My 3 year old son has learned how to unbuckle his seat belt. It’s a new talent he’s learning to use regularly as we’re driving at high speeds around the city of Indianapolis. I’m convinced he does it simply to see his two thirty-something parents lose their minds. We think all the stern yelling is effective…but I’m beginning to think he just finds it funny.
“Let’s watch mommy and daddy lose their minds…” click.
(insert devious 3 year old laughter here)
Tonight I tried something different. Instead of yelling at him, I squatted down at eye level (after I parked the car) and spent 30 seconds explaining to him why it’s a bad idea for him to unbuckle his belt while we’re out driving. “Not only will you get hurt if we have to stop the car fast or get in an accident, but the police will arrest mommy and daddy and take them to jail if they catch us driving while you’re out of your seatbelt.”
Now reasoning with a three year old isn’t always the best course of action, but tonight I think he might have actually gotten it (although I question whether seeing mommy and daddy cuffed and stuffed in the back of a patrol car might be enticing to him). And in the process I realized how often my expectations, not only of my 3 year old son but of others in general, can often outpace my willingness to educate.
Recently retired Colts head coach, Tony Dungy, was known for his amazing ability to keep his cool in the toughest of situations. By his own admission when he was younger, he used to be a hot-head. But coming from a family of teachers, Dungy learned over time to squelch his frustration with his now famous reputation of being an educator. I want to be more like that. I’ve got a long ways to go.
Most of the time, our internal anger and frustration with others comes from expectations we have of them that go unmet. But if we’re really honest with ourselves, how many times have we placed that expectation without ever educating on the issue in the first place? We erupt in anger but never take the time to explain the “why.”
Before you give me the father of the year award for my efforts with the seatbelt earlier this evening, I’m ashamed to say tonight was much more the exception than the rule. Educating takes patience, kindness, self-control…and love (I heard a rumor somewhere that those are supposed to be the outflows of Christ living in me). But it’s much easier to erupt in frustration than to have the patience and heart of a teacher. Unfortunately the Bible is clear:
“There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up.” (1 Cor. 4:15 MSG)
Ouch. I’ve got some work to do. How about you?