I have issues, I am well aware. I am not very patient with complaining about homework, throwing oneself on the bed in dramatics about homework (them, not me), laziness, forgetfulness, etc. I've written some posts (like this one) about this very topic because it's one area in which I am always working out my faith.
I also know the verse from the Book of Veggie Tales, chapter 3 (just made that up): "A thankful heart is a happy heart." (I'm sure it's also in the Bible in some form or another.) Gratitude for my kids make me less grouchy over their childishness.
And the quickest path to feeling thankful for my kids is through encouraging them. To find something to compliment or build up about him. To see the good in her that she struggles to see herself.
I've armed myself with a couple of ways this fall to intentionally encourage my kids. One is Lunchbox Love. (I blogged about these last year here).
These little credit-card sized notes are so great. You should get some. Inexpensive, reusable, easy to read, and simple. If you're packing a lunch box, yeah, you could write a note or use a Post-It. I'd just rather throw one of these in, because at 6 a.m., I don't have a lot of words. Or dexterity. The cards have something encouraging on one side, and something quirky on the other, such as a fun fact about how many teeth sharks have. Both kids got one on the first day this year. (I was shocked I didn't forget.)
The other thing I found is $.99 cards for kids at the Christian book store. These are more for moments when you know your child really needs an uplifting word. The ones I found are by Dayspring, part of a line called Little Inspirations, and they are so sweet!
And lastly, I'm sure I've shared about this book before. But what a change it made in my life as a mother! It is called How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk. It's a long title. But it's a classic, written many years ago, and read by over 2 million people. It has taught me many ways to see my children and build them up. I read it when my daughter was 4, and knew quickly that God had placed this book in my hands, literally equipping me with what I needed. Five years later, I refer to it from time to time, rereading sections, and reminding myself of the better ways to speak to my children. It is a secular book, but it was life-changing for me, since it helped correct some bad communication habits I'd picked up from my own childhood.
I now TRY to say things like this:
Instead of, "Wow, that picture is incredible!" I try to say, "Wow, I can see how careful you were to stay in the lines. That's what I call diligence."
Instead of, "Your handwriting is so messy. You can't turn in work like this!" I try to say, "It takes patience to make your letters neatly. Try again."
Instead of, "I'm so proud of you! Your oral report was the best one!" I try to say, "You looked up, you stayed focused, and you read your facts with a loud voice. I can see you tried your hardest. You should be proud of yourself!"
I really, really, really want to be an encourager in my children's lives. I don't want to simply offer commentary about what they do, or where they fall compared to other kids. Doesn't that approach lead to performance-driven adults? I want to see who they are, and what they need. And most of all, I want to listen. Here's my personal plan this fall to be an encourager to my kids. When homework time is about to go awry, I plan to:
Step 1: Listen and tune into their hearts' needs
Step 2: Find my own thankfulness for them
Step 3: Speak words of encouragement about his/her character
Easy peasy, right? Not really. But I'm sure going to do my best!