Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Waiting Job

"This really worked out great, Daddy," my three year old said as we sat down to dinner.  
"What worked out great?" my husband asked.  
"Well," he began, taking his time to think things through. "You set the table and Luke is going to clear it.  I just get to eat.  I think we should do this every single night!"
"You HAVE to do a CHORE!" my oldest blurted out.  "You HAVE to set the table EVERY NIGHT!"
I sat, watching this play out and trying not to giggle. My husband stole a glance at me, smiled with a knowing look and went back into the fray.
"You do have to set the table, Drew.  I just set the table tonight to do something nice for you."
"But I don't like setting the table while everybody else gets to play!" he said as tears began to well up in his eyes.
"Well then, Drew, you just have to pick another chore!  What chore could you pick? What do you like to do?" My oldest tends to rattle off questions and suggestions like an auctioneer.  His mouth simply cannot keep up with his brain. "What about folding clothes? Do you like the laundry? Can you fold clothes, Drew?"
Drew blinked his long eyelashes thoughtfully then sat up a little straighter.  "I have a great idea! Mommy, you can do the soap part of the laundry and the folding part.  I will do the waiting part!" He smiled triumphantly as he sank bank into his chair. We all started belly laughing at this crazy creative kid that will do just about anything to get out of work.

My husband and I talked about it later and laughed again. But it still nagged at us. "Do you think he's going to be lazy?" my husband asked me. "Will he ever have a good work ethic?"
"Yes, but it's going to be a long road for us, I think."
"Maybe he will be this millionaire that has found a way to get everyone else to do the hard work and it will just make Luke so mad!" 
"Maybe you're right but I do think we should really make a huge deal about it when he does help.  He loves recognition."

And so we did. When he "did the dishes" by using half of the soap and creating a veritable swimming pool in the kitchen, I let him know how incredible it was to have a son that is so willing to help. When he brought up my daughter's Motrin when I needed it, I kissed the top of his head and let him know that I didn't know what I would do without him. Amazingly, later that week, he started helping.  He switched the clothes from the washer to the dryer each time I started the task. He offered to help clean up a mess his sister had made and even tried to wipe off the kitchen table for me. It was really cool.

It's so easy to focus on the things they are doing wrong.  It's so easy to worry that their current character flaws will inhibit their success later in life. But if we focus on the negative, won't they? If we are only telling them what they do wrong, how will they know what they are doing right? I once heard a psychologist say that you should underreact when they do something wrong and overreact when they do something right. I would sure prefer to be treated with that much grace. Wouldn't you?

What "character flaws" are you currently worrying about? Challenge yourself to notice them making the right choice and make a big deal about it.  A really big deal.  Let me know what happens...

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