Dear God, Please Let My Children Get in Trouble


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.



  1. Amen! “Mistakes are opportunities to learn”, I say that to my kids often. Investing extra time, observations, and interventions when they are little pays off when they are older. I am seeing this in my 8 year old, as she thinks through decisions or chooses her words wisely with her siblings or friends. She’s had years of practice and guidance already.

    Once I had (barely) survived a full cart of groceries when the kids were 5, 4 & 3. I was beat. I just couldn’t get out of there quickly enough. They were all buckled and I was finishing unloading the cart. There it was. A pack of toilet paper underneath the cart that I just knew the cashier and I had both forgot about! I double checked my receipt. Dang. The kids and I marched that toilet paper right back in and paid for it as I explained to the kids that we could have just taken it, but the right thing to do was to pay for it. And…I have never left anything in the bottom of the cart again! ;) So OUR mistakes are opportunities for the kids to learn too! ;)

    1. So true that OUR mistakes are great moments to teach our children, as well! I had a very similar situation recently, and even though my oldest is only 2, I still hope that talking about it and doing the right thing made some impression on him!

  2. What wonderful wisdom from your mother to pray that they get caught when they make mistakes. I had never thought of it that way and will be adding that to my daily prayers for my boys. Thanks for a wonderful post. I look forward to your Sunday posts each week! :)

  3. AMEN!!
    You have a very wise mother.
    I believe you’ve inherited her wisdom.
    Your children will turn out beautifully as they have a parent that cares about them learning life’s lessons.

    Shelisa is right too! We as parents have to be good role models too.

    My kids are grown now… in fact I have grandkids. But I remember a time when my son found $2 on the floor of the grocery store. I made him turn it in to the store manager. They kept it for a week and then gave it to him. It wasn’t the amount, it was the lesson that was the important thing and the store manager knew that. How many people would have simply kept that $2 ??

  4. God’s timing is so interesting…had the SAME thing occur with my 4 year old about 1 hour before I read this. Such a great reminder… so thankful that you helped put perspective around what had happened because I was very upset that she would do that. Fortunately, my husband handled it and did so very well. (The employee at Home Depot was insisting that she just keep it…my husband had to pull him aside and clarify the intent, so we had the same issue with wishing they weren’t quite so kind about it ;-) ) Thanks for sharing this…

  5. Definitely a good lesson! When I was about 5 years old, I took something from a store. I still remember my mom taking me back to the store so that I could return it. She didn’t shame me, but I was most definitely told that what I had done was wrong. I never took anything again–it was a good lesson!

  6. Jenae, Not only is your mom a smart woman, but you are a brave one. It is so refreshing to hear you talk about this type of incident in yours and your family’s life. I think that, in this day of perfect parenting, we are blasted with too much information about just how “perfect” everyone’s children are and how “perfect” every parent is. Children make mistakes. Parents make mistakes. But the biggest mistake is to pretend that neither of them make mistakes. Your son, and you, have learned something from this experience. And, so have I…that the life of a parent really hasn’t changed that much! (PS. My children are 36 and 39 now…and I have had plenty of those little “imperfect” experiences!) Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love when our mothers share their godly wisdom. Recently I walked out of a store and found my daughter was still clutching the toy that I had given her to play with in the store. She didn’t have a clue about the concept of stealing… it was my fault for not paying attention. I was embarrassed for being an inattentive mother. My mother who was with me reminded me that these things will always happen. Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is not to be upset about it and not to let my pride and embarrassment keep me from doing what’s right. My kids are bound to embarrass me as they grow and make mistakes, sometimes in innocence, by saying the wrong things or acting out in public. But my mother’s wisdom is to set aside my pride and instruct them with grace, humility, and patience. My response is soooo important as I teach them right from wrong.

  8. The way you explained the importance of letting children get into trouble at a early age was the best explanation I have heard. A link to your article is going out in my next newsletter. Thanks

  9. Beautiful, and what a great example of prioritizing your children’s growth over everything else, including their short-term embarrassment or pain. Just as God does with us.

  10. Great post!

    My parents always prayed that we would get caught if we did something wrong when I was a kid and esp when I was a teenager….being on the kid side of it, knowing that they were praying that for me kept me in line and now that I think about it made me feel kinda special :)

    And I will be praying that for my kids too (when I have them) :)

  11. What great advice! I certainly am like you in thinking I want my son to be a good kid. But there is definitely a great deal of value in having them make mistakes while they are young and looking to us for guidance. So thank you for this prayer. I hope I have the willingness and strength to pray it!

  12. As a mother of 2 special needs adopted children, it is just not always this black and white. Try to imagine the police lettng you know that your 10 yr old will go to juvenile jail and there is a zero tolerance policy on theft. Sometimes decisions must be made and you just hope they are the right ones. If you ever need to see the other side of this coin, check out my blog. Look at the children and stealing post.

  13. I am so glad that you shared this story! I have a six year old that has struggled with this same behavior. We too have made that walk of shame back to Walgreens. We also had to do it at Party City, Borders, and A.C. Moore. The trip to Walgreens was recent, and I contacted the manager ahead of time to let him know what was going on and what I expected from in the correction department. Obviously since my sticky finger little guy has been a repeat offender, the cashier and the admittance was not enough. They too were a little too nice and too understanding. So this time I pulled out the big guns. After a stearn warning that the manager will now be watching him, and if this happens again he would be forced to call the police, it seemed to click. Hopefully, it clicked! I have tried everything. I am convinced that I will be that parent on the news that has her kid arrested or something, but I too feel that it is important for him to learn now rather than later. Once the trust is broken, no matter who the relationship is with, then it is very hard to get it back. I agree that I want respectable and productive members of society from my children later on, but I also want that right now as well. I feel like we just don’t have the same core values that once held together our communities. And this breakdown is allowing more tolerance that it once did. I say no matter what, lying and stealing is just unacceptable.

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