As Beth entered the kitchen area with bags of groceries, she quickly recognized that her son was already home from school. His backpack had landed in the family room chair, his computer set up on the kitchen table with chips and a drink, and papers were in disarray next to the computer. What a mess, she thought. How many times do I have to ask him to work upstairs on the desk we put in his room? He knows I’ll have to make him move before dinner anyway.
The tennis match must have been cancelled.
Her thoughts continued as she hoisted the bags of groceries onto the kitchen counter. Frustrated that she was behind schedule in getting dinner started and now with the mess on the kitchen table she had limited space to set the rest of the groceries.
Beth hollered up the stairs. “Josh, can you come and help me carry in the groceries?”
“Give me a few minutes, Mom,” was the reply.
On her third return trip to the car, she could feel her frustration start to rise. How dare that kid not come down to help me! He’s probably upstairs in the middle of a video game and here I am having to carry in all these groceries in this heat.
She decided to just bring in the groceries that needed to be kept cold and leave the rest for Josh. Feeling her frustration start to turn to anger at the situation, she started putting the groceries in the fridge with a little more force than was necessary. Maybe I should just go upstairs and turn that game off. He needs to respond when I ask him to do something!
As she went to close the refrigerator door, a container of fresh blueberries tipped off the shelf and fell to the floor. As the lid sprung open, blueberries began rolling in every direction, even under the fridge. Anger mounting, down on hands and knees she began chasing the berries to return to the container. As she crawled on the floor, she started thinking of how she couldn’t wait for Josh to go away to college next year. Six months. Then life will be so much easier.
Just then, he bounded down the stairs. “Sorry for taking so long,” he yelled from the entryway. “I’ll go bring the groceries in.”
As he entered the room, Josh saw his mom on the floor picking up the blueberries. “Here, Mom. Let me help you.”
Offering his hand to pull her up off the floor, Josh quickly gathered the rest of the blueberries. Handing her the container, he headed out to the car to bring in the other bags.
Feeling guilty at her earlier thoughts, Beth held her tongue as she watched Josh start to unload the bags for her. As they finished putting things away, the only words she could muster were “Thanks, Josh.”
It is so easy as parents to lose control of our thoughts and emotions when our kids aren’t doing things fast enough for our timetable. Our thoughts and emotions quickly spiral to the negative. Sometimes those thoughts are valid if we have repeated offence by a child but we need to remember that our job is to train our kids to desired behavior — not to take our frustrations out on them.
Something that might surprise you is that the emotions we feel in the moment directly affect our perception of time. Negative emotions in particular seem to bring time to people’s attention and so make it seem longer. (10 Ways Our Brain Warps Time, June 2011)
1 Peter 1:13
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
So what are some of the steps we can take when we’re frustrated and our kids aren’t responding in what we feel is a timely fashion?
- Pause long enough to see how much time has transpired.
- Take notice of why you are upset at your kid. Is the time frustration justified? Are your emotions due to their current behavior or are other circumstances in play that have you on edge?
- Calm yourself before you engage.
- Ask yourself these questions. Is this a hill worth taking right now? Can I make it a teachable moment without getting upset?
- Engage with respect.
One way to engage with respect when your child doesn’t respond to your request is to seek him out. Many times our kids are engaged with something that is important to them. Hence, their brain is probably warping time as well.
- Calmly tell them that you’ve been waiting.
- Assess if what they are engaged in is more important than your request.
- Gently ask again.
Dare you to hold your emotions in check and count to 10 before engaging with your teens. By doing so your relationships will be filled with better communication and less regret.
“Let go…and let God,”