FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Getting it Right From the Start

with Brenda Nixon | October 26, 2009
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What do you wish someone had told you when you were first a parent? Today, parent educator Brenda Nixon gives new parents some practical tips for understanding and enjoying their newborn. Find out what a parent's objective should be in those first precious six months of life.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What do you wish someone had told you when you were first a parent? Today, parent educator Brenda Nixon gives new parents some practical tips for understanding and enjoying their newborn. Find out what a parent's objective should be in those first precious six months of life.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were first a parent?

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Getting it Right From the Start

With Brenda Nixon
October 26, 2009
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Brenda:  By the time they are six months they can fuss a little or get frustrated a little bit.  You just stand back and watch and see if maybe they have some calming skills or they are learning to figure out a problem themselves.   What a gift you are giving your child to not just jump in an immediately fix things because you’re not always going to be around to fix things in life.  Your child has to begin learning even at this very young most innocent age to self calm and fix problems that arise in life. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 26th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine.  We have a lot of suggestions for parents of children from birth to age five.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today!  Thanks for joining us. 


Dennis:  Bob, I have a question for you as you start the broadcast.  What do you wish someone would have told you right from the start?  As you and Mary Ann started having children and you were raising infants and moving into the toddler years and preschool what would be among the most important things?   

Bob:  I have thought back because as a parent you do think back and go if you could start over again what would you do different? 

Dennis:  That’s not the question though. 

Bob:  I know.

Dennis:  What do you wish someone would have told you, warned you, educated you with right from the start?   

Bob:  I wish somebody would have started off with me saying and this is going to sound there are listeners who if they don’t understand what I’m saying they are going to think I’ve really gone off the deep end here.  I wish somebody had said you can apply some animal training techniques to your child raising and it will actually serve you pretty well.


Bob:  You know what I’m saying?  I was focused on relationship and this was a new baby and we wanted the relationship to be solid.  If somebody had said there is some basic training stuff you need to do to get the little animals to act the way they are supposed to act if would have been helpful for me.

Dennis:  Our guest is about to break out in laughter.  I’ve got to introduce her so she can comment on this.  Brenda Nixon joins us on FamilyLife Today

Brenda:  Thank you. 

Dennis:  What do you think about what he just said, Brenda?

Brenda:  I think it can be the reverse.   Sometimes you can use child rearing skills on your dogs.


Dennis:  Brenda is a speaker and a writer.  She and her husband have two children and she has written a book called The Birth to Five Book: Confident Child Rearing Right From the Start

Of course Barbara and I just finished a video series that we have been talking about on FamilyLife Today Right From the Start.  So you picked up on something that we are talking about as well.  We both agree on the same thing.  That is that getting it right at the beginning can save you a whole lot later on.

Brenda:  It sure can.  A lot of heart ache.   

Dennis:  You believe that getting a plan from the very beginning is important.  That’s why you’ve written this book, right?

Brenda:  Yes and this book really is an answer to my heart cry because when I first started having children I didn’t feel well prepared and had a lot of doubts.  My family lived far away so I didn’t have the luxury of extended family to help me so I realized that other parents must feel this way too.  In my work since where I go out and speak and work with parents I have found that we are self doubting.  I wanted to give parents the information and the affirmation to do their job and to help them to feel confident at responding to their children. 

Dennis:  The way I would have answered my question was I wish someone would have sat us down and said you need a plan.  You need a very simple plan.  It is very similar to how you answered it Bob except I wasn’t nearly as offensive. 



Dennis:  All the pet lovers just left FamilyLife Today


Dennis:  To answer the question would that have been how you answered the question?  Getting a plan right from the start.

Brenda:  A very simple plan is your goal as a parent is to work yourself out of a job.  So give your children all the skills and responsibilities and inner fortitude and independence that they need to get on in life without you. 

Bob:  Zero to five is pretty foundational in all of that.  A lot of times as parents we think well we want to wait until their verbal skills and their cognition is at a point where we can have these kinds of talks with them about the future and about life but the foundation you lay from zero to five even pre verbal and pre cognition—they aren’t precognition they are thinking but they are not having abstract kinds of thoughts.  You’re still training and teaching early on essential stuff.

Brenda:  Right.

Dennis:  You actually started your book out with a list of things someone had given you when you started out with your children.  Share those with our listeners.  I think a young mom or perhaps a dad who may be wondering why his wife is filled with the self doubt you are talking about.  These could be helpful. 

