How Do You Respond to Spilled Milk?


Things happen. Pause, say a prayer or count to ten, and respond with patience and love toward your children.

I tell a lot of stories about my son Chance, and here’s another one from when he was 13 that you might identify with:

It was the morning of the first day of school in the Casey home, and we were all going through our morning routine to get ready for the day. It was a routine for me, but I could tell Chance had some nervous energy.

As I was getting dressed, he came in to see me, carrying a cup of milk. “Dad, I need a hug,” he said, and we both leaned in with one arm.

Then Chance said, “No, Dad, I need a real hug.”

So I turned toward him and wouldn’t you know, my right hand collided with his left hand holding the milk, and … bam. We did more than spill that milk; it was all over both of us, the wall, the carpet, and probably places I didn’t even notice.

Right away, Chance said, “Dad, I’m sorry.” But I had a real battle going on within. Chance was standing there watching to see how I would respond.

My first thoughts were, “How could this happen?” “Be more careful, Son!” “Don’t be carrying milk all over the house.” But thankfully I was able to pause for a few moments and gather my thoughts. And I said, “No, we’re okay,” I hugged him again, and together we cleaned up.

Looking back on that morning, I know I was at least half responsible. And my son wanted a hug, so I couldn’t complain about that. But I’m still a little bit ashamed that my first thoughts were about blaming or correcting my son instead of reaching out right away to comfort him, or just laughing about it and moving on. I wasn’t that far from really hurting Chance on the first day of a new school year. I could have put a really bad memory in his head for a long time. All over spilled milk!

Without question, kids occasionally cause unpleasant things to happen. They cause minor frustrations, and sometimes the challenges are more significant. And there are times they bring out the worst in us, and it isn’t even their fault. But as we try to live out the Championship Fathering fundamental of loving our kids — no matter what — we need to respond with patience and grace.

I challenge you, dad, to prepare yourself now, before that challenging situation comes. Milk will spill. Toilets will overflow. Fenders will get bent. Choose now to pause, say a prayer or count to ten, and respond with patience and love toward your children.

Action Points: 

  • Go to your child and say, “I need a hug.” Make sure it’s a real hug and not a lean-in attempt with one arm.
  • What everyday habit or issue do you tend to nag your child about? (If you can’t think of one, ask your wife or your child.) Whenever you’re near your child, seek to be more affirming in that area.
  • Have you harshly scolded your child lately without a good reason? Go to him or her and apologize, being specific about what you did and why it was wrong.
  •  Really listen to your child. Show her that you want to understand her viewpoint completely before sharing your ideas. This honors her and builds her confidence in you.
  • Next time your child messes up in some way, step back, say a prayer, and remind yourself how much you love your child before saying anything.

Written by Carey Casey

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