“I don’t want to.”
I wish I could say that phrase is an anomaly; however, those four words are said more often than not around my house. On this particular occasion I was attempting to rouse my seven year-old son. Recently, it seems like these words bookend my day. From sun-up to bedtime, I’m met with the obstinate declaration, “I don’t want to.”
My son wants to go to wrestling practice, but he doesn’t want to go to school. He balks at a request to clean up a mess on the floor or set the table, but a request to battle his sister on the Wii is met with a smile. Dinner is another struggle in and of itself as he resists to the point of tears, enumerating every reason why he doesn’t want to eat the prepared dinner. “I don’t want to,” is an oft-uttered phrase and with each repetition, my patience wanes. It’s hard to maintain my composure when every fiber inside me wants to list the many things I do every day that I don’t really feel like doing.
A Shared Experience
If I’m honest with myself, there are many things that I don’t feel like doing throughout my day, and I’m sure it’s the same for you. Take a moment and just think of a few. For me, packing lunches, folding laundry (as evidenced by the many bins of clean, yet unfolded laundry scattered about my house), and taking out the trash are a few of my least favorite tasks. I don’t enjoy singing songs at bedtime or giving my children baths, yet I do these and many other tasks faithfully. Our tasks as caregivers are far from glamorous. Rarely are we offered a medal or even a word of appreciation for the work we silently perform, the service we humbly give even when we don’t want to. However, our example is the first and most important part of teaching our boys that faithful choices in the midst of the mundane prepare us for life-changing decisions in the public eye. We model faithfulness to our boys by faithfully choosing to be responsive to God’s call on our lives.
It is quite easy to shame our boys for an unwilling attitude, but if we’re honest with ourselves, how often do we harbor the same spirit? How often do we gripe and complain as we feel God nudging in a direction we hadn’t anticipated. Instead of berating our boys for their attitude, what if we came alongside and shared that we too struggle with choosing to have a willing heart when it comes to remaining faithful to our commitments?
Lighten Up Already
Is making his bed really a big deal? Is character really built by picking up clutter and taking out the trash? Yes, my friend, it is. Faithfully fulfilling mundane responsibilities at young ages lays the foundation for larger responsibilities as our boys age. Do you know what Barack Obama, Thomas Jefferson, Nelson Mandela, Steven Spielberg, Mark Batterson, Bill Clinton, Elvis Presley, Dietrich BonHoeffer, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all have in common? They were all seven at one time. Great men don’t become great by shirking responsibility.
Gideon was once a young boy as well. When the Midianites were attacking and ransacking Israel, Gideon could be found hiding in the wine vat threshing wheat. Even in the midst of a horrible upheaval, Gideon was faithful to his responsibility with the wheat. I wonder if God would have chosen him to judge the Israelites if he had shirked his duties with the excuse of “I don’t want to?” God gifts greater areas of influence to those who are faithful in the unseen, seemingly unimportant daily tasks. That’s why my answer is “yes.” Yes, making his bed is important. Yes, choosing to faithfully pick up his toys when asked is a big deal. Affirmative, serving his mother by carrying his dirty laundry from his bedroom to the laundry room is day-by-day laying the foundation to make tough choices even when he doesn’t feel like it.
Life-Altering Choices Aren’t Made In A Vacuum
I think we can all agree that it’s a scary world out there. Each day we send our sons into the world and pray they make good choices, and that if they do make a bad choice it won’t be a ‘wreck-your-life’ choice. Perhaps it could be a ‘learn-a-good-lesson’ choice, but not a ‘de-rail your life’ kind of choice. Life-altering choices are not made in a vacuum, just as the wherewithal to stand firm in the face of resistance and remain faithful is not built in a day. No, it is firmed up day-by-day, faithful choice-by-faithful choice in preparation for the day when our sons must choose for themselves whom they will serve. A foundation of faithful action begins with us recognizing that even at a young age we can begin to and have the responsibility to cultivate a culture of faithfulness in our homes beginning with giving our sons responsibility.
1. Present Responsibilities – What responsibilities does your son have at the moment and how does he respond to them? Maybe your son happily completes all of his responsibilities. Great! Now it’s time to add some more. Perhaps you’ve liked what you’ve read and are just taking the plunge into cultivating faithfulness through responsibility. Good for you! You can find age-appropriate chore/responsibility charts here if you’re unsure of what to add or where to start.
2. Say the Words – If I’m trying to cultivate faithfulness, I want to make sure I’m using those words. Instead of saying, “Thank you for cleaning up your toys,” I’m going to say, “Thank you for faithfully choosing to be responsible,” or “Thank you for making the choice to be faithful to your job even though you didn’t feel like it or it wasn’t fun.” It may seem awkward to use words like “faithful” and “responsible” with your little ones, but let me encourage you, our children are so much more intelligent than we give them credit. As we familiarize them with words like “faithful” and “responsible” they will better recognize when those attributes are discussed in scripture. One of my favorite resources that can expand on this vocabulary-based instruction is the short and sweet book, “Don’t Make Me Count to Three” by Ginger Hubbard.
3. I’m Too Late – Perhaps you feel like you’ve missed the boat. Maybe your boy is older or you feel like it’s too late to start cultivating faithfulness. Don’t listen to that lie, friend. Instead, look inward first. Start by cultivating faithfulness in your own life. It could be as simple as reading one Psalm a day, everyday. Hello Mornings is a phenomenal program to aid you in instilling faithfulness. Kat’s podcast, Inspired To Action is another resource I love to help me make positive changes and inspire me in my personal life which in turn rejuvenates me to better lead my boy. Secondly, pray for your boy and pray for God’s wisdom on how to begin. God promises to give wisdom liberally to all who ask. (James 1:5) There is no such thing as “too late” when God is involved.
Kristina never thought that the title ‘single mom’ would follow her name, but now that it does she writes about navigating life in this unexpected season. A native New Yorker who despises precipitation of any kind, she works as an American Sign Language Interpreter and writes about her adventures with her four daughters and one son. Her life is rarely boring.