Brenda:  One thing I didn’t realize and I wanted very much to have my child was the pregnancy a roller coaster of feelings and there were days when I wondered maybe I don’t want to be pregnant.  Maybe I don’t want to have my baby?  Maybe I’m not ready for this enormous responsibility and so the vacillating between wanting a baby and not sure if I wanted a baby came as a surprise to me.  Nobody told me that I was going to have these different feelings. 

I’ve learned that is very normal and very healthy and it is always better to express your feelings to somebody and to vent those than to hold them inside or feel guilty about them.  Another thing is a goal for your pregnancy is a healthy baby regardless of the delivery mode.  A lot of parents have this ideal image in their mind of how it’s going to go when they get to the hospital and what kind of delivery it is going to be.  Nobody can predict the future and we don’t know what kind of delivery situation we will have but the important thing is you have a healthy baby. 

A newborn requires the basic minimum of being fed and loved and a safe place to sleep and frequent diaper changes.  Especially in our economy where parents are trying to stretch a buck it’s important to remember that a new born doesn’t care if they have a fancy crib or bumper pads.  In fact those aren’t even safe for new borns.  Or the latest toys or fancy stroller.  There is some pretty nice equipment out there for babies today but they don’t care.  Just give them that love and basic needs.

Bob:  You are saying the first six months or first year the baby isn’t aware if the stroller has the plushest seats or not.  It’s basically they eat, sleep, pee, and poop. 


Bob:  I mean that’s the first twelve months are that, aren’t they?

Dennis:  You’ve done it again in the same broadcast.


Bob:  I’ve offended more folks?

Dennis:  Certainly not any mom.

Brenda:  Because she can relate.

Dennis:  I appreciated this whole list that you had and if folks want to see the rest of it they can go to on line to to see the entire list of things you wish you’d known from the start.  I think the thing that I underestimated with Barbara was how much this would test the very issue you are talking about her self confidence.  She did not know what she was doing.  She was learning a new role in a new way and our relationship was changing in the midst of this and I as a husband didn’t know what to do with that.

Bob:  Yes, I’ve wondered often why is it that God gives babies to people in their 20s and early 30s?  I feel like I’m so much smarter today.  I don’t have the energy I had back then.  Maybe that is why He gives babies to people in their 20s and 30s.  I just think wouldn’t it be better if we were smarter when we had babies for the first time.  That is what you are saying.  Moms really need someone to come along and give them some of the intelligence that doesn’t come naturally.

Brenda:  Yes.  Parenting is one of the oldest professions but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally.  That doesn’t mean that we understand child development or what is normal or what is not.  It takes the first six weeks for us to get in sync with a new born to understand what the different cries mean and do actually read the baby accurately.  There are just a lot of sincere good attempts to help a baby but sometimes we are second guessing ourselves and sometimes we hit it.  Sometimes we miss. 

I think that parenting does create a lot of angst and guilt so I hope to give parents information about child development and practical answers and stories of what worked or doesn’t work and what other parents think.  I wanted to do it in a very succinct book because busy of parents of young kids don’t have time to read long chapters.

Dennis:  This makes a great baby gift to a first time parent.  I would go to something even more fundamental then necessarily a book and that is someone who has skin on.  Another mom who has been there who can coach you as a young mom and let you know that you are doing just fine.  It’s okay. 

I remember with Barbara when we first started out our marriage she was a bit shy and she didn’t want to make the phone call to someone we were going to church with or a local friend to ask for help.  It wasn’t natural for her to ask for someone to provide that kind of coaching.  I had to say sweetheart you can make that call.  Or maybe a husband can make that call for his wife.


Bob:  I remember the night we called my mom because we had something going on with Amy that we just didn’t know what to do.  She was fussy and crying and my mom was delighted to get the call.  She was thrilled to get a call asking for some parenting advice.  So there are people.  There are friends and family members who would love to help you through these first stages.  


Brenda:  Absolutely.  Unfortunately there are some people who think it’s a weakness to ask for help.  They think they should know this.  Why should you if you’ve never been through it before.  I see it as a strength if somebody wants to learn and will ask advice or read a book or magazine.  I see it as a strength because the great minds are always learning. 

Bob:  Obviously in the first six months of life I was going to say it is pretty simple.  It is pretty basic.  You want to keep that baby safe from harm but beyond that what are the real objectives you have as a mom or as a dad in those early months.  What are you trying to accomplish?   

Brenda:  The two major goals in that first year are the child learns to trust and the child is mastering motor skills.  The child learns to trust or bond and that is very important for the emotional development and the brain development that is going on to lay pathways for trust and bonding.  They need to know that there is someone who is there who is going to value their needs and respond to them accurately. 

