The ability to change someone to become a better person is many times an elusive and frustrating feat.
Recently I became aware that I desired a change in my daughter’s cleaning habits or lack thereof.
She has been pursuing a college degree and working. She has been extremely busy for the past 3-4 years. She slips in and out of my house like a Navy Seal on a stealth mission.
I have been patient and kind regarding the disarray that has overcome her room. I keep telling myself, “she is busy and what she is doing is much more important than her having a clean room.”
But the other weekend I happened to walk into her bathroom and I was a bit frustrated because it looked filthy. So I chided her and told her that “this was unacceptable.” I went on to say that it looked worse than most bathrooms I had seen in my career and it could devalue my home.
Then I started praying.
I hate putting more pressure on my daughter than what she already has. But I also need to set a standard for her, so that when she is in charge of her own home, she will have an acceptable level of cleanliness.
Yet when I looked in my own clothes closet, I saw a fairly disorganized mess also. So I buckled down and went through all of my clothes and cleaned my own closet. I usually do this two times a year to coincide with the neighborhood garage sale, but I had failed to do it last fall. So it was a mess.
After I chided her, she cleaned her bathroom.
I snuck up there when she was not home and she did a really good job, but missed one area, so I cleaned that.
Then I happened to take some laundry up to her bedroom and while I was doing that I noticed that there was very little space which was not covered by clothes of some sort.
I started praying with more fervor.
I come from a long line of women who have nagging as a second language. My natural instinct was to nag her to clean up her room. But something kept holding me back.
I was still praying, but I was praying with the desire to nag.
Then on a Sunday morning I was looking for a notebook to jot down notes while at church. I happened across one of my journals from when my children were young. In this journal I had written about how disturbing it was for my mother to come visit me. All she did the entire time was nag about my carpet and how much I needed to get new carpet.
My mother has made most visits with her very difficult due to her constant criticism and nagging. I don’t want my dear daughter to regret the time she spends with me.
So I prayed some more, thanking God for the reminder of how I felt when I was a young woman.
Then a miracle happened. My daughter’s schedule lightened up and she went to town on her bedroom. In addition to cleaning her room, she deep cleaned two closets upstairs for me also. I didn’t even ask her to clean the closets and she did a super fantastic job.
It was such a relief for me to be able to praise her, instead of nagging her, because I am by nature someone who edifies others.
I am no self help guru, but as I reflected on this story I realized that there were certain steps that I took to achieve the change in my daughter which I had so desired.
The first step was to understand where she was at in life. Being a college student is hard enough, but doing it while you are also working a job can at times be overwhelming. To nag at her about her room would have added unneeded stress.
The second step was to acknowledge my own shortcomings. I was very frustrated with my own closet. I needed to take care of that before pointing the finger at my daughter’s room.
The third step was to set appropriate boundaries. I needed to make sure that my daughter’s bathroom was cleaned on a regular basis to decrease the chance of mold. Mold can significantly affect the resale value of a home. Thank God she cleaned her bathroom before it got to that point.
The fourth step was to praise her for the successes I saw. People rarely change from criticism, but if you provide encouragement they are more apt to change. People and animals will work hard to receive a reward, but stop dead in their tracks if there is punishment ahead. Think of praise as a reward and criticism as punishment.
The fifth and final step is to PRAY CONTINUALLY WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO CHANGE SOMEONE ELSE. God created us all in a unique and special way and sometimes we just need to chill and accept our differences.