Nurturing is a complex process that is hard to describe. But with your inborn nature to nurture, your awareness of each of these four pillars, and God to guide you, you can use your gifts to nurture your children well.
A nurturing mum provides thorough care that goes deeper than just meeting a child’s physical needs. Defining nurturing in all of its aspects can help parents provide nurturing care that will help their child’s growth and development.
Michelle Beaulaurier, one of nine children, wrote the following to her mother: “I would not be where I am today had you not been where you were! You were my support system, my encourager, my peace, and my challenger to go for it and to use my talents. You were always there to point out my special, God-given talents so that I could reflect upon them and put them into use.”
Michelle’s comments show that her mother provided multifaceted nurturing care for her. This mum undoubtedly went “below the surface” of her daughter’s most apparent needs, meeting her psychological and spiritual needs as well. Unfortunately, many intelligent mums act only on what they see with their eyes and focus only on life’s externals.
A nurturing mum, however, provides the right kind of thorough care that goes deeper. I’m not saying this is easy. Far from it! Daily life requires us to pay close attention to myriad issues. Every day we must decide where our strongest focus should be. We could use more eyes, ears, and intuitiveness — as well as more hours in a day — to address the many details demanding our attention.
Defining the 4 Pillars of Nurturing Children
The right type of nurturing is multifaceted and involves four realms:
- The physical realm
- The mental/intellectual realm
- The emotional/psychological realm
- The spiritual realm
Defining nurturing in these realms can help us to care for our children more deeply. We need to care for our children in all of these dimensions, but we must realise that the needs are unseen in three of the four realms.
1. The Physical Realm of Nurturing
Defining nurturing in the physical realm is somewhat easy because the needs are visible. Providing shelter, food to eat, and clothes to wear are obvious necessities. Being physically around to drive our children to their activities and attend to their health care are just a few of the needs that present themselves in a straightforward manner.
Yet even in the physical sphere, we can go the extra mile with how we nurture our children. It takes work to prepare the right kinds of food and present them nicely. Have you noticed that in Scripture, so much of what is essential takes place around the table? Let’s not underestimate the value that comes from preparing and sharing food. At our house, we have a large table that can serve 14 to 18 people. We’ve served many dinners and enjoyed meals together with others, which teaches children to go and do likewise in their adult life.
Generally speaking, caring for your child in the physical realm should be done in balance. Too little physical care reflects abuse or selfishness when we consistently ignore our family’s needs in favour of our own. Overindulgence, on the other hand, is just as destructive and leads to us spoiling our kids. Giving our children too many things decreases their appreciation for the benefits of work and reduces their incentive to provide a few things for themselves. Pushing a child to reach for physical perfection by demanding the best in appearance or the top spot at beauty pageants and athletic competitions counteracts healthy nurturing, no matter how well-intentioned the parent may be.
2. The Mental and Intellectual Realm of Nurturing
When we delve beneath the surface of our children’s physical needs, we find the mental realm of nurturing. How do we define nurture when it comes to our kids’ minds?
Studies indicate that parents can affect their child’s IQ, interests, and abilities simply by reading aloud to them. According to early education expert and author Betty Bardige, “Reading aloud to young children is not only one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills; it also builds motivation, curiosity, and memory.” 1
Research shows that when you read aloud to your children, you expose them to more words, which improves vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, and general knowledge. Vocabulary is closely related to academic success, and it’s a key area on IQ tests. One study shows that as early as age two, children who are read to regularly display greater language comprehension, larger vocabularies, and higher cognitive skills than their peers. 2
Researchers have also noted a connection between a child’s IQ score and how well that child is attached (or bonded) to his or her mother. One study of 36 middle-class mothers and their three-year-olds discovered that securely attached children scored 12 points higher on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale than insecurely attached children.3
So you see, research continues to prove the all-around importance of good mothering. Mums, you have such an opportunity to enhance your children’s intelligence and even social success. Your role is irreplaceable.
And of course, being involved in your child’s education will be best for your child. Numerous studies prove this too.
3. The Emotional/Psychological Realm of Nurturing
While providing superior educational opportunities is essential, an even deeper need may remain unnurtured in nurturing the psychological or emotional realm. Because many aspects of a child’s identity exist internally, parents often possess a blind spot for these “unseen” dimensions and have trouble defining nurture in these areas.
But unseen doesn’t mean unimportant. Erica Komisar states: “The more emotionally and physically a mother can be present for a child in the first three years, the better the chance that child will be emotionally healthy and mentally well.” 4
Mums, we need to meet this emotional/psychological level of need and can do this in so many ways. We can nurture our children emotionally and psychologically by the words we say to them and the messages we send them through our body language and tone of voice. We can prevent or patch up emotional holes in our children’s hearts by developing the art of nurturing. It takes a lot of unselfish creative work to do it right.
Let’s talk about the heart. Both the physical and the emotional heart are unseen. Each needs to be fed, nurtured, and exercised to grow and function efficiently. Keeping each strong is essential.
