During school the other day, Little Mister was having some trouble, as all kids do from time to time, with doing his best. Ironically, his sloppiness was in penmanship, where he was supposed to be copying Proverbs 20:11 "Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right." The text was there for him to copy, yet there were spelling errors and incorrectly-formed letters.
Now, the child is only in 2nd grade, has just been learning cursive this year, and I don't expect perfection. But I also know what he can do when he applies himself, and this wasn't it! The verse itself was the springboard for a very interesting conversation between the two of us.
I sat him down next to me, put one arm around him and, with my free hand, held the paper where he could look it over again. "If someone didn't know anything about you but what they see on this paper, what do you think they would think of the boy who wrote it?"
With a sheepishly honest expression he replied, "That he doesn't pay attention or care about doing things right."
I had to agree--gently, of course. Our little ones need to be held accountable, but they can be fragile at times, wouldn't you say? No need to make them feel stupid or inadequate! Honesty, tempered with love, is the best policy!
"Right now, while you are a boy, Daddy and I have to train you up to be the kind of man God wants you to be. It's so much better to break bad habits now, so you're not known by them later. If a man wrote this, what do you think another grown-up would think of that man?"
"That he was not the kind of man his daughter should marry!"
(Had to stifle a laugh here--how marriage came to mind, I have no idea!) "Well, that could be so. But what if it was the boss at a company who needed to hire a good worker? Do you think he would look at this and think, 'Wow, he must be a careful and diligent worker! Hire him immediately!' or 'Wow, he doesn't care to do his work right--he's not for this company!'"
My smart Little Mister said, "He wouldn't want to hire me."
"I'm afraid you're probably right. So, would you rather be the kind of man a boss would want to hire, or not hire?"
"The kind he'd hire!" he answered enthusiastically.
"Well, that's what we need to practice now, while you're young."
I love that I could give my favorite student a big hug before sending him back to his desk to try again! :)
These "teachable moments" are numerous every day--for all parents! I don't know about you, but I often hear my words in my own ears, like the Lord is reminding me to work on the adult versions of those same lessons.
Sometimes, I'm in the middle of a sentence directed at the most special child in the world to me, or at my absolutely precious husband, and it suddenly dawns on me how I actually sound. The tone of voice, choice of words, exasperated body language . . . it's not my best. It's just me thinking about me. Not my best at all!
When we're adults, our parents and other "grown-ups" can and should lovingly hold us accountable to what's right, but they can no longer discipline us when we're going the wrong way! Hopefully by now we have developed some amount of self-motivation to keep doing better. For Christ-followers, there is the very Spirit of God at work in our lives, and hopefully we become more and more willing to listen to His leading.
Doing our best--it's important at all ages! :)