I have a son, who will remain unnamed in case he reads this someday, who likes to take his time…all the time. He has little sense of urgency. This becomes a source of frustration for each family member when we are rushing to an event or have to honor a commitment and are pressed for time.
Whether it’s eating, dressing up, homeschooling, or finishing responsibilities, his tendency is to delay, be distracted, and lose focus. Over the years, Edric and I have disciplined and trained him to be otherwise but it continues to be a challenge. Edric even got him a watch so he could use it to track his time but he lost it!
Extreme patience is often required of us as we teach and train our son. Furthermore, we have to carefully consider the positive side of his personality type. Because he is such a chill person and so easy going, he isn’t a reactive, easily angered person. He doesn’t make demands on others, harbor bitterness, and his default disposition is joyfulness. So Edric and I have to manage the tension between training him and encouraging his God-given uniqueness.
These past few days we have been in Dubai. Edric and I are here for a series of talks and business activities and we took the kids with us. Almost every meal, our son who likes to take his time is the last to finish. Before we head out the door, he is putting a shoe on, using the toilet, looking for a jacket, or in the middle of something he should have completed thirty minutes earlier.
During one of these occasions when everyone was out the door and he hobbled out of it with one shoe on and a sock and a shoe in his hand, I asked him what he was doing for the last hour and his reply was, “Umm…I was swiveling around in the chair of the room.”
Seriously, he can do absolutely nothing for stretches of time and find this deeply gratifying. He’s a stop-to-smell-the-roses kind of person…”stopping” being the key word.
Like I said, this personality type comes with its strengths. However, Edric and I move about so quickly that it’s tiring to wait for this son of ours to mobilize. This trip has magnified his character flaw, so it has been a real lesson in patience for both of us.
I nearly failed as a parent when this son lost a piece of his expanders (it’s like a retainer for the mouth to open up the jaw). The accident happened after he forgot to be ready at the hour we agreed upon and Edric and I had to get to the venue of a seminar we were speaking at. Edric couldn’t be delayed so he went ahead to set up his laptop while I tried to hurry our son along.
Unfortunately, a very important piece of his expanders flew out of its container and landed on a tiled floor that had patterns which completely camouflaged the piece. So I nearly cried in aggravation as this accident required me to get down on my hands and knees while in my heels to comb through each surface area of the tiled floor to feel for the piece.
This is ridiculous!, I thought to myself. Why does __________________ do these things?! Ahhhh!!!!
Meanwhile my son showed no distress whatsoever which kind of irked me! I reminded him, “You can’t do this…make everyone wait for you. It’s inconsiderate. It’s something you have to change and improve on, okay?”
I am glad the annoyance came out of me in that way rather than shouting at him like I felt compelled to do. My patience had reached its limit and it took the grace of God to contain my irritation! Thankfully, I was about to do a ministry activity with Edric which kept me mindful of my responses. But if I hadn’t been in prayer that day, or spent a good chunk of it preparing for my talk and being in the Word of God, I am sure my emotions would have taken over in a very ugly manner.
We didn’t find the piece after about ten minutes of searching which was all I could spare before my seminar. So the kids and I left the hotel room and hung a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door knob so we could resume our search later on in the evening. At the end of our day, our son did his best to find the piece and recover it which was good news. (These expanders are pricey!)
Edric and I have considered how to help him after our speaking engagement. I believe the root problem for him is discipline. He has to train his mind to plan wisely and resist the impulses he feels to move on to something else when there is a task at hand. He also needs to discipline his body so that it follows the dictates of his mind.
Here are some solutions that Edric and I intend to apply:
1. Don’t stop training him until he develops a sense of urgency, proactive-ness, and responsibility. As tiring as it may be to keep telling him the same thing over and over again, the burden is on us to do so until he internalizes and applies these things on his own.
2. Stay beside him when he homeschools and eats his meals so we can monitor him. Yesterday evening, I sat beside him and he downed his soup and pasta in a fraction of the time it usually takes him. This is because I got to remind him constantly and reach over to rub his back every time he got distracted.
3. Commend him when he puts effort into quickening his pace. Because he gets corrected a lot, we don’t want him to grow up with insecurities or feel like he is compared to his siblings who don’t have the same issue. So we have to balance out our training with affirmation, too. This also means communicating to him that he is unconditionally loved and accepted, too.
4. Correct him in private. His siblings tend to feel the same annoyance that we do towards his mannerisms and personality, so it’s unhealthy for them to hear us correct him in front of them. This will only fuel their aggravation.
5. Edric intends to spend more focused time with him. After all, he’s a boy and there’s nothing like the attention and mentoring of a father to a son.
6. Extend grace. This son of ours makes mistakes quite often and as tempting as it is to lose our tempers with him, we absolutely cannot as it will destroy the seeds of faith that have been planted in his heart. Our greater desire for him is that he loves and obeys the Lord. If we do not respond to him in ways that are spirit-filled, and if we do not ask for forgiveness when we fail in this area, we will push him farther away from us and this goal.
7. Thank the Lord for Him. His personality is a blessing and his life is a beautiful gift. Does he need to keep improving in certain areas? Of course. But it doesn’t make him less special or important to us or the Lord. So we need to thank the Lord for being intentional about giving us a son with his unique traits.
8. Pray. Edric and I need to remember that we can’t control our kids. We may be able to train them and discipline them, but their hearts are another matter. This is God’s department. He is the one who causes real transformation of the heart so that the behavior follows. Prayer acknowledges our dependence on Him to make this happen.
I don’t know if this son of ours sounds like one of your kids. But if he does, be encouraged. Faithful discipleship always produces fruit.
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews 12:11