Smiles and Snuggles instead of Fury and Frowns
My boys woke up this morning and found me for a few moments of snuggles. It was an incredibly sweet time of connection, as there is nothing like an oxytocin boost to start the day!
After a few minutes of cuddling, I reminded my sons it was time to do their charts, which means they needed to complete a list of daily responsibilities before anything else. As they climbed off my lap I thought about the difference in how this morning felt compared to some of our recent mornings the last few days.
You see, each day my sons are responsible to complete a specific list of tasks before they can play with their toys. If they become distracted with a toy before their list is checked off, they lose the toy for a set amount of time. The last few mornings they woke up before me and, in spite of my reminders, I found them playing while their charts were unfinished.
When this happened yesterday, for example, I became frustrated. Tension gripped my shoulders and my stomach tightened. My breathing became shallow. Racing thoughts revved in my mind: “How can they disobey me like this? How many reminders do they need in order to finish their charts before they play?”
I walked around the house trying to locate the boys, then I greeted them with a, “I’m not-glad-to-be-with-you” expression on my red face. I pointedly asked, “Why are you playing when you have not finished your charts?” They looked at me with an expression of bewilderment, then I sent them on their way with the threat of losing more toys if they played before completing their tasks.
As I remembered this ordeal, I thought to myself, “Why can’t they simply obey so we can start our day with smiles instead of frowns?” While contemplating this reality, a surprising thought entered my mind: “Your mornings do not have to start in anger, even if your sons disobey.”
What? This thought seemed totally foreign to me. Yet, there was something about this thought that felt peaceful and welcoming. I suspected this was a “God-thought” so I prayed, “Lord if this thought is from You, I need your help. What would it look like for me to start my day in joy – even when the boys are disobeying?”
The image from my earlier cuddling session came to mind. Then, I had the thought of waking up and finding the boys already playing when they had not finished their charts. I saw myself greeting them with a smile and a snuggle instead of my frustration. Then, after joyfully connecting with them, I asked, “Do you know what I found in your room? That’s right, a mess! Please go finish your chart so you do not have to lose any of your toys.” At this point, I sent them off with gentleness and love.
These thoughts sure startled me! To think that I could connect with my sons in joy and gentleness, even when they were disobedient, was refreshing to me. And, to consider that I could share the reminder of possibly losing their toys gently rather than threateningly was profound to me.
I feel like God is honoring my heartfelt prayer to find creative ways to change the motivation system in our household to one of joy rather than fear. Immanuel is giving me some inspiration for what this process could look like in a way that feels genuine and reflects my values.
Do you need some new examples in your life to use joy as a motivator instead of fear? I encourage you to ask God to give you some creative ideas, as well as some people who can be helpful examples for you to observe. May this be the start of something good for you in this new year.
 Oxytocin is a bonding hormone released by the pituitary gland when you hug others, and it makes you feel more peaceful, trusting and generous.