My son has had a difficult time adjusting to third grade. Maintaining focus and staying on-task are challenging for him. When the work seems difficult, his tendency is to shut down. He is intimidated by hard work.
Not long after school began, my son, his teacher, my husband, and I sat down to talk goals and strategies. Guided by our questions, my son stated his goal — “I want to work hard and get my work done quickly at school so I won’t have homework.”
With that goal in mind, we worked together to develop some simple strategies to help him accomplish it. As we left the meeting, my son felt that his goal was possible — quite the opposite of his feelings earlier that day.
Since then, he has had good days and bad days. Some days, he meets his goal; others, he does not. We celebrate his successes. On the bad days, we either gently remind him or firmly remind him or hug him while he cries — whatever is needed most.
In addition to staying on-task and working hard, I would also like to see my son work more neatly, keep his desk clean, do his corrections quickly, etc., etc., etc. But his teacher recently reminded me — Baby Steps. One thing at a time.
What a good reminder! One thing at a time.
You see, like my son, I also tend to get overwhelmed. Sometimes I think of all the many things I want to improve about myself. And it seems like such a long list. Too long. Too much. So I do nothing.
I’ve been trying to take a deep breath and remind myself — one thing at a time. Just one thing.
I’ve also been reminding myself of that with my other children. I can’t expect them to mature immediately. They will grow in baby steps. I can prayerfully choose one heart-issue at a time to focus on with my children. That means, I will intentionally overlook other things that aren’t as important, trusting God will deal with those later (if they need to be dealt with at all).
This approach works with my third grade son, but I think God brought it to my attention especially for my 12-year-old daughter. She’s a ball of pubertal hormones! She is testing limits and does not always make wise decisions. She is a sweet, responsible daughter and big sister one minute, and the next, — well, the opposite of that.
I can easily feel overwhelmed and frustrated when I think of what I’d like to change about her. But that’s not the right focus. And it’s not my job to change her anyway. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. So I am trying to wisely choose what heart issues to focus on and correct or encourage. Baby steps.
And for the rest, there is grace.
Isn’t that how the Lord works with us? He doesn’t bombard us with conviction about every sin all at once. Little by little, He grows us. And He gives us lots of grace.
I’m learning to give that kind of grace to my children. And to myself.