Of Children, Frustration, And Shoeboxes

I've been having plenty of frustrating moments with Nils lately. Not a lot, but enough to know that I am not always responding in the best ways. He does a lot of not-listening. He does a fair amount of outright disobeying. He does a large amount of dawdling. Today after 10 minutes, he did not have is shoes on, and don't often have the time to sit and make sure he's doing what he's supposed to be doing, nor do I have the permission to always be late to places like work. Maybe all of this is normal for six-year olds. I really hope not.

I know I'm not responding well. His actions frustrate me more than they should. And I know he's hearing way too much negative things from my mouth than he should, too.

I was reflecting at church tonight that my focus is off. I am frustrated because he's not obeying. And that's legitimate is many ways, but I realized I don't want a kid who just obeys (as nice as that may be). There will be times in his life where he shouldn't obey--times when he needs to stand up against his peers, stand up for what is right, stand up for justice. And obedience is just an action. It's something we train dogs to do. I'm not a trainer; I'm a parent.

What I need to refocus my desire on with my children is love. That's really what I want. I want them to love me. I want them to love others. I want them to love God. Now, obedience is typically an outcome of love--but it's not the main goal. So what I need to focus on is teaching my son to love. I can't do that by getting impatient at him or yelling at him. I can do that through being patient and sowing more words of affirmation and blessing than I do frustration.

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Today the boys and I finished making purchases and putting together shoeboxes with toys, toiletries, and clothes to send to children overseas for Christmas (and, ironically yes, the yelling over the shoe dawdling episode occurred as we were trying to leave to do this). It's something we've been doing the past three years as part of our Advent "routine" to instill a greater sense of benevolence within the boys. We want to stress that Christmas isn't about commercialism and making lists of toys we want. As they get older, I hope we can do things like volunteering at a soup kitchen.

So, we're taking conscious efforts to teach our children to love and think beyond themselves. I just need to show, model, and do it more. Children everywhere need to hear words of love spoken to them far more times than words of anger, frustration, or even impatience. Of course, "out of the heart, the mouth speaks." So the important thing to do when dealing with my children is to make sure I'm building up my heart with the same things that I want to come out of my mouth. I want to speak words of love, patience, and affirmation to my children; I need to make sure my heart is abundant with those ideas.

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