Stressing the Positive--A Real-Life Example. Bringing up Kids God's Way, Part 7b


"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . ." (Ps 10:17 NIV)

Last week we discovered that stressing the positive with our kids will help them to grow up with good self-esteem, to listen to what you have to tell them, and in the long run, will work to prevent kids from seeking ways of escape. But does this really work? In real life situations?

While working on this series of devotionals early one morning last week, my son came downstairs. The rest of the house was asleep--or at least the rest of the house HAD BEEN asleep before he came stomping down, three steps at a time, banging his hands against the wall as he went.

I knew he needed to be greeted with something positive, so I decided to let the noise slide. For the moment anyway! "Good Morning," I said, through gritted teeth.

He looked at me funny as he returned my greeting, but he didn't say anything as he went into the living room and picked up his Bible. A few minutes later, he got up and started up the stairs, headed for the bathroom: Stomp, stomp, stomp. Then I heard him banging around in the bathroom, and finally, he stomped back downstairs.

I bit my lip. After all, it was a little thing . . .

From my spot in the office area, I could hear that water was continuing to run in the upstairs bathroom. "Something's wrong with the toilet," I said. "Would you mind going up to see about it?" And then I just couldn't resist adding: "And don't forget to walk quietly! You know your dad is still sleeping."

He nodded and proceeded to pad up the stairs. But then came the crash of the toilet tank lid being lifted and set on the floor, followed by a variety of banging and scraping noises, and then I heard the tank lid being replaced . . . And replaced . . . And replaced . . . And then the STOMP STOMP STOMP of his feet going down the stairs.

I had had enough. As soon as he appeared in the office area, I lit into him about the noise. The longer I lectured however, the more his face fell. "I'm sorry!" He said finally, with a little too much force.

I wasn't ready to relent, and my torrent of words continued to pour forth. After a few more minutes, he broke into tears: "I just can't ever seem to do anything right this morning!" He cried.

I felt a tiny tinge of remorse at this, but I continued anyway. "Yes, you can! You just have to start paying attention to other people instead of always thinking about yourself!"

His face fell further, and his voice escaladed a little: "I WAS trying!" He said.

"Well try a little harder next time!" I answered. "And keep your voice down!" Then I turned back to the computer. To work on my newest edition to this parenting series.

"Mom," began my son.

"What is it!" I snapped. "You've already made me lose precious writing time! You know I don't have time to spare!"

"I'm sorry!" He nearly yelled. "But the toilet's broken! I can't get it to stop running!"

Doubly irritated, I snapped: "Just leave me alone for a few more minutes, and I'll look at it!"

My son turned away, totally dejected.

Later, I did go up to check on the toilet, only to discover that my son had used some pretty creative problem solving. When he wasn't able to get the toilet to stop running, he'd turned off the water supply.

I went back downstairs and sat beside my son on the couch. "I'm sorry!" I began.

He looked up, surprised.

"I was so busy nagging at you about being noisy, I never gave you the chance to tell me what was frustrating you. That was really good thinking to turn off the water under the tank so that we didn't end up with a flood."

I could see my son's jaw dropping again. It was clear he didn't know whether to believe me.

"I know I'm always telling you to 'think'," I continued, "but I don't tell you very often how proud of you I am when you do. And lately, I've seen evidence of quite a bit of creative problem solving!"

He raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

I smiled. "Really. I'm sorry I don't tell you more often! I just get so busy fussing about whatever is bothering me, that I completely overlook telling you the good stuff. And believe me, you do lots more good stuff than bad! I'm very proud of you!"

My son's face was relaxing, but his shoulders remained slumped over. "Well at least I did something right this morning!" He muttered.

"You do lots of stuff right!" I offered, but before I could say more, he jumped in:

"Yeah, well I'm not sure when I do them, 'cause it seems like all I ever do is bad stuff!"

The conversation continued for a few moments, but the damage had already been done and nothing I said would shake the cloud of gloom that had settled around his head.

A similar scenario happened just a few days later. I was again working on the parenting devotionals when I heard my son stomping down the stairs, even earlier than before. When he appeared, I turned to him: "Good morning. My, you're up early!"

"Yeah," he answered. "I wanted a few minutes to study for my science quiz before leaving for school, so I thought I had better get up early to have my worship."

"Really?" I smiled. "That's showing responsible thinking. You know, I'm really proud of the way you're taking your school work seriously now that you're in high school. And I am really proud that you want to take extra time with Jesus, despite the fact that you have a quiz today! That's so important!"

He flashed me a grin: "It's the only way to start a day, mom!"

I reached over and to give him a hug and then I whispered in his ear: "Next time you come down this early, do you think you could try and remember to walk quietly, so you don't wake up the rest of the house?"

He raised an eyebrow: "What? I wasn't walking quietly?"

I wrinkled up my nose: "Not this morning, though I've noticed that the last couple of days you've been making an effort to come down a lot more quietly. I appreciate that!"

He smiled. "Thanks, mom!" He looked away. "I didn't know I was making noise this morning. I'll have to put up a note on my door to remind me to be quiet on the stairs."

"Great idea!" I responded. "You're getting really good at problem solving! I'm proud of you!"

Interestingly, there was no more noise that morning. My personal agenda was accomplished. But even more importantly, my son started off his day feeling good about himself, and he went away with the message that it IS possible to please his mom!

Enough to ponder for today, but do ponder this: When we ask God to help us remember to stress the positive with our kids, it makes the negative a lot easier for them to swallow. Always remember: "Just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way!"

Lyn Chaffart

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