A couple of months ago, the boys and I made the one-mile trip to our local Walgreens. I picked up the few necessities I needed, all the while my children were standing at the check-out counter lamenting about how they wanted this and that. Ignoring their requests, I loaded them back into the car and we made our way home.
As I was getting the boys out of their carseats, I noticed that Big Brother was clutching something tightly in his fist. After he refused to show me what was in his hand, I pried it open to find the small caterpillar keychain that he was just asking for at Walgreens.
The only problem was, we had not paid for that item. My son had stolen the keychain.
After a quick scolding from me, I put the boys right back in their carseats and we headed back to Walgreens. I instructed Big Brother to take the keychain to the cashier and tell her that he had stolen it and that he was very sorry. I’m sure there were a thousand better ways that I could have handled the situation. But my point was made…what he did was wrong and he needed to make it right.
As we approached the cashier, it took a little prodding for him to tell her what he had done. With his head bowed and refusing to make eye contact, he finally did what he was asked. The cashier smiled kindly and said, “Oh it’s okay, honey! Thank you for returning it.” (Side note: She was a little too kind in my opinion, I’m trying to teach a lesson here!)
As I was sharing this with my mom, she said something that truly surprised me.
“You know, Jenae…I think it’s a good thing this happened. I always prayed that when my children made mistakes, that they would get caught. It’s important that he learned this lesson now that he is young and the consequences are small.”
I’ve thought many times about this wisdom that my mom imparted to me that day. She is exactly right.
We want our children to fail and to make mistakes now while they are young and under our loving direction.
We want our children to suffer the consequences of stealing at age 4 instead of age 24. Stealing at age 4 comes with some heavy-duty preaching and teaching and the short-term embarasssment of having to return the stolen item. The consequences of stealing at age 24 are at best, a misdemeanor, and at worst, jail time.
We want our children to lie now and suffer the consequences of a harsher punishment (than if they would have just told the truth in the first place). This helps our children realize the importance of honesty now, not when they are adults and choose to lie to save themselves from embarrassment or life-altering consequences.
It is so hard to even type these things, let alone pray them…I want my children to be good, moral, and honest. I want my little boys to grow into men of integrity. But I also know none of us are capable of perfection, nor will we ever be in this life. We live in a fallen world and we all make mistakes. However, as humans we all seem to learn best through experience (Adam and Eve, anyone?). The fact is: As parents, we have a unique opportunity to allow our children to make these mistakes and learn from their consequences while the stakes are small.
Dear Lord, please allow our children to get in trouble now while they are young, teachable, and moldable. Help them to get caught when they make mistakes. And give us the grace to lovingly handle these situations in a way that honors you.