“We all have things that we are working on right now,” our middle son reminded us in a very communal, inspiring way.
It’s true, even as parents, we all have ways we are learning and changing.
And with our children, it seems we are constantly training habits and working with them on various skills or character traits.
It’s a weird process, though, because from my own experience with our children, most of the change is happening below the surface, where we don’t get the satisfying benefit of watching the progress. We sound like a broken record – “Did you make your bed? Did you take out the trash?” – and may start to get discouraged . . .
Until one day, all of a sudden the bed was made and the trash was taken out without our reminders.
Those are simple chore habits, but I’ve noticed the same pattern in training manners or character. “Look people in the eye.” “Speak clearly.” “Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.'” “Ask for forgiveness; make things right.” For a time, it seems like they keep “failing.” But then again, one day, we notice that we’re not mentioning them any longer because they are actually taking place on their own! Hooray!
It has been so encouraging recently for me to see this taking place on a few fronts in our family:
- Learning to Say the “R” Sound – Our middle son has struggled with this last developmental sound, and now he is 8 1/2. Over the last few months, we have brought it more frequently to his attention, in a very matter-of-fact way. We told him it was important right now for his age. We gave him some tools to know and use. He decided to really focus on it, and we have seen him make GREAT personal efforts to form the “r” sound in all its 38 forms! I have completely admired his persistence and humility. We would only correct him a couple times a day, and push forward when we heard a more correct formation. But all of a sudden, last weekend, when we were driving home, I had him repeat all the words with “r” sounds that I saw on signs we passed, and he was repeating them soooo well. I was giddy with delight and gratitude.
- Morning Habits – We try to keep things pretty simple around here. But as members of the same family, we figure this operation can run more smoothly if everyone chips in. Laundry, dishes, trash, cleaning own rooms, bathroom and stairs are all outsourced to our kids in the morning. This is one of those drums we’ve kept beating for a while. But all of a sudden just recently, I’ve realized that I’m not having to remind and “push” them along. I hope it stays like this. 🙂
- Eagerness and Willingess to Help – Ideally, our kids will have eyes to see needs and feel compelled to personally lend a hand. While I would love for this to be an authentic intrinsic motivation, when some kids are in this “training process,” it is valuable to model it and also point out and offer opportunities where they can help. I’m naturally more of a “do-it-yourself-er” as a mom, but I recently realized that I’m doing my kids a huge disservice! So, I’ve started to invite them more and more to help alongside me in the kitchen or with cleaning. And this last week, I invited the boys to help me go grocery shopping. What a blast. Riding on Heely’s down the aisle, feeling like they were on a treasure hunt, and then feeling like big-boy gentlemen putting the bags in the car and taking the cart back, they were a huge help. This week, my oldest son even personally volunteered to help set-up a special neighborhood tea party for the girls, carrying tables, making menus, and serving as a waiter. He also offered to help another neighbor fix her Wii, searching online for the problematic issues and tools needed.
- Practicing an Instrument – We now have a guitar player and a violin player in the family. Oh, what fun! Now, for little kids, these instruments have a very difficult learning curve (well, at least for mine, there was much initial frustration trying to remember 100 things about a bow hold or to learn a new chord) But with much time, patience, and more patience (mine included), they are now at a point where they both enjoy playing their instrument on their own!
Reflecting on these actually encourages me presently as it serves as a reminder to be patient when I’m the middle of “working on new things” with the kids!
But there are a couple things that we’ve learned as parents to just help this process along:
- Focus on one habit at a time (Check out the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)
- Take time to share the bigger picture (Many kids really need to know the why and the purpose instead of just disconnected expectations)
- Set up systems for their success (Function follows form.)
- Show much grace (We’re all in process, and most of the time our kids really do want to do their best and make us smile.)