And then motor development is the second major learning going on in that first year.  If you think about it a new born is placed in your arms and they can do nothing.  They aren’t even aware of their body.  They are not aware of their hands or their limbs.  They have no head and neck control.  In 12 short months they’re toddling around.  That’s major development in that first year. 

Dennis:  In more ways than one.

Bob:  Absolutely.  What can parents do to answer your question Bob.  First of all respond consistently and lovingly to your baby and develop that sense of attachment or bonding so that the emotional development is strong and secure and then give your child opportunity to move around on the floor or sit up as they get around six months.  Or give them the opportunities to crawl and toddle and exercise their motor skills.

Dennis:  I’d like to add one thing to that and that is a husband and wife, mom and dad, get together and begin to talk about this developmental phase and how they are going to help this child move through these first months and then the first year of their life.  It really is a great opportunity to begin the process of talking about how we are going to raise this child.

Brenda:  Absolutely. 

Dennis:  It comes out again out of a lot of self doubt and a lack of experience but this is ultimately to hammer out the plan.

Bob:  So you are saying that for a mom and dad to spend the first six months and the first year really mapping out their objectives and what they want to see happen in the life of this child and really get a game plan put together not just for the first year but for the child’s whole life. 

Dennis:  What you are going to see emerge are certain themes and we’ve talked about those repeatedly here on FamilyLife Today.  I think the Bible teaches that there are four things that children need—identity.  That’s sexual identity and ultimately spiritual identity.  It’s the first question we ask when they are born.  What is it?  Male or female.  The second thing they need is they need to know how to build relationships and that starts with you as a parent interacting, hugging, and talking with the child as they are infants.

The third area is character development.  That is teaching them to be wise and not foolish.  It’s the development of choosing right and not wrong.  Finally you have to begin with the end in mind.  You have to release your child toward a mission.

Bob:  Working yourself out of a job as Brenda talked about.

Dennis:  It’s back to what she was talking about there.  To take the pressure off, Bob, parents in the first six to 12 months of life are not going to know all the ins and outs around the basics of the plan.  They are going to begin to form it because they are going to see certain things begin to emerge like boundaries, schedules, and relationships.  How are we going care for this child and really provide for them?  You don’t have to have all the answers fortunately but you need to begin to engage mom and dad, husband and wife, around these issues. 

Bob:  Brenda you talked about bonding and motor skills as essential in that first year.  In the area of bonding it is obviously important that there be cuddling and holding,  If you leave a baby alone and if there is no contact with humans that child will die.   

Brenda:  Yes, failure to thrive. 

Bob:   Right.  Isn’t it true though on the other side that there are some parents at least I’ve observed some parents that it is almost like when the child makes any kind of a peep mom is right there  grabbing that baby.  It’s almost like the baby has no opportunity to develop as an individual himself or herself. 

Brenda:  It depends on the age.  Now the first six weeks that is absolutely appropriate because their brain is not developed to the point where they understand cause and effect so they cannot manipulate you and they cannot be spoiled.  Those first six weeks they absolutely need you to hold, cuddle, and rock so do it all with no guilt.  

As they age it’s appropriate to begin backing off just slowly and gently.  Weaning them off of expecting an immediate response so that by the time they are six months they can fuss a little or get frustrated a little bit and you just stand back and watch and see if maybe they have some self calming skills or they are learning to figure out a problem themselves. 

What a gift you are giving your child to not just jump in and immediately fix things.  You are not always going to be around to fix things in life.  Your child has to begin learning even at this very young most innocent age to self calm, to fix problems, and that is even a self esteem builder because we all like to feel independent and that we can handle the problems that arise in life.

Bob:  This is one of the things I’ve observed with first time moms particularly.  It’s very hard for them to back off and let that child be. 

Dennis:  You think.


Bob:  It was the case when we were raising ours.  It’s a part of this I’m a mother now and I must care for this baby.

Dennis:  It’s crying it must be broken.

Bob:  That’s right.


Dennis:  You have to fix it.

Brenda:  There you go and dads too.  I’d like to point out when you are talking about having a plan is even the division of labor—who gets up with the baby in the middle of the night or who feeds the baby or who is going to do the baths and the bedtime routine.  Separate that out and decide who is going to do what because a lot of marital conflict can occur after the birth of the first baby because each may have unreal expectations of their partner and what role they are going to play in the child care. 

I so strongly encourage dads to get involved in the daily care.  The child needs to have the benefit of both parents nurturing, raising, feeding, changing diapers and reading to them and doing all the child care.

