I've been giving a lot of thought to the idea of patterns lately.
We use patterns all the time. And oftentimes the patterns we consciously choose are good ones. When we sew, we follow a pattern~ even if it is just the pattern of cutting a garment from an already existing one. When we teach our children to write, we have them follow dotted lines and trace the letters starting in the same way each time. And when we follow a pattern we gain a familiar result. That's the blessing of following good patterns.
But patterns can be good or bad. The Scripture is full of both kinds of patterns. We read that he who walks with wise men will be wise (Proverbs 13:20). That, of course, is a good example. We also read that he who makes a friendship with an angry man will learn his ways and get a snare for his soul (Proverbs 22:24-25). That would be one of the bad.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
Watch your thoughts they become your words;
Watch your words they become your actions ;
Watch your actions they become your habits ;
Watch your habits they become your character;
Watch your character it becomes your destiny.
So, my question is this: What types of things are happening repeatedly in our homes that are becoming patterns? And are these patterns positive or negative?
PATTERNS OF JOY IN SUPPORT
I recently watched an entertaining video interview with John Piper and John MacArthur. It's a fun use of 54 minutes when doing housework. In this question and answer format, both Johns were asked about their father's ministries. As John Piper talked about his father often needing to leave for weeks at a time, he recalled that he never resented this, a fact he attributed to his mother. Her habit of enjoying her husbands ministry and giving the young ones a vision for their support role made all the difference for him. He looked forward to his father's return, tales of the gospel's effectiveness and to knowing that he was supporting something valuable.
That was a challenging word to me. I have found myself mulling over new ways we can bless daddy, reiterate how thankful we are for his hard work and focus on the advantages of his work, rather than our sadness when he is away from us.
PATTERNS OF SIBLING CONFLICT
I recently had the pleasure of talking with a young mom, who is also a long time friend, regarding a pattern of contention between siblings. Although we discussed a variety of situations within the home, in this area I was encouraging her to help her little ones to break these habits of bickering and create new habits of encouraging interactions.
How do you alter this path for little ones? I believe (in addition to bit by bit Biblical teaching) the answer lies in greater structure in their play.
Do they have activities they enjoy? Art for example? Could they create art projects for hours? Great! Have the children do art for 20 minutes, then switch activities before the children have a chance to grow weary. Always remember that little ones have short attention spans. When working on correcting poor patterns, we need to think ahead a bit and break activities off while they still want more.
The goal is to create a pattern of successful play that doesn't have the time to turn sour. Keep structuring the play until they learn to play together cheerfully (develop habits of positive play).
While discontent in little ones is often the result of boredom, be sure to analyze the problem within your home. Is sugar an issue? Videos? Poor examples in books? Unsupervised play? Not enough sleep? As we determine the root causes of the problem, we can begin to give our children the gift of new patterns.
PATTERNS OF FAILURE
We have a little one who is struggling with a pattern of failure. Although she has been potty trained for some time, she simply get distracted and then experiences the mad dash to the restroom only to have failed in making it. As I thought about this, and my sadness for her, I realized that just setting the timer could help. My desire is that she has a pattern of success rather than one of failure.
Oh, and by the way, it is funny that no matter when the timer goes off, I'll hear that she doesn't need to go. I just respond, that's ok, I just want you to say "Ok Mama" cheerfully and go. That is an important pattern too. And we're working on that pattern at the same time.
PATTERNS OF RECEIVING COUNSEL
Do you have a child that has developed a habit of disregarding your counsel? We have had to work on this before.
If you are noticing that your child believes that his/her opinions are superior to yours, and they are developing a habit of disregarding your counsel, I would encourage you to take that seriously. Although the issue in question might not be serious, the habit of that spirit can be.
Now is the time to develop habits of regarding your counsel.
Now let me just say, I do not mean that we should crack down on the problem like gang busters, never ask for their opinions or make a big scene in front of their peers or siblings.
We have found that this heart issue is best handled alone when the child is able to receive counsel. Let them know that you know they want to grow to be wise, so you need to point out this issue that might be creeping in. Our goal is to forge a respectful relationship that will endure the long haul.
May God bless your efforts to establish godly patterns in your home.
Photo: Our little helper Lydia during our Girlhood shoot. This issue is now available! I hope it will bless.