It’s been raining for days here in Virginia, and our last week before school starts has been tough. I wanted to spend it at the pool, but the weather hasn’t let us get there in over a week. Two high energy boys cooped up in a house for over a week makes for some hard days. Can I get an amen?
They’re literally bursting with the need to move, and that often ends up with someone hurt or something broken. Tuesday, my youngest ran SIXTY laps around the cul-de-sac. It’s a method of discipline we use when the behavior stems from pent up energy. When my boys get like this they seem to lose the ability to control themselves. Their bodies betray them, and in a matter of thirty seconds flat they’ll be rolling around on the ground wrestling, or throwing pillows at each other, or just doing laps around my living room, oblivious to the destruction they leave in their wake.
So what’s a mom to do when her son’s body is trumping his brain?
Here are five things that help us at The McGlothlin Home for Boys:
1. Understand that it’s a battle.
I realize there’s a physical root to their disobedience. Their bodies must be in motion, and sometimes, their bodies trump their minds and hearts. They’re not necessarily trying to be disobedient, but at seven and nine, they can’t always tell their bodies what to do and get instant results. The order of the day is understanding and grace, and a heavy dose of physical activity. It’s important to communicate that we understand their body’s need for activity is hard to overcome, but there comes a time when we just have to do the hard things anyway.
Understanding and compassion go a long way toward helping the difficult things bring a mama closer to her son instead of driving them apart.
2. Create opportunities for physical activity however you can.
We run laps. A lot of them. Sixty of them throughout the day until their bodies are finally void of it all and they can truly listen and obey, and sometimes that’s still not enough. My husband runs about three miles a few times a week, and we decided to see if our youngest could keep up with him. I sat by the phone, ready to jump in the car and come get him if it was too much, but the phone call never came. He paced my husband step for step, and when they got home he was still bouncing, ready to go. The activity didn’t drain him, it energized him even more. Have mercy.
Swimming is one of the best physical activities for our boys. Think how hard their little legs and arms work under the water. They come home exhausted every time we go to the pool. This fall, as we look forward to a new homeschooling year, I’m seriously thinking about joining the health club down the street so I can take them to the pool to swim laps first thing in the morning.
Get creative and think outside the box. Find an activity that wears your boys out, and stick with it.
3. Keep your anger in check.
If there’s anything that makes me want to lose my temper, it’s the “noise, noise, noise!” and the constant wrestling. I can’t tell you how many things in our home have gotten broken because of my rough-and-tumble boys. Doors (at least 3), cabinets, shelves, light fixtures, tables (and only by the grace of God, NOT my beautiful glass china cabinet my dad had made for me). It drives me crazy when they don’t respect our home, but letting my emotions control me doesn’t help the problem, it only teaches them to lose their emotions, too.
Get a grip on yourself before reacting to their mess. Show grace when you can, and remember that because Jesus loved you in spite of your shortcomings, you can extend that love to them.
4. Diffuse Lavender in the main room of your house.
Or wherever they spend the most time. Lavender has known sedative properties. I rub it on my boys’ pillows before bed, and put several drops in the spray bottle of water we use to tame the evil bedhead (I like to call it a shot of “calm it down, boy.”) I don’t diffuse it every day, but when things get crazy in our home, it’s my go-to to take the edge off.
5. Set healthy expectations early in the day.
The morning after our sixty lap marathon it was still rainy. I knew the possibilities of another hard day were high, so when my boys woke up raring to go (as they always do), I gently sat them down and reminded them that the cul-de-sac was still there. I set the bar reasonably high, telling them what my expectations were for the day (i.e. “I know it’s hard, do it anyway”) and let them know I believed that with Jesus’ help, they could do it.
I think that’s the key to making this little exercise be more than just a way to control your boys. The bottom line is that there will be things they don’t feel they can do for the rest of their lives—hard things that threaten to master them instead of the other way around. If we build a sense of “everything in life that’s worth anything requires hard work,” with a heavy dose of, “you must ask Jesus to help you overcome the hard things because you can’t do it yourself,” we’ll be that much further ahead in teaching them how to be godly, hard-working men who overcome in the name of Jesus.
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