The ProblemMost people have developed a few thought patterns they would do well to consider changing, ~me included. It's not always easy to recognize these negative patterns and how they destroy us. Sometimes it takes years of experiences, a new level of maturity or input from other people to even recognize a deeply entrenched thought pattern that keeps us from making progress in our lives or that affect our relationships.
Does anyone else's children have an automatic go-to rut in their brain every time someone asks them to do something or asks a hard question? These usually begin with; I don't know, I can't, I don't want to, I don't know how, I can't remember.... I've decided to be the person that pointed out these ruts and offer a solution to my kids. It's not the first time I decided this, of course. Parenting is pointing out ruts and showing a better way over and over and over again. But it seems to yield little results in certain cases. And in some very, very hard nuts to crack the ruts are actually concrete trenches, (figuratively speaking).
The SolutionOne day this past week I was making breakfast and I asked Jimmy Bean to, "please, get me a jar of home-canned pickles."
His response flew out in typical fashion. "I don't know where they are."
We only keep the home-canned food in one place so I didn't acknowledge his words. I just gave him a quick "I'm waiting expectantly" look and turned away. If there's one thing I have learned on this journey it's to just stop talking. Don't try to clarify, don't argue, don't take the bait, don't even notice half of what is being said.... Life is sweeter if you let it glide right on by. If you feel you have a fraction of a chance at changing the outlook later, think before you speak and have a plan.
While he was off to get the pickles, which by the way, he went straight to the pantry to get, I thought about his response and how so deeply dug his comebacks indicate those ditches have been laid. When he produced a jar of pickles I had him look me in the eye and I said, "It's a funny thing how the brain works. Sometimes it gets stuck in deep ruts doing the same thing over and over even though it doesn't always make sense. I would like you to notice that your brain is trained to think 'I don't know... I can't...' This is your automatic response to me for everything. In this case you actually knew where the pickles were, but your brain is so used to going down the path that says I don't or I can't. The Bible tells us that we are suppose to say, 'I CAN. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' People can make new brain pathways and change the way they think."
Seeing that he was actually listening I chanced a question. "Do you know where that verse is found in the Bible?"
"What? You didn't say, 'I don't know'!!!! High five! You didn't let your thoughts slide along the easy route, you just plowed a new road!! Where did you learn that verse?"
"I learned it at Pathfinder Camporee."
"WOW! You just answered my question and you are doing well on building a new brain pathway! Good for you. If you keep telling yourself 'I CAN' instead of 'I CAN'T' you will dig some positive highways in that brain of yours that will serve you well."
So THAT was VICTORY. And the very first plow job toward building new ruts in his brain. Half an hour later he might not have been remembering his job was to keep bulldozing, but I'm remembering it's my job to keep parenting.