I’m not all that sharp but I have learned a few things from being a father of eight and husband of over twenty-five years. Left to themselves young boys usually do not do a very good job on cleaning the garage. They either fight with each other or they just frog around and do a halfway job.
Sometimes they will do well but usually not. If you send a boy to clean the garage alone he is more likely to do a good job than if you send two boys to clean the garage. I can tell them over and over again, “Go clean the garage. If you don’t clean the garage I am not going to let you play your baseball game tonight. I am not going to let you go to college. You will never get a job. You will never be able to take a wife. You will bring shame and ruin to the family name. I will take your bike away for a month. There will be no dinner for you until next Thanksgiving.” But these threats will have little or no effect on him.
It doesn’t work for me. It won’t work for you. Neither threats nor the power of positive thinking will net you a clean garage. You can hang motivational slogans all over your property. You plug in the boom box and play the theme to Rudy. You can sit that boy down and read him the imprecatory Psalms for an hour. You can threaten him with all the plagues of Egypt. You can manipulate him with dark threats of foreboding about the violent end to which slothful sons may come, but when you are done you still won’t be able to find your golf clubs in the garage. It just won’t work. I know. I’ve tried all those things.
There is one way that you can get the best labor out of boys. It’s simple. Go with them and work with them. Tell them, “Hey, guys, come with me. Let’s see if we can’t get the garage organized. Maybe we will find our tennis rackets. Maybe will find that extra set of golf clubs. Maybe our second car will surface. Maybe we’ll discover the lost ark or stumble across the ashes of the Red Heifer.”
The secret is that you go with them. You don’t just send them. You don’t just supervise; you work right along side them at first. Don’t give them a book. Don’t give them a spanking. Don’t give them a lecture. Give them a hand. Don’t just tell them how. Show them how.
They will go with you and even if they are small they will stay pretty focused. You might be surprised what good help they are if they are not left to themselves. And that’s just what the Bible says, “A child left to himself will bring his mother to shame.” (He won’t get the garage clean either).
There is a world of difference between saying, “Go clean the garage,” and “Lets go clean the garage.” You may even sweeten the prospect of completion with the promise of a trip to Krispy Kreme.
I see a lot from where I am. Problems and troubles young people can get into are many and varied. Slothfulness and foolishness are only two of them. There are some simple factors that almost always bear good fruit. Here are a couple of them. If you are a Dad see to it that you live a life that is in every way worthy of imitation. That’s the first and most important factor.
Here is the second one: Spend a lot of time with your children. Just do more together. When they talk listen. When you work have them help. When you travel don’t travel alone if you can help it. Get them involved in every part of your life you can. Play with them. Work with them. You don’t have to buy them expensive toys, just work and play together. There is something about playing catch that I can’t really put my finger on, but it tugs your souls toward one another. Like playing ping-pong or lobbing a tennis ball back and forth.
I have the fondest memories of spending time with my dad shooting cans with a BB gun until they sank into the river, playing chess on winter nights, delivering newspapers on winter mornings, going to the dump. It doesn’t so much matter what you do with your boys, but it is very important that you are with your children.
Riverfront Character Inn
March 7, 2005