Last Updated on March 20, 2018

7:45 a.m.: “Kids, please be ready to leave in 10 minutes.”

7:55 a.m.: “Kids, go get in the car and buckle up.”

7:55 a.m.: Notice son scrambling to find his shoes: “Son, I told you to get in the car.”

8:00 a.m.: Loud honking in the driveway while son is still in the house searching for shoes.

This is a typical scenario in our home. I have a child who is always late. I have to give him instructions at least three times before it becomes an action. And I am as much to blame. Sometimes it seems easier to yell three times than to take the time to address the heart issue of obedience. Once I finally realized my part in enabling the disobedience, we decided to sit down together to correct the issue when it happens.

We begin with prayer, asking God to forgive my hasty words and my son’s disobedience and to help in correcting the issue. We pray that my son will recognize my voice, will listen and respond quickly to instruction, and that he will also recognize prompting from the Holy Spirit to obedience.

I also realized that I need to help my son understand honoring others. When he is habitually late or ignores instruction, he is putting his desires before others. His time and agenda become more important than theirs. I need to help him develop good habits now as a young man.

Some of the tools we have established to help him:

Tool #1: Being Prepared

Thinking ahead to make sure he has everything he needs for the next activity several hours ahead of time or the night before (sports equipment by the door or school bag packed and clothes laid out).

Tool #2: Remembering Tasks

  • A checklist of what needs to be accomplished before leaving in the morning (making bed, teeth brushed, pajamas put away, etc.). Once his checklist is finished, he may spend the remaining time before leaving doing an activity he enjoys.
  • Sticky notes with reminders or charts around the house remind him that he needs to practice his Tae Kwon Do before watching television (sticky note on the TV) or what his chore after dinner is (chore chart on the fridge).
  • When I give him verbal instructions, I have him repeat them back to me.  This forces him to pay attention and helps him remember.

Tool #3: Staying on Task

  • A kitchen timer is great for an easily distracted child. We set the timer when playing video games or watching television, for showers that tend to last too long, and to remind him when it’s time to come inside.
  • Realizing that my son is easily distracted, we turn off any electronics (computer, TV, etc.) when he has a task to accomplish. Sometimes I also suggest that he “whistle while he works.” Literally. This helps him tune out other distractions.

Tool: Listening

  • When my son is focused on something he enjoys, he tunes out everything else. So if I expect him to listen, I need to place my hand on his shoulder to distract him. He has learned that he needs to turn and give me his full attention immediately.
  • He has also learned that when someone is speaking to him, he needs to look them in the eyes to stay focused.
    We have lowered the volume on our electronics. Too often the TV, computer, and video games are much louder than they need to be. I don’t want to shout to communicate!

As so often happens, while I was brainstorming with my son, my own bad habits came to light. Too often, I’m 15 minutes late because I “just needed to throw some laundry in the washer, check email, unload the dishwasher, etc.” My to-do list was more important than others. Time to take my own advice!

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! This same issue has become a daily one in my household, and, frankly, I’m getting increasingly tired of it. At the moment, I still consider myself – and my family – new followers of Christ. With that being said, I couldn’t really come up with a ‘substantial’ way to pray for my son and I to overcome this. Reading your passage really opened my eyes and I am more than grateful The Lord drew me to it.

    1. Welcome to The Family, Eryn! As you tackle this heart issue, I would love to hear back what works and doesn’t work for your family. I’m sure you will come up with some other great solutions!