oral fixations in adulthood.
He was also famous for the Oedipus complex theory, where a son's attraction to his own mother might lead him to have a desire to kill his own father. Thankfully, Freud's postulations have pretty much been discarded in favor of more modern approaches alligned with what is popularly called "attachment parenting" (no pun intended).
Some advocates of this approach might advocate things such as parents sleeping with their children and sometimes breastfeeding until the pre-kindergarten stage of development. Of course the editors of Time accomplished their purpose - provoke discussion and sell magazines!
The advocates of attachment parenting tend to follow eight guiding principles: prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting; feed with love and respect; respond to the child with sensitivity; employ nurturing touch as much as possible; ensure safe sleep both physically and emotionally; provide consistent and loving care; practice positive discipline; and strive for balance in personal and family life.
Some of these principles seem to be drawn from John Bowlby's Attachment Theory in which attachment is described as the lasting psychological connection between human beings. Bowlby believed that the tendency to make strong emotional bonds with particular individuals was a basic component of human nature. Of course he was influenced to some extent by Freud and to a greater extent Charles Darwin.
Bowlby posited four characteristics of attachment: Proximity Maintenance, or the desire to be near people we are attached to in life; Safe Haven - the returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety when faced with a fear or threat; Secure Base - the attachment figure (person) is an anchor from which the child can venture out and explore the environment; Separation Distress - or the anxiety that occurs when the attachment figure is absent.
Some of these contemporary theories are aligned to some extent with Dr. Harry Harlow's work in social behavior. Harlow theorized that humans have a universal need for contact. Harlow's famous wire/cloth "mother" monkey studies showed that the need for affection could create a stronger bond between a mother and infant than did physical needs such as food.
His research suggested the importance of the bonding between mother and child. So the child not only looks to the mother for basic needs such as food, safety and warmth, but also needs to feel love, acceptance, and affection from the caregiver. His results showed some of the long-term psychological/physical effects of neglect or inadequate attentiveness to the needs of the child.
In summary, psychology tends to recognize the importance of the mother/child relationship, although they would speak more in terms of "primary caregivers" as alternate attachment figures.
2. Cultural Considerations
Roles determine relationships. Of course one of the primary reasons our culture has experienced a crisis in relationships is due to the confusion concerning roles. Notice Romans 12:1-2 carefully. The Apostle states in verse 2 that believers (including mothers) need to stop being unduly influenced and conformed to the world system (dominant culture).
His point is that if a mother is not constantly undergoing a renewing of her mind then she will not be able to discern the will of God for her life - and the life of her children. Sadly, some professing Christian mothers know more psychology than theology and pursue their own will rather than God's will. This is a hard saying.
Rather than list a number of specific culture issues, allow me to state an important principle - conformity to the world means that we operate in accordance with self-will in opposition to God's will. Read I John 2:15-17 carefully. When a mother focuses on that which is passing rather than that which is permanent then she is "sacrificing the permanent of the altar of the immediate." The decline in our society and culture stems from mothers (and fathers) pursuing self-will rather than humbly seeking God's will.
3. Biblical Considerations
The following three principles, drawn from Scripture, serve as an excellent starting point for all mothers (and grandmothers).
(1) Love the Lord - If your "vertical" relationship is not right with God then all of your "horizontal" relationships will suffer accordingly.
(2) Love the Father of Your Children - I cannot say it enough. The best way for a mother to love her children is to first of all love their father. Children are excellent observers but lousy interpreters of what they witness in the home. When you display anything but love and respect in the home then you might as well brace yourself for the inevitable fallout that will come later.
(3) Let Them Learn - Eventually your children will reach an age where they need to understand that they are ultimately accountable to God. At some point it becomes counterproductive for you to keep yanking on the umbilical cord.
Note: My apologies ladies if this seems a bit slanted toward the females. Remember, Father's Day is just around the corner. If you would like a full-length audio version of this message (complete with Southern accent) then visit FaithBaptistOH.org.
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