In all homes, even in Christian homes, trouble comes in all shapes and sizes. Big trouble, little trouble, parent trouble, kid trouble. The question is not about how to avoid trouble. Rather, it’s, “How much trouble do you want to buy?”
Five year old Joey leaves a mess in the family room after gaming on the TV for a while. Cookie crumbs, spilt milk that the cat is now licking up, jacket thrown on the floor. Well intentioned moms might think, “He’s just a little boy and boys will be boys,” as she cleans up his mess. Of course, mom’s thoughts are exactly right, but how much trouble is she buying both immediately and down the road?
In the present, mom has to either look at the mess and accept a new normal, or take time from what she was doing to clean up Joey’s mess. She might even rationalize that she is being a “good mommy.”
Down the road, Joey becomes a pre-teen with feelings of entitlement with impunity. That is, “I can do what I want with no consequences.” As a teen, has Joey been set up to blow off his studies, get poor grades, come and go as he pleases, and find trouble with the law? Now what kind of a mommy has his mom been?
Imagine my left hand is the point in time when you recognize that there’s a problem. This is a finite point and you can tag the problem to that point in time. My right hand is in motion and represents the time at which point you address the problem. It can be inches from my left hand or as far away as I can reach. You have control over when you address the problem. The distance between my hands defines the amount of trouble you are buying with your response. What to do? What to do?
When I see it this way, I’m want to address the problem as soon as I recognize it, inches from my left hand. I’m not going to hold off and see how it comes out. Holding off just buys more trouble.
My granddaughter has the habit of using the bathroom, and then leaving the lid up, toilet unflushed, and light on in the bathroom. When I notice this, I call it to her attention. Since we have repeatedly had this discussion, all I need to do now is call her name, with “that tone in my voice,” and she goes, “Oh, yeah. I forgot again,” before going back to the bathroom to correct the problem. Hopefully, I am slowly encouraging her to develop healthy, responsible habits. I could yell at her or grumble under my breath as I clean her mess up. However, both of those options are power-related and only lead to anger, frustration, and emotional distance.
Addressing problems as soon as we are aware of them minimizes the trouble and creates a teachable moment while also encouraging emotional intimacy and healthy relationship. How much trouble do you want to buy? For me, as little as possible.