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Keeping Boys Busy and Encouraging Helpfulness

>12 September 2012
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I’ve been having a hard time finding ways to keep my five year old, Titus, occupied. He’s the kind of boy who needs something constructive to do, or he’ll wander aimlessly complaining of being bored, which inevitably leads to him bothering one of his siblings or some other kind of mischief.

I definitely want to give him something constructive to do. I want him to learn to build, and work, and tinker. But there’s only so much a five year old boy can do without a lot of supervision, you know? I mean, sure he can help his daddy stack wood, and build things, but what do I do with him while Jerry is away at work?

He does his workbook for a little while, helps clean up his toys, enjoys arts and crafts, and loves to help me cook, but I need ideas for keeping his little hands busy with a project he can be proud to sink his efforts into.

Sometimes I give him a hammer, nails, and a block of wood and have him hammer the nails in patterns, or letters. Or I give him scrap pieces of wood to build little villages with. And whenever I need something unscrewed, or batteries replaced, I always let him get out his toolbox and help me with these things.

There’s such a pride, a feeling of importance and accomplishment that spills over in him whenever he gets to help work on something. I love seeing that. And I love how his attitude is amazing when he’s experienced being productive. He’s extraordinarily polite, respectful, affectionate, and eager to help with anything else he can. He thrives on praise, and I am happy to shower him with authentic gratefulness.

Today, we were having another one of those moments of him wandering the house bored to death, begging to watch a movie or something. I felt so bad for him! I sent him outside to play, and had him let the chickens loose, but I knew he needed a job. He needed to be productive!

So, I called him to me and gave him a task. With very detailed instructions, I told him I’d like him to wash the bedliner to our truck.  It was dirty, and I’ve been meaning to get to it for the past two weeks, and it was something that he could do with minimal oversight, so I figured why not?

I helped him turn on the water hose, handed him the dishsoap and a scrub brush and set him to work.

I went back into the kitchen to continue canning pears and helping Jada with her schoolwork, with Xia and baby Elias playing underfoot. And every so often I would peak out the back window to check on Ty’s progress.

Of course, he ended up soaking himself and playing a ton. But you know what, that bedliner got clean! And he was content in his task, and happy to have something to do.

But all too quickly he was finished.

And before I knew it, he found something else to do.

Realizing that it had been a few minutes since I’d last peaked out at him, I wiped my hands clean and stuck my head out the backdoor to see if he was finished washing yet.

I saw the bedliner in the grass. But I didn’t see Ty.

And then my eyes caught movement not too far from where he had last been, and as I glanced toward the clothesline I found Titus there. He was standing on an inverted clothes basket, pulling all of my clean laundry off the line and dropping them in a pile on the ground.

Shocked and dumbfounded, I shouted, “Titus! What are you DOING?!”

Why is this boy throwing my clean clothes on the ground?!

I went inside and threw my feet into my shoes before rushing back out to Ty, who, at the sound of my angry voice, had stopped what he had been doing and was anxiously waiting for me to reach him.

My first inclination was to scold him for messing up my clean laundry, but as I looked down into his big, brown eyes, I instantly realized the genuine sorrow in his face. My features softened as he bravely wiped tears from his eyes and through quivering lips he explained, “I thought you’d be proud of me.”

And my heart broke into a million pieces, for it was suddenly painfully clear what he had been doing.

He was trying to help!

I had hurt his tender little heart by shouting out at him, and I had some major making up to do to make it right again.

Immediately, I dropped to my knees and hugged and kissed him. And I looked him in his face and said, “Baby, I am SO proud of you! You were trying to help, weren’t you?” “At first, I didn’t know what you were doing. But now I know! You were helping me get my laundry down. That was SO thoughtful of you! You are such a good helper, Ty. Thank you! I am so very proud of you!”

He had to know that I wasn’t angry. He had to know that what he had done was a very good thing. And I didn’t stop showering him with hugs and love and praises until he knew in his heart that I was indeed very proud, and that he had done a very good thing.

I was grateful that his feelings mended quickly once he saw in my eyes that I meant every word of what I said. And he was eager to get back to work finishing what he had started. He was once again very proud of what a good helper he was, and he wanted to show me that he could finish the job without any help from anybody.

Picking up my laundry from the ground, I cheerfully suggested that we put the clothes in the basket and find something else for him to stand on. We found a milk crate which he thought was a great alternative to standing on the inverted laundry basket.

keeping boys busy

I asked him if I could take a picture of him being such a good helper, which helped to boost the pride factor.

When he had unloaded all of the clotheslines, he carried the basket inside and announced that he was done. I thanked him again for being such a big boy, so thoughtful and helpful. He squeezed my legs as tightly as he could, and looked up at me as he said, “I love you, Mommy!”

I love you too, buddy.

