Saturday, October 31, 2009

Does God Allow "STILLS"?

When my youngest child was three-years-old, he enjoyed engaging in debates that could possibly (hopefully – in his mind!) lead to the delaying of his assigned tasks. i.e., putting away his toys, helping to clean the table after dinner, etc. No matter the assigned task, he would always come back with another, more desirable thing that he would "need" to complete BEFORE he could complete the assigned task.

For example, if I were to tell him to put away his toys, he would come back with a retort of, “I will, but first I have to watch a television show” or “I will, but I have to finish this game first”. When I would remind him that putting way his toys would take 30 seconds and that he could have them put away before the beginning of the alleged television show, his response would be, “Yeah, but STILL”. When I would tell him that his game would be there on the table after he completed his assigned task, he would say, “Yeah, but STILL”.

Yeah, but STILL!!! How many times did I hear that expression from him? Oh, approximately 1,205,984,208 times before his 4th birthday!!

His “Yeah, but STILL(s)” would often lead to issues that needed to be resolved. Essentially, as a three-year-old, he was seeking to take control of the situation from his favorite dad! If he could do anything first before the assigned task, he could view it as an achieved victory over dad. And, if his chosen task could take long enough, maybe he would never get to the task that had been assigned (ah, yes, his master plan)!!

So, since the point of assigning small tasks was to teach responsibility, it did no good to allow him to control the situation with the infamous “Yeah, but STILL”.

As his constant postponing of tasks and his constant attempts at negotiating were doing more harm than good toward his learning of responsibility, I decided to take it a step further – I decided to eliminate his “STILLS”!

One day, after assigning him a task; being met with an alternative task; telling him no; and then hearing the “Yeah, but STILL”, I said the following:

“Kids are not allowed to have STILLS!!” He laughed and wanted me to explain the reason that kids could not have “STILLS”. I simply told him that kids are just not allowed to have “STILLS”. One needed to be at least 30-years-old to have “STILLS”. Even though he knew that I was full of baloney (hmmmm, takes one to know one?), he laughed and went along with it …. at least for a few months.

For a few short months, he stopped with the “Yeah, but STILL(s)” and engaged in the assigned tasks without delay. A few months later, he was back to his old tricks and the “Yeah, but STILL(s)” had made their triumphant return!

Since the overall goal was to get him to learn a sense of responsibility and since we had raised him with the love of the Lord in the church, I finally brought out the big guns. The next time that a task was assigned and he came back with a “Yeah, but STILL”, I told him the following:

“God does not allow kids to have STILL(S)”. For one, brief shining moment, my son looked at me, seemingly stunned, and quickly began to engage in the task at hand! For the next few weeks, each time he said “Yeah, but STILL”, I reminded him that ‘God does not allow kids to have STILL(S)’. Each time, he quickly disengaged from the conversation and began to engage in the task at hand with a determined vigor to get it done right away!

Then one day, as I fully expected, he asked me how it was that I knew that ‘God does not allow kids to have STILLS’. I told him that I just knew the deal. He then turned around, looked up toward Heaven and said, “God, is that true? Are kids not allowed to have STILLS?”

Expecting more nonsense and attempts to disengage from the tasks, my son turned back toward me and said, “Dad, I guess you’re right – God DOES NOT allow kids to have STILLS”!!

And, just like that, with some quick thinking on my part and some help from the Lord, my son believed that kids were not allowed to have "STILLS" and he began to quickly complete all of his assigned tasks as quickly as they were assigned! To this day, several years later, my son willfully engages in tasks around the house – sometimes before they are assigned! Had I allowed him to get away with the "STILLS", it is doubtful that he would have had a sense of responsibility ingrained into him.

Although the story is a bit dramatic (although every word is true!), the main point is this: Your children need to learn a sense of responsibility at an early age, so that they develop that skill for later in life. Whether it’s taking out the trash, helping with yard work, helping with the dishes, putting away toys, etc., it is important that they learn to help out and even complete some tasks on their own, so that they don’t grow up to be a student, parent, spouse, professional, career person who does not have a sense of personal responsibility for the situations in which they exist.

How about you? What techniques (or tricks!!) have you used to instill a meaningful sense of responsibility in to the hearts and souls of your own kids? Let me know!

Paul W. Reeves

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