As I talked with a young mom this week, she asked me a couple questions about what I would do with her child as she held onto his screaming self by the wrist. She was frazzled to say the least. I certainly have been there and sometimes still am. As I explained to her what it was I would do, she made the comment that she was just so tired and that what I was explaining would take time and wouldn’t be easy. I recognized the look on her face that said, “Right. Like I’m really going to stop everything I’m doing to teach that to my son. I don’t have time for that. I have dishes to do, laundry to fold, meals to make, errands to run and children to pick up and drop off.”
Well yes, young mother, it does take time to train your children. No one said it would be easy (if they did, they were lying to you). There are no instant fixes in parenthood. I know it’s not easy to make the investment of time to stop and teach your child something they need to learn, but my perspective is that the training of character and skills in my children is the most important thing I do each day. Stopping everything I’m doing to train my children is more important than getting dinner done on time or making sure my house is spotless. And it is most definitely more important than talking on the phone to my friend or responding to e-mail. It’s even more important than my sleep.
Time and entitlement can be our enemy as we raise our children. Having the time to train my children is exactly the reason I pulled everything off my plate this year so that I wouldn’t be wrestling with running out the door when what I really needed to do was stop and train my child right on the spot. Time is exactly what I need to teach my children what is right. I wrestled with this same issue just today because I had already given what I felt was enough time to my daughter and I felt I was entitled to some time to chat with some moms and she was cutting into that time. Now there is nothing wrong with chatting with my girlfriends, but that chat time was trumping what my daughter truly needed in that moment.
As Daughter of Purpose is feeling more comfortable with us and her English is coming along, her real personality is coming out now. What everyone else sees is a happy-go-lucky little girl with a smile for everyone. What I am confronted with every day is a little girl that was the oldest and much loved little girl of the orphanage. As I have witnessed time and again, she is the master of manipulation whether it’s the puppy-dog eyes, the comedy routine, the sassy attitude or the tears…I’m pretty sure she got whatever she wanted while there. She believes the world revolves around her (not unlike many children). It has now become my job to teach her that the world, in fact, does NOT revolve around her. I am here to teach her a whole list of things. The biggest one right now is that there are boundaries. Being funny is okay, but there is a time and place for it. Talking until the ears of her family bleed is not exactly acceptable either. There is a time and a place for talking and when you talk, there are different volumes for talking. Wandering around the house and provoking her brothers and sisters is not a winner of an idea either.
I am exhausted today. I feel like I spent a very large part of my day training my 4-year-old as to what is acceptable and what is not. My daughter’s need to be trained was relentless. I found myself tired and wanting to give up–not wanting to care anymore. I thought about “leaving her to the wolves”, but as I got up from my seat to correct her behavior for what seemed the millionth time I remembered that conversation I had with that young mom earlier this week. I have had that conversation with many moms and I knew it was time to practice what I preach. I knew I needed to stop being frustrated with the amount of time she was sucking from me. Instead, I needed to stop grumbling about what I wanted to be doing and she was stopping me from. I realized that whether I liked it or not, it was obvious she was in need of my constant correction and I needed to do what needed to be done. My avoidance of training her incorrect behavior was only making my life more miserable.
Time after time I have heard these struggles from mom after mom (and this list is certainly not exhaustive):
“I just want them to obey.”
“I want them to stay in bed until 7:00 am.”
“He screams his head off in Target.”
“I want my kids to help around the house.”
“I want her to come when I call her.”
“He shouldn’t talk to me that way.”
“Why can’t they just share?”
I hate to say it, dear mama, but my answer is the same to every single struggle. Maybe it’s really a question. Have you done what it takes to train your children to do what you want them to do? Have you taken the time? Have you taken the time to teach them how to come when you call them? Have you given up your morning of sleep to make sure that your children understand that they are to stay in bed until 7:00 am? Have you made sure your children understand that they are not to speak to you that way and taken the time to make them practice it over and over again until they DO speak to you correctly? Have you taken the time to show your children how to do helpful things around the house?
I would be remiss if I did not also address this question…have you done these things for more than one day? The life of a mother is kind of like the movie “Groundhog’s Day.” You cannot train your children in one day. It will take every day over and over again. The initial teaching will take practice and consistency for at least a week, if not more–until you see that your children are different because of what you have taught them. That is laying the ground work, but trust me, you will have to re-visit whatever you are teaching again. It is the nature of life. Even we as adults do the same thing. Imagine what God thinks of us?
I know it is hard work. I know it takes time, but think of it this way. If you put in the hard work now, you will have it easier in the long run. Here’s an example in my house. I laid the groundwork early on that my children were expected to come when I called them. Now it doesn’t even occur to them to NOT come. It is their habit. When they hear my voice calling them–they come. It didn’t happen over night. It took practice, practice, practice!
With Daughter of Purpose in our home, I now have new ground to break. I also have to swallow the same medicine that you do. My kids were getting older and I had laid that foundation…I was done with this phase of life. Now I am right back there and it is hard! I want the same things as you. I want her to “just obey.” I want her to get rid of the attitude and to stop antagonizing her siblings. I want her to stop being so naughty! But I too have to ask myself the question…have I done the hard work? Have I taken the time to teach her?
For now, I’ve got a heap of work to do. I am tired and do not really want to do what must be done. I just want her to fall into line in our home. Well I have to say to myself, “It ain’t gonna happen that way.” I have a choice to make each day. Will I take the shorter, convenient road that will produce long-term, continual misery and bitterness toward my child or will I take the harder road right here and now, but will be able to rest and enjoy my child in just a little bit? What I want to do and what I need to do are two different things. Which one will I choose? Which one will you choose?