For being such a good boy, I made sure to give him a little extra attention (I even gave him sweet tea with his lunch, which is a very rare treat). And I bragged on him to his daddy when he came home from work, which made Ty beam with pride.

Did my clothes get a little dirty? Yeah. They did. But so what! Towels can be washed again. The opportunity to foster a spirit of helpfulness, however, needs to be tended and nurtured at the moment the chance is presented, for it may be one of only a few chances and should not be neglected.

I must continue to remind myself, the next time I see one of my children doing something that seems naughty at first glance, to take a moment to determine exactly what their heart motivation was before I act on the behavior. It’s so easy to just react in haste. I never want to discourage something that was done with good intentions, just because it wasn’t done properly.

Today, I am so proud of my little man. He did a precious thing by trying to help his Mommy.

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13 Comments »

  • Chantel said:

    Oh my goodness, you have touched me so much by sharing this story and the lesson that you learned! What a wonderful reminder to all of us. Thank you so much for continuing to blog through all of your hacker/virus issues and adversities that have come your family’s way. You are truly a blessing to me even though we have never met!

  • Tina S. said:

    Loved your story!!!

    Little boys are the most adorable thing in this world! <3 It makes your heart melt when they want to help!! ..and nothing is more cute and rewarding to me than seeing their eyes beaming all proudly in regards of what they've "accomplished" and their sense of wanting to help! :)

    This story came at the perfect time! – My 3 1/2 year old son is lately DESPERATE to help daddy in building stuff together, lol! He also has a hard time sleeping through the night lately and staying in his own bed, so the only way we were able to convince him a couple days ago to stay in his own bed was to promise him that he would be able to help daddy next day building the dresser together for his younger brother on the way. Surely enough, it worked!! He stayed in his own bed that night just not to miss out on the "treat" to help daddy next day. It was so cute! He pretended to read the "destructions" (hahaha, I had to bite my lip not laughing out loud! -he meant instructions, LOL), made important faces while looking over the paper, and beamed with pride when daddy let him hold some of the wood beams together or let him put in a screw here and there.

    The lesson I learned here (which I totally underestimated) was HOW important it was for my son to be involved in this process and how it made his day being daddy's BIG helper! :)
    It is great to know that even though it can sometimes be a little…uuhmmm..nerveracking(?);) ..seeing them have their little hands in something we just want to accomplish well and fast without being interrupted, is that we just should take this great opportunity and let them "help" even if it means slower accomplishments (or in your case possible dirty laundry ;) …and not have our impatience take over. It means so much to them and will nurture their self-esteem, good heart and willingness to help.

    Thanks again for your story! Love the picture of your sweet little (I big?!) helper and the serious, absorbed look on his face! :)

    Tina

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    What a precious story, Tina! “Destructions”, hahaha!! That’s GREAT! I love that you guys are letting him help where he can. Sounds like your little man is a lot like my Ty :)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thank you, Chantel :)

  • daisy said:

    Love those teachable moments! Sometimes we don’t give our kids the benefit of the doubt, I’m guilty of that myself. Congrats on turning it around and making it a positive experience for both of you!

  • Saira said:

    Oh, that heartbroken look that lets me know I’ve overreacted. Again. By God’s grace children are forgiving. :) I need to create a list of little people friendly tasks. And I need to learn to not overreact!

  • Tessa W said:

    I really needed to read this today. What a good reminder as I deal with my own little boys. Hopefully my tomorrow will go a little smoother as I keep this in mind.

  • Jason Calley said:

    Ha! Lovely story. Your children are all blessed by having such a wonderful Mama! Good work!

  • Laurie B said:

    Kendra, wonderful story, great lesson! Question for you: We are FINALLY moving to our homestead after 3 long years of searching! But I’m a little nervous about moving from our fenced in suburbia back yard to our 7 acres of wooded bliss with a busy little 6 year old boy. What tips can I give him on staying safe while still letting him roam and have fun? Our girls seem to always have that safety factor in the back of their heads, but our little guy just seems to get caught up in the moment at times! Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks Kendra!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Laurie B,

    Congratulations on your new homestead!! Yay!!!! I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you all!

    You’ve posed a great question!! I think I’ll write a post on this subject for everyone to read :)

  • Laurie B said:

    Thank you so much, Kendra!!! I’m so relieved to get some ideas from more experienced homesteaders!

  • Jillian said:

    How quickly our little ones want to grow up. And how they love to do what mommy and daddy do. If only they knew how our hearts sometimes long to keep them little forever. This story was so sweet! My kids love to help out every day, and sometimes it makes more work then it would of if I did it. But.. your right, it is most always out of wonderful sweet intentions. :-) Great story!

    Blessings!

  • Joe said:

    Excellent story, I have the same issues with my 8 year old son. By the time he could walk he was carrying around “tools” to help around the house. He is presently taking apart our deck to stay busy. It is a great way to teach him how to safely use tools. As long as he is done by Spring!

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