When our awareness is heightened, we will find pleasure in doing those seemingly lesser things that strengthen the child’s inner being. Care of the emotional heart allows it to produce healthy fruit. What is flowing out of the heart at your house? Defining how to nurture in this area and making solid emotional connections prevents possible “heart” failure later on in life.
4. The Spiritual Realm of Nurturing
Delving further, we reach the most crucial aspect of a child’s development— a spiritual foundation. Without a relationship with Jesus Christ and following the Creator’s design, who knows best, we live a self-oriented life without true wisdom or direction. Nurturing the spiritual dimension in our children is the most important job we could ever have.
Without a foundation, any house crumbles. Without spiritual development, our lives are incomplete and destined for trouble, to put it mildly. When you follow the nurturing opportunities described in Deuteronomy 6:7 (when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise), you can help your children learn to know and live out the principles of God. Reading bedtime stories and praying together are two natural times to share spiritual tidbits. Driving your kids to the orthodontist, ball practices, or music lessons is a great time for conversation. Maybe you can offer spiritual direction while assembling a puzzle or working on school projects together.
The Ultimate Comfort of Christ
Whenever our children mention fears or worries, we can point them to the ultimate comfort of Christ because we’ve had worries and have been comforted ourselves. One mother whose child had frequent bad dreams used the opportunity to pray with her child, asking for God’s comfort and help in replacing the bad thoughts with good ones. Confidently and continually, the mother helped the child to stay in her own bed, teaching the child to trust and believe in God’s watchful care. What an incredible opportunity we have when we are side by side with our children during this 20-year window of time.
When either a family member or close friend dies or something very traumatic happens in your family, displaying the strength of God through it will help your kids mirror the same. When we seek refuge in God and His perspective, we show our kids how to trust a very big God. He can take us through this trauma. Life isn’t easy: It’s full of trouble, but we have a rock in our God. By nurturing their spiritual development, we give our children the tools to handle all of life.
Does Your Child Feel Nurtured?
Whenever I tried doing too many things when the kids were young, I felt their uneasiness and insecurity. Their responses reminded me to maintain that secure base at home and let go of some of my outside involvements, even though we desperately needed money that I could have earned.
Created to Nurture
I realise that, for many reasons, all women are not mothers. But all women are born to nurture — it’s who we are. In God’s economy, the general plan is that women give birth to babies. He has biologically created us so that the changes in our hormone levels promote bonding to our infants and our desire to care for and nurture our babies when we give birth. As a beautiful feminine creature, you possess unique gifts to nurture. You have the ability to nurture; you just need to make sure your children are feeling nurtured.
When our children feel nurtured, it enables them to thrive and be secure. On the other hand, if they don’t feel nurtured, they feel insecure. That sense of insecurity will lead them to pursue security through different, negative ways, such as alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, or sexting, leading people to lie, cheat, steal, and do damage. So then, we want to do everything possible to help our kids feel nurtured.
Develop Your Own Self-Esteem
How do we do that? Before you become a mother, one of the best things you can do is develop your own healthy self-esteem. After we become mothers, we need to be sure that our self-esteem source doesn’t depend on our children. When we know who we are and seek guidance and reinforcement from the right places, we won’t force our children into moulds they were never designed to fill. That means not forcing them to look good because it will reflect well on us. Children gain the power to be their best when we are free to give sacrificially of ourselves without stipulation or conditions. Sensing our fulfillment, they will model their own healthy self-esteem on ours. And they will feel nurtured.
Remember, your nurturing and giving have a purpose.
Many mums have good intentions and are simply unaware of the nuances of nurturing in those emotional/psychological and spiritual realms. How do we define nurturing? What might we be doing or not doing that gives our children negative feelings and thus negative behaviour? It’s good to evaluate from time to time.
Defining Nurture Is a Complex Process
I am overwhelmed when I think of all the ways mums can make an impact. Raising children does take time and effort. Nurturing in each of these realms requires much energy simultaneously.
Defining nurturing is a complex process. But with your inborn nature to nurture, your awareness of each realm, and God to guide you, you can use your gifts to nurture your children well. Remember, your ability to nurture makes good things happen. A nurturing mum’s process creates an environment for a good harvest.
May your children one day do as Proverbs 31:28 says: “Her children rise up and call her blessed.”
Betty S. Bardige, Talk to Me, Baby! (Baltimore, MD: Paul H Brookes Pub Co., 2009).
H. Raikes, B. A. Pan, G. J. Luze, C. S. Tamis-LeMonda, J. Brooks-Gunn, J. Constantine, L. B. Tarullo, E. T. Rodriguez, “Mother-child book reading in low-income families: Correlates and outcomes during the first three years of life.” Child Development, (2006) 77(4).
L. E. Crandell and R. P. Hobson, “Individual differences in young children’s IQ: a social-developmental perspective,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, (1999) 40(3):455–64.