Actually, we started out with stickers.
Sit on the potty, get a sticker. It was all very exciting.
We kept a small poster board with all collected stickers on display nearby. This new routine made for many "sit on the potty" trips to the bathroom. You didn't even have to produce anything. All you had to do was sit.
(I've found that stickers remain a motivator even to college girls in a small group Bible study which requires weekly homework, but that's a different post.)
After a while of practicing with stickers, the prize increased exponentially with M&M's - one for #1 and 2 for #2. I should have expected that there would be even more trips to the potty with this delicious, sugary, chocolatey, red dye #40 reward. Who would have guessed that you could eke out #1 several times an hour in order to obtain what would amount to a handful of M&M's? I quickly learned that no one has to teach us to milk the system. It's in our nature from the very beginning.
|Now that I think of it, M&M's kept in the bathroom might not have been|
the most sanitary. At least there was a lid?
And don't ask about the crayons. No idea.
I think that God, in His abundant grace, uses that selfish nature to His advantage and ours at times.
Recently, I was feeling pretty discouraged about my interactions with one of my big kids. In my opinion, they were acting with disrespect and dishonor and selfishness. Funny how that kind of behavior can train a parent if we're not careful, and I found myself being trained. I would avoid asking for help or making suggestions or requiring obedience or doing anything that I knew would produce eye-rolling or heavy sighs.
I've also learned that the problem only gets worse in that kind of a cycle, so I decided to confront the kid. This was met with more disrespect, dishonor, and selfishness mixed with anger and disdain. Not fun at all, and even more discouraging.
Sadly, prayer was my last resort. I hadn't yet read my Bible or prayed that day, so I went to another part of the house, read from Matthew (I'm still trying to read each gospel each month), and then began writing out my prayers in my journal. Maybe halfway through, it dawned on me that I could pray about this parenting situation. Now, I'm not always this slow to take things to God in prayer, but self-sufficiency is definitely an ongoing battle for me. Why bother God with this? I can figure it out on my own.
I must have been two sentences into my "Lord, please turn this child's heart to You and to me. Show me how to respond..." when the kid walked into the room and said humbly, "Mom, I'm sorry I was being mean to you. I'm just really stressed and overwhelmed right now..."
And the child sat down and we talked. True feelings were revealed. Inner battles were described. Shoulders were rubbed. Pep talks were given. Hands were laid. Prayers with and for the child were said.
I immediately thought about my potty-training strategies from long ago. Talk about positive and immediate reinforcement. God had not just given me one or two M&M's, but more like a whole bag.
I had to laugh. Here I was trying to parent my kid on my own with a tiny trickle of prayer about the situation. Little did I know I was the one being parented.
And what was God trying to reinforce? Well, I suppose it's pretty obvious, but here it is: He wants us to pray. At all times and about everything.
The verse is probably so familiar. It's one of the first ones I ever memorized, but also one of ones I most neglect:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
Through the years, and though I'm slow to grow, He's taught me that I can and need to pray about everything.
Am I scared at the recent turn of events in our world? I can pray for President Trump and for Syria and Turkey and North Korea. Big things.
Am I stumped over what to do for my husband's birthday? I can pray for creativity and gift ideas. Seemingly little things.
And when he answers the little things, it gives me peace that He's at work in the bigger things as well.
More than that, though, His often and immediate answers, show me that He loves it when we pray. He loves it even more than I love it when my kids are finally toilet trained or come and open up about their struggles.
He's a good parent, and I'm so grateful for His patience and grace in raising this big kid.
Want some more incentive and encouragement to pray? Check out this great list.