Teach your kids with loving patience, and they will be patient with you.
I heard the voice, but I couldn’t see the kid that went with it.
“Daddy!” The voice grew frantic.
“Where are you, Story?”
“Up here, Daddy!”
My then-six-year-old son had scaled a tree but couldn’t determine the way back down. Back then Story had these strong impulses to climb everything; he just never thought about getting back to the ground.
After scolding Story for not having an extrication plan, I instructed him about which foot to put on which branch. Once my tearful son was back on the earth, I asked, “Story, why did you do that?”
“I don’t know,” he sniffed.
“What do you mean you ‘don’t know’?” I pressed.
He sobbed, “I don’t know. I just don’t know!”
My son Ever (4) climbed the back of our Suburban on one of his many Army missions across our enemy-infested backyard. Unfortunately, plastic rear wiper assemblies aren’t designed for even the smallest of Rangers to use in scaling the walls of Axis fortifications—$135 later, the rear wiper works again. (GM highly values their plastic auto parts.)
My wife Belinda teaches in our church’s fourth grade Sunday School class. She finds candy is the best reward to motivate the Wild Bunch to learn their Bible verses. Veggie Tales movies don’t seem to work anymore, probably since the kids have watched them all at least ten times. Story (now eleven) discovered the candy in Belinda’s bag and ate it?not all, but most of it. When Belinda first told me, I was angry with Story. She had asked him why he ate the candy. He whimpered, “I don’t know!” When I calmed down, I realized my young son’s impulses had power over him. He was not yet under the control of the Holy Spirit. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6 [NIV])
Oh, and like I am Spirit controlled?! While writing this article, I discovered a bucket of pecan cookies on my desk. Mr. Diabetic ate ten of those yummy cookies on impulse power before his brain even registered what his mouth was doing. I remember the time I took a job on impulse and my family suffered for two years. I was so ready to get out of a bad job that without thinking, I jumped into a worse job. Even worse, when I was seventeen my impulses helped me meet a couple of Dallas police officers on unfriendly terms.
James Dobson wrote about why boys jump off roofs. (Gee, does that sound familiar to you dads?) Boys jump because they think there is a one-in-a-hundred chance they will actually fly. I don’t want to contend with Dr. Dobson’s wisdom, but I am not convinced that thought has anything to do with my sons’ choices.
The dumbest question I can ask my eleven-year-old son is, “Why did you do that?” He doesn’t know. He even tells me he doesn’t know. So what do we do, dads? How do you handle impulse power? When I ask questions like this, it’s fun to watch God take me places to get the answer.
My daughter Halley (17) and I recently attended the Toyota Driving Expectations seminar. Toyota, in a genius combination of community responsibility and subtle marketing, created a FREE, home school friendly, four-hour program to teach teens and parents how to keep young drivers alive. (See for yourself at www.ToyotaDrivingExpectations.com.)
Sadly, I attended this parent/child seminar expecting to see my daughter trained and me entertained. As usual, I learned as much as my child did. The parents’ driving instructor said we should act as coaches, not parents, when teaching our kids to drive. Our instructor, Jim Million (really!), said a coach has patience with his team. Obviously Jim had not met any of my football coaches, yet he had personally interviewed John Wooden, Pat Riley, and Don Shula to discover the secrets of coaching. OK, with that trio of champion coaches, he had my attention. These super coaches said patience and loving encouragement are the best approaches to teaching something difficult to someone difficult. Ouch!
The Lord knew I needed to hear this, especially since I was attending with Halley. You see, I’m the music guy in our home school, and when Halley was very small, I “helped” with her piano practice. For some reason, my help usually resulted with Halley in tears and me in frustration. I saw her amazing potential, but I wasn’t loving and patient with her progress.
My older sons and I take karate lessons together. If our instructor goes nice and slow, I can usually figure out the kicks and punches. I look like a drunken elephant, but I can manage them. However, I struggle with learning the kata sequences. Katas are the cool martial arts dances. (Important safety tip: do not use the word “dance” around the “big scary guys” in your karate class.) My boys learn their katas like Jackie Chan. I learn katas like Jackie Gleason.
So I get to practice a lot outside of class, and Story patiently helps me with my katas. Story never gets upset or yells. He never belittles my inept moves. He never asks me about my “plan.” He just patiently and lovingly instructs me. “Daddy, your right foot shouldn’t be turned out.” “Daddy, you’re supposed to use your left hand.” Or, “Daddy, can I help you up off the floor?”
My son is more Christ-like than I think I will ever be.
When Story follows his impulses, he isn’t thinking. Truth is, kids do dumb things. (I doubt I’m telling you anything new.) So, I decided to apply this nutty “patient and loving” approach to Story’s candy management as I spoke to him on Sunday afternoon.
“Story, why did you eat all that candy?” I inquired.
“I don’t know,” he responded. (OK, exactly what answer was I expecting here?)
“Story, what did you do?”
“I ate the candy Mom bought for her Sunday School class.” (Now, we were getting somewhere.)
“Was that the right thing to do?”
“What should you do now?”
“Pay her back for the candy.”
“What else should you do?”
“To whom else?”
“Mom’s Sunday School class.”
My wife and I have reached the season of life where our aging parents need more care and, yes, patience from us. It occurred to me that someday, I will want my kids to be patient with their aging mom and dad. So, dads, let’s give this a try while we still can. Let’s teach our children with encouraging love and patience. Maybe they’ll be loving and patient with us.
Some of you dads have a story of how you have coached your kids with encouragement and patience. If so, I’d like to hear from you. Please contact me at ImperfectFather@Gmail.com.