Teaching Through Tears

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My number one objective in raising my son is to make sure I impart as much wisdom as possible in the time he’s in my home. Even above him feeling loved. It’s because I love him so much that I choose for this to be my number one priority. I think it should be yours as well.

A recent lesson comes to mind. We have a two story home. My son’s play room is on the second floor and we require that one of us be with him going up and coming down. That’s a non-negotiable. Going up the stairs was no problem, but coming down was another story.

I’ve always wanted my son to be 100% self-sufficient. While he’s young, I want him to build the confidence and experience that he can do anything that he sets his mind to. The stairs are no different. After play time, we’d approach the stairs with hesitation. Immediately he’d begin asking for me to carry him down.

“Please daddy, carry me.”
“No son. You can walk down.”
“No! Carry me!”
“I’m not going to carry you. You have to learn to walk down the stairs.”
Cue the crying and screaming.
“No! Please daddy, carry me! I’m scared! CARRY ME!”

You get the gist.

So, I would proceed to grab his hand and lead him down the stairs. The crying intensifying. My heart strings getting tugged. The fear evident in his voice. My son trying to wriggle his hand free of my grasp and clawing at my leg with his free hand. All the while, I’m gently coaching him down the stairs, by his side, hand in mine.
“Come on son, you’ve got this.”
“You don’t have to be afraid, I’m here to help you.”
“You’re a big boy. You can do this. There’s nothing stopping you from doing this.”

We’ve got 18 stairs. What normally takes 5 seconds took an agonizing 30 to 45 seconds. For several months.

At the bottom of the stairs, I would make him stop, try to get him to calm down which was hit and miss, and give him final words of encouragement. I would turn him around and point to the stairs and show him how far he’d gone. I would tell him how proud of him I was to try to go down the stairs and how proud I was that he made it to the bottom. I told him the next time would be less scary and soon he wouldn’t mind the stairs at all.

I’m not going to lie, there were times I thought it was a waste of time. As the weeks drug on and the routine didn’t change, I thought maybe I was pushing him too early. Maybe I wasn’t acknowledging that he had some sort of deep seated fear that he wasn’t able to overcome yet with his limited experience.

But, I also have the end in mind. Stephen Covey is famous for coining this phrase. I’ve thought quite a bit about the man I want my son to become. I’ve written it down and I refer to it every few months. This is my guide and supports me when I hit a wall or question my methods. I won’t always be right, but at least I have a plan.

Over the last month and a half as we’ve been making more frequent trips upstairs to play, the crying has stopped. My son doesn’t ask me to pick him up any more. He confidently grabs the rail, or scoots down on his butt, or grabs my hand and we walk down together. I offer him encouragement as we go down and at the bottom of the stairs, I tell him how proud I am of him. Now he excitedly gives me a high five and yells, “I did it!”.

My son has overcome one of many obstacles. He has the confidence and experience to look back at the stairs and know he’s capable of pushing himself. That even when he’s scared, there’s a way through if he’ll just push himself. All the while, I’ll keep patiently encouraging him.

One step at a time, my son is becoming a confident man that will serve him and his future family well.

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