Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Catch 'Em Off Guard!

My children, I believe, have come to expect my reactions most of the time. They know if they are whining, I am going to ask them to repeat it nicely--which may or may not happen. They know if they are bickering that I am going to give them one warning to play nicely and treat one another with love. When that doesn't work, time-out is next! I try to be consistent in my disciplinary tactics, and for the most part I think that is well and good. However, sometimes it seems as if the same disciplinary measures over and over don't seem to yield any real changes.

So, I am proposing an amendment to my steady rule of consistent discipline. Sometimes (when I am clever enough or the mood strikes me just right) I am going to change it up a bit! I am going to catch 'em off guard! Well, I remember doing this one time with Luke and it was like an immediate answered prayer--which is rare! He was having a melt-down of some sort and was in need of some serious discipline. Well, instead of beginning whatever course of discipline I would normally use, I said "Come here Luke." And, what happened next made a world of difference almost immediately. I pulled him close and gave him a hug, a nice big, squeezy hug (as my 7 year old would call it). I think I actually felt the tension in his body--and mine--leave during that squeezy hug. No discipline was needed!

This morning, on our drive home from taking my son to preschool, my 3 year old lost her shoe in the car (translation: she kicked off her flip-flop), only to ask for it a second later. For whatever reason, Ella enjoys a struggle, an argument; I think it's the red hair! When I told her I could not reach it and she could not unbuckle to get it, the fussing began. Now, normally, I would attempt to ignore the fussing (which never deters her). After I become frustrated listening to it, I usually warn her that she will be disciplined the moment we arrive home (which often does not deter her). What to do? So, as she began fussing, whining, almost crying for her shoe I said to her, "Ella! Tell me all the ways that crying will help you get your shoe! Go ahead!" I said this in the most upbeat, pleasant voice I could muster. It worked almost immediately! I think it just completely stumped her. She had no idea what to say and therefore was quiet--from there on out.

So the amendment goes as follows: When ye are tempted, once again, to begin the traditional methods of verbal correction and discipline (that often do not yield success), consider an unexpected--possibly shocking--new method of deterring your little angel! Sometimes it is for your own sanity, especially if chocolate is not within arm's reach! Sometimes it is for comic relief! One such story comes to mind: my son Luke was playing in the sandbox with his brother and sister and he began to become upset each time one of them invaded his area (in one of the largest residential sandboxes I've ever seen). He was just being a bit cantankerous. So, out of the blue I said "Luke! You have on a yellow shirt, and I have on a yellow stop fussing!" There is no logical reason why this should have mattered--it certainly made no sense--but it worked! He looked at me and smiled! Back to work he went without any more fussing or complaining. (My husband and I laughed about it the rest of the day!) So I encourage you to give it a whirl! Get creative! Have fun with it (I know I do)! When you catch 'em off guard, you just might get the exact behavior change you were hoping for.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Practice Makes Patience: The Lesson I Learned From "Evan Almighty"

My husband and I picked up the movie "Evan Almighty" with Steve Carell quite a while ago, but we hadn't watched the whole thing. My children ended up watching it several months ago when they were at Grandma & Grandpa's house. They seemed to enjoy it tremendously, so we decided to give it another try. Of course, watching it with our children, who are so easily amused, made the movie enjoyable for all of us. We have to rewind it to the first song of the closing credits again and again because it's great dance music; my kids try all kinds of new dance moves and end up in hysterics. Some movies are fun for us all!

In the climax of the movie, God, played by Morgan Freeman (as one would expect) speaks to Evan's wife about prayer. He reminds her that when someone prays for something specific, God gives that person the opportunity to see that specific something change. For instance, when someone prays for their family to become closer, God gives the family opportunities to grow closer. When someone prays for patience, God gives that person opportunities to become more patient. I've spent many years hearing people in church say, "Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it." You know, be careful if you ask God to give you a deeper compassion for hurting and lost people, because He'll probably send you to live in some third world country for five years. Really! This be careful what you pray for notion has kind of messed with me for some time. In certain areas of my life, I would pray and then have some skepticism about what would happen next. I mean, who wants to pray for patience if the answer is going to come in a book entitled, A Hundred Ways You Will Feel Impatient Today? In some areas, I really did hesitate before I prayed. Maybe it would just be better not to pray about this thing....

Well, I am going to humble myself right now and admit that all of this became so much more clear to me after thinking about how Morgan Freeman said it. That figures! Well...Morgan Freeman and the most recent transition of home schooling my first grader. My husband and I made the decision mid-summer that I would home school my first grader this year. There are several reasons behind this, but for this year it turned out to be the best decision for our family. So, weighing it all out and deciding if I could do this lent itself to a bit of soul-searching and some changes in perspective, which is all good. My greatest concern, however, was in the area of my patience, or lack thereof. I would like to go on record declaring that I am one of the most loving and patient moms anyone could ever meet. But...that would be stretching the truth! Before I became a mom, I most likely considered myself to be a very patient person. Honestly, I can't remember ever examining the idea of patience so intensely as I have since becoming a parent. I mean to tell you, it's a daily struggle now! Each and every day my darling children provide me with such a wide variety of opportunities to show patience, bless their generous hearts!

And, don't you know, that each and every time I begin to pray that God will give me a patient heart, I hear that be careful what you ask for in the back of my mind gnawing at me. Then I hesitate again, if it's this much of a struggle now do I want it to get worse? So, I sometimes back off and decide to just pray for my friends, as Job did!

Well, the climax in my story is that after several days of home schooling my son (all the while taking care of my other 3 children, my home, grocery shopping, laundry, the budget, etc.), I realized that I have felt more patient in my heart and in my reactions than I have felt in a long time. I was astonished! How could this be? I am balancing more on my plate throughout the day than I have since becoming a mom. This home schooling is no easy task. Teaching my 7 yr. old to become a more proficient reader is no easy task! But, I am becoming more patient each and every day. In celebrating this discovery, I remembered Morgan Freeman's words (well...paraphrased, that is). He told Evan's wife that if someone prays for patience, God gives them opportunities to become patient. I just always looked at this the wrong way! God didn't give me a hundred ways to feel irritated or impatient over the last week or so. He gave me many opportunities to practice patience. I have found myself practicing patience because I really have no other choice. Well, I do have another choice, but I have realized that I am becoming more patient because of this decision to home school. As I said, there were several reasons behind the decision to home school, but God developing patience in me was not atop my list of considerations. Yet, here we are! God is developing patience in me!

The climax of my story is that stretching myself to do more than I was even sure I could handle, is causing me to become a more patient person. Having to balance many tasks and responsibilities throughout my day is proving to be more of a blessing in my life than I thought possible. Yes, it's early. Yes, I'm sure my children will continue to try my patience when they see fit. But, I am learning that practice makes perfect (just as I tell Jaden about handwriting and reading). And, practice makes patience--or, at least in my case. I may be a special case (and from time to time I like think I am) but most likely I am the same as anyone out there. We hesitate to make a decision, or utter a prayer, that could test us. We don't want to fail. What we need to realize is that God tests us with good things--good opportunities! He knows what we need long before we realize it. I believe also that He knows how best to get us there. So, as I teach my son to read, write, add, and subtract, I am allowing myself to learn to be a more patient person. As I encourage him to slow down and sound out the words, I am reminding myself to choose patience. As I take a break from our history lesson to solve a toddler dispute or comfort my tired baby, I am practicing patience. So, thank God for "Evan Almighty" and the profound lesson that Morgan Freeman shared with me. When I chose to ask God for patience, He provided me with an opportunity to home school my first grader. I am learning each and every day to practice patience. For that, I'm thankful.