As a mom, I often find myself repeating things over and over and over again:

“Please don’t whine. Ask politely instead.”

“You must pick up your room before you can go and play.”

“That was not showing kindness to your sister. Go back and try again.”

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“We do not scream in this house.”

As I’m saying these things for the umpteenth time, it’s easy to feel discouraged that all of the hours I’ve invested in training my children are resulting in little fruit. I mean, shouldn’t I be able to just tell my child something once and they remember it?

And yet, I’m encouraged by Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Training doesn’t happen automatically. It’s doing something repeatedly for a long time period in order to achieve the desired results.

I recently set a goal to run a 5K without stopping. As I’m not naturally athletic (I got my first C in P.E. in second grade, if that tells you anything!), this was a fairly momentous challenge for me.

Lacing up my tennis shoes that first day, I knew there was no way I could go out and run 3.1 miles. So I didn’t even attempt it. In fact, for the first week, I was doing good to make it past the mile marker without stopping.

Since I’ve not had much experience at all with running, though, I wasn’t frustrated at myself for not being able to go a longer distance. I knew it would come with time and practice.

I slowly paced myself over the next few months, running multiple times each week and pushing myself to go a little farther each time. At the end of three months, I ran 3.1 miles without stopping for the first time ever (don’t ask me what my time was, though!). It was exhilarating and fulfilling–in large part because of the effort and sweat it took over the past few months to achieve this goal.

Training for a 5K gave me a new appreciation for what it means to train my own children. When I get frustrated at them for not cleaning their room correctly, or when I become flustered at having to remind them, yet again, to use correct manners, I’m forgetting that I can’t expect perfection from the get-go.

Just like I wouldn’t be able to run a 5K without hours of training and practice, so I can’t expect my children to have perfect behavior and good manners without me putting forth the effort to work with them. They won’t just naturally know how to clean their room or put away their toys if I don’t take the time to teach them, help them, gently correct their mistakes, and practice having them do it the right way repeatedly.

God has given me the job of training my children with these life skills. And that means I need to willingly and joyfully accept the fact that I’m going to be repeating myself a lot.

And some day, I trust that the repetition will pay off!