Dennis:  I’ve been waiting to ask a controversial question of my own.  Bob kind of started this out at the beginning of the broadcast with his answer to my question. 

Bob:  My child training or animal training tips for parents?


Dennis:  Here is the question and I have to tell you I don’t fully understand this as a dad nor do I understand it as the host of a daily radio program “FamilyLife Today.”  Why this topic is so emotionally charged but it seems to be quite fraught with controversy and that is breast feeding.  Why has this become such a polarizing issue even within the Christian community?  What is going on here?

Brenda:  I thought you were going to say spanking because that is another charged one. 


Brenda:  Okay we’ll start with the breast feeding first.  Of course you know you have the people who are militant and strong who think you have to breast feed or you are not an adequate parent.  I think well, yes, human milk is made for human babies so if at all possible it is the best route to go.  However there are some situations where a mother cannot and she shouldn’t be made to feel less than because she can’t do this one element of nurturing and mothering. 

Certainly you can raise healthy, developmentally strong children using formula but if at all possible please try to breast feed because even those first couple of weeks where you get the colostrum and the early milk is just like liquid gold to a baby’s development. 

Research has shown that the longer you do nurse a baby the longer their immunity system is built up which makes them stronger in resisting certain strains of illnesses.  There is a certain amount of fat in human milk that helps with brain development and milanation and these things are not present in formula.  If possible do it but if you cannot or you choose not to breast feed you shouldn’t feel you are less than a parent.  There are many other ways to love your baby.

Dennis:  Yes, I agree with you.  Don’t let those who may be on the militant side of this topic create guilt and shame.  Instead set your course and get the best advice you can possibly get and make your decision and move from there.  What we are talking about here is one of the most fundamental teachings of the Bible and that is a child is a gift from God.

Brenda:  Right.

Dennis:  It is a great privilege to be able to take that new born baby and I like where you started out at the beginning of the broadcast a healthy new born baby.  Our family has experienced the loss of a new born and we so can take it for granted that it’s going to be an automatic and that you are going to get a healthy baby.  That is not the case but as they come you accept that baby as a gift with everything that is wrapped up in that little life.  You have no idea how God is going to use that little baby in your life to cause you to trust Him. 

Brenda:  Absolutely.

Bob:  That’s going to happen right away because in these early years in the preschool and toddler years as parents you are going to get challenged.  There are going to be times when you don’t know what to do.  I don’t know how to get this baby to stop crying.  I’m not sure what we ought to be doing in terms of discipline or training or instruction.  Brenda’s book is a helpful tool for moms and dads.  It’s called The Birth to Five Book. 

Let me again mention the resource that we have produced here at FamilyLife.  It’s the Right From the Start DVD series where Dennis and Barbara offers insight on early childhood discipline and how we correct and shape the heart of a child. 

There is information about Brenda’s book and the Right From the Start DVD series on our web site FamilyLife 

You can also call toll free 1-800-FL-TODAY.   That’s 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800“F” as in Family “L” as in Life and then the word TODAY.  Someone on our team can let you know how you can get a copy about any of the resources we’ve talked about here today.

We are approaching what Barbara Rainey says is her favorite holiday of the year—Thanksgiving.  When we stop and think about things we are thankful for here at FamilyLife Today one of the things at the top of our list is you.  We are thankful for those of you who listen to FamilyLife Today and get in touch with us and let us know how God is using this ministry in your life. 

We also are thankful for those of you who help support the ministry.  We are listener sponsored and if it weren’t for folks like you who either occasionally or each month make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today we could not continue this daily program.  We are a nonprofit organization and your donations are what pay the cost of the syndication and production of this daily radio program.  We do appreciate that financial support. 

This month if you are able to help with a donation of any amount we have a thank you gift we would like to send to you.  It’s the audio book of Barbara Rainey’s Thanksgiving:  A Time to Remember.  This CD tells the story of the first people who came from England to settle in America.  This has been produced and read by a dramatic actor.  It’s got sound affects and music.  It really brings to life the thanksgiving story and the CD is our thank you gift to you when you make a donation this month in support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today

If you are making that donation on line at FamilyLife you can type the word “THANKSGIVING” in the key code box on the on line donation form.  Or if you call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone just ask for a copy of the Thanksgiving audio book and we are happy to send it to you.  Again, I want to say thank you for your financial support.  We do appreciate you.

Tomorrow we are going to be back to talk more about the issues facing parents as you raise your kids through the toddler years.  We are going to talk about what happens when the kids won’t stay in bed at bedtime and other issues like that.  I hope you can tune in for that. 

I want to thank our engineer Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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