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Do You See the Project or the People?

It’s hard to instruct a toddler to clean up his own mess, then watch him clumsily try to do it. 
I want to grab the rag from his hand and clean up the mess for him.
I could do it so much faster. And better.
But…
I must wait.
Watch.
And praise his attempts.
That gives him confidence.
He wants to do it again.
And I don’t want to be cleaning up his messes when he is an adult!

Does the wrinkles in his “made” bed bother you? 
You want to go behind him and straighten them. 
Resist the temptation.
He will know and stop trying.
“Why bother, mom will fix it anyway.”

But by practice and continued encouragement with inspection and correction, as he develops coordination and new skills are mastered.

With some things, like dishes, I expect the globs to be washed off, but the dish washer will sterilize it for us. The washing doesn’t have to be perfect.
Some of the boys would spend a long time cleaning. 
I’d wonder what took so long. There’s only a certain level of clean.
If I were to stand over them and watch what they did, I would become frustrated, instructing them “not that way, this way…” “Stop messing around and get it done.”
There comes a point when you must walk away and inspect when they are finished.

Again, what I was told by my mentor, “Children do, not what you expect, but what you inspect.”
Inspect.
Don’t always find the dust or the speck that was missed but praise their attempts and progress.

Sometimes that means, giving step-by-step jobs that accomplish a bigger job.
They may do it a different way then how you would, and sometimes that is OK.
We must let go when we delegate a task. 
Allow for mistakes, for learning, for not-so-perfect results.
They will think about what they have done. 
They will study on it.
They will do better.
That takes time. 
Time to process the instructions, and the reasons for the instructions.
Isn’t that what experience does?

Boys need a reason for what they do. 
If the purpose isn’t clear, they struggle to do it.

They don’t need to be told how clumsy they are, they already feel that.
The screw didn’t go in straight, does it really matter? 
If so, allow them to redo it. But don’t hurry them.
If it doesn’t really matter, it gets the project one screw closer to being finished.

Can anyone do a skill right the first time? OR the first ten times?
They need reassurance that their attempts are making progress.
The process can’t be rushed. 

Learning, especially a new skill, takes time.
The last big project I did with one son was his duck house. 
He does not take instruction well.
He would rather debate about how it should be done or question my commands than obey me when I tell him put this screw in the board.
I must defend every instruction that I give to him.
I remind him that I am in charge. (This is very wearying for me. I have since stopped. He is not a teenager and knows best.)
When the boys get to a certain maturity level, I pause and consider their suggestions.
I share with them the problem and ask how they would solve it.
But I hadn't reached that possibility with this child. He was still not obeying.
This does not make for a peaceful child-parent project.

Always (if I’m honest), I become angry. 
My skills aren’t that great, but I've thought through the plans and they will work.
We just need to carry them out. Not redesign the entire thing for his convenience.
When I've asked him to drill a screw, and he tries without the battery on the drill for the fiftieth time, and I want to tell him how much he is not thinking AT ALL,
I know it's time for a break.
Not for him, but for me, so I can be kind.

When I read Psalm 8, I see God doing the same with us. 
Psalm 8 is a psalm worshipping God’s majesty and power.
It’s all about God until you get to verse 4-6, 
“What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” 
Verse 7 proceeds to list all the things under man’s feet.

Think of that. God made everything, then allowed us to take care of it.
What a sloppy mess we’ve made about a lot of things! 
Yet He still allows us to keep trying.

We learn best by experience. 
How do you get experience?
Doing something AGAIN and AGAIN.

But it must be done correctly.
We don’t wait for His instruction.
We don’t remember what He said.
We think we know better.
And we make a mess.

But He doesn’t come behind us to straighten out the wrinkles.
He teaches us the consequences of our choices, if we listen.
Yet somehow He weaves the mistakes into a lesson for our good.
He makes it right in the end.
Everything.
That’s not a micro-manager, that’s a Master planner.

In those projects that you tackle with your child, see the bigger picture. 
It’s not the project that must be perfect, for any duck house that is built today certainly won’t last for eternity, 
But it’s the people who are eternal, and God wants to conform us to His image without beating up everyone around us in the process.
Change your focus.
See the person behind the project.
That doesn’t mean you stop doing the projects.
But know your limits.
Take breaks.
Even if the project doesn’t get done when you think it should.
Even if the project isn't perfect.
I can look at the many projects that we have tackled with a critical eye, seeing the uneven cut, the crooked screw, the.... 
Or I can see the men my boys have become with skills that already have taken them farther than I could imagine and be proud of them.
That's where I want to focus.

Remember the people in the midst of the project.
And imitate God, Who allows our mistakes and still makes something good.


How do you do projects with your child?
 

I write about what matters...to you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what matters...to Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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