Keeping Boys Busy and Encouraging Helpfulness
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.
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.