Here’s a little project that really helped me focus years ago.
I remember Rick coming home one evening. I had several kids at the time- probably 5 or 6. He asked how my day had been and I told him not so good. It seemed like a thousand things went wrong. When he asked me what they were, I couldn’t really focus on what they had actually been– there were just a lot of them.
So he told me the following day, whenever I was irritated by something, to write it down in a notebook. I thought, “ok, but I’ll be writing all day long!” What I actually discovered the next day was that it was only a few things that were frustrating me, but they kept happening again and again.
These were some of my irritations:
1-One of my sons, not intending to cause problems at all, would fling the door open and holler, “MOM” so he could discern where I was. It was not only irritating to be hollered at, but sometimes it woke the baby who had been difficult to get to sleep in the first place.
2- Also, when putting the laundry away, I reached up to put jeans on the stack on the closet shelf and the whole tippy stack came falling down on my face.
3- After school I told the kids to put their books away. Everyone seemed to need help because the bookcase was crammed with books and they wouldn’t just go in easily. The pages were getting bent, too.
4- Another of my sons seemed to think it was his place in life to irritate the others, and he was good at it. I’d hear his name whined out loudly by the toddler multiple times during the day.
5- In preparation to go to the library, I told the kids to get their shoes. I was tight on time and of course someone couldn’t find one of their shoes. We had smallish closets and it was tight fitting multiple kids clothes in there together as it was, but it seemed someone’s shoe was always lost.
6- Telling the kids to gather their library books, invariably there were a number of books we couldn’t locate. It happened every time, and our fines were getting quite high.
7- It’s Clean up Clutter time. Only, this is what would happen:
“He took it out! ”
“But she played with it after I did.”
“But he played with it last.” “
No, I didn’t. It was you.”
8. Ok, so now we’re picking up the toys, but I’m finding that things have been loosely thrown into the toy closet. Nothing is organized. The little guys don’t really know what is supposed to go where. It’s a disorderly mess, in other words.
Can you identify with any of my irritations? Maybe my doesn’t sound overwhelming to you, but to me it sure was!
Well, I shared it with Rick that night and just the fact that he cared really helped in the first place. He looked through each irritation and began to try to figure out if there was something we could practically do to help alleviate the problem.
Here’s what he came up with:
1- We explained to my son the problems it caused when he just hollered trying to find me. He had no idea it was causing trouble. We made a chart showing him the verse “Let all things be done decently and in order” ( I Corinthians 14: 40) explaining that the thing we wanted him to do from now on was calmly come inside and find Mom rather than exploding into hollering for her.
2 – Rick determined that if he got some wood and built cubicles in the closet shelves that stacks wouldn’t topple over every time I added to the stack. He put that “honey -do” on a list so the next time he had time, it would be a priority for him to get accomplished.
3- The bookcase dilemma was another honey-do. He asked if we could get rid of any of the books, but schooling so many at the same time, it just wasn’t the problem. We needed more bookcases, so he put that on his to-do list as well.
4- The issue of one child irritating another was definitely a recurring irritation. But there were several others that needed to be dealt with, and it wasn’t just that one child that was doing things that needed changing. However, usually at the time that the child does something wrong, the very Bible verse you need doesn’t automatically pop into your head. SO….We made up what we called a Consequence Chart. On the chart we had a few columns.
- First column was THE OFFENSE- such as: Irritating others
- Second column was a Scripture verse- in this case: Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets”
- Third column- What you should do- Treat others kindly. If they don’t like what you are doing to them, stop doing it.
- Fourth column- What the consequence will be if you don’t do this God’s way….such as: Do 3 acts of kindness today to the person you irritated purposely.
We listed many others in days to come on this chart. Our goal was to train the kids to make wise choices, realizing that there are consequences to every wrong decision they choose to make. I still remember years later when little Kelley came to me and said, “Mommy , what is the consequence for________?” When I told her, she said, “Oh, ok. I won’t do it then.” 🙂
5.Shoes, shoes and more shoes! What do you do with all those shoes? If each of 8 kids (we ended up with 14) has 3 or 4 pairs of shoes/sandals/boots- where do you store all those shoes? For us, that came to 56 pairs of shoes if each had 4 pair. Well, I understand we had a larger dilemma than most people, but it happens even in families with fewer children. Rick simply made a shoe shelf to put in our entryway with compartments in it big enough to fit shoes. Church shoes they kept in their closets, but play shoes, boots, sandals, go-to-town-shoes, were kept on the shoe shelf. Boy, did that one little project solve a lot of irritations for me! Don’t expect perfection, because you won’t get it, but such a little change helped tremendously!
6.The library books- falling in the crack between the bed and the wall as they read in their beds at nap-times, or getting shoved under the couch or under the cushion on the couch- oh the possibilities of where they might be…..
So, I bought a container for each child. We arranged a place -usually on a shelf in their room- to store the containers. The kids would bring their containers to the library with them, fill with books and stop getting books when the container was full. After we got home, they placed the containers on the shelf; when they finished reading, they were to place the book back in the container. No, they didn’t do it EVERY time, but they did have a place intended for it, and it often landed there instead of “who knows where”.
I also had them store the library listing in their containers. They all had their own library cards and would check them out separately so they were given their listing of books. I would tell them the day before library day to look at their print outs and start gathering any missing books.
7. Moving on to the daily dilemma of who took out which toy, and who should have to put it away…. it was impossible to figure out who did what, which is why we had to establish “pick up times.” During pick up times, we all worked on it- one room at a time- until it was done. With everyone helping, it was done much more quickly and the squabbles about “who- played- with- it -when” were eliminated.
8. Disorganized/Messy Toy Closet: I got containers for everything, so everything had its place. I put pictures on containers so the kids who couldn’t read yet could see that doll house people went in this one and matchbox cars went in this other one. Then, on the shelves in the toy closet, I’d put another picture under the place where those containers were to be placed. Again, don’t expect perfection, but if you don’t make it easy for them to be orderly, believe me, they just never will be. Besides, you are teaching them the skill of organization by doing it that way.
Well, the “Irritation List” was a huge boost to me. It helped Rick to prioritize his honey-do’s, and just to know that there was a way to deal with life’s irritations lifted my load.
I’m grateful for the irritation list! It’s such a simple exercise. But isn’t it true that often we aren’t upset from a big catastrophe, but rather many little things that pile on top of one another to the point that we don’t even really know what the real issue is?
From that time on, it has helped me to take time to actually identify the problem and look at steps to meet the need – whether it be a character struggle in one of my kids or a physical need that will make life easier for all.
Try it, and let us know how it works for you!