In my novel A Mother’s Shadow the main character did not stop a situation and someone was hurt.
I believe as a parent one of the most difficult things we have to do is to punish our children when they do something wrong.
- It’s hard
- It takes effort
- It’s a pain in the pa-tooty
- It’s inconvenient
- You have to follow through with it
- You have to listen to the whining, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth
- It often seems there is no reward or profit from doing it
- Each kid requires a different technique
The list could go on for miles of why it’s easier not give a reprimand when our children choose to do wrong, and turn a blind eye then to do something about it.
Even more difficult when it is our sibling, relative, friend or a parent who makes a unethical choice. It’s still the same – it’s difficult to ‘deal with it’, much more so than to face it head on and challenge the situation in an appropriate manner,
To begin with, we teach our children when they are young to: say you’re sorry. However, those are just simple words.
There are steps that must be addressed in an apology so it actually can have meaning, to then transform the person to be better, instead of simply just parroting what they are told to do.
*Keep in mind, these phases are to be suited for the age and understanding of the child. But do not excuse yourself with she’s just a teenager, when she, or he, is capable and expected (and rightly so) to be completely responsible for decisions made.
- When the offender apologizes to the one he hurt, he takes on the responsibility for his actions – NO excuses!
- It provides the channel for the offender to learn to communicate his feelings and why he did what he did; thus opening his own mind to his feelings, actions and decisions and motives.
- By explaining why you are sorry it provides the opportunity to describe why it was unacceptable behavior, and helps them to think through why they would not want to repeat it again.
- The person apologizing takes on the responsibility of what they did and becomes a more independent person – not an entitled child/teen/adult.
- The other person may or may not forgive, you can only control you and that is what you need to help your child understand as they work through their own humiliation and embarrassment.
- By apologizing it gives the offended one the opportunity to share his point of view and gain back some poise and dignity.
- It relieves the offended of any sense of burden that they were at fault or that you blame them.
- A sense of integrity, self respect and self confidence, is gained and that they are commendable in your view as parents, and with God, because they are trying to be better. A path for all their life.
It is so important they realize that the other person may not forgive or accept any portion of their responsibility in the situation, however that does not matter, just their involvement does. That is the critical life lesson.
Now that part is over, there may be a consequence to be handed out also, depending on the wrongdoing.
Again, very age appropriate. When they are toddlers and young, distracting them from whatever they are doing that will harm them or others is best. Be positive in your speech and actions. Do not act shocked when they are learning words and behaviors, they are just mimicking what they see and hear. Calmly explain how your family feels about certain things and teach them in a kind way.
When my kids were growing up I had a list of chores that they could choose from if they wanted to earn some extra spending money. However, if they misbehaved in a way that warranted a punishment, I choose from the list, and no money was given. The list had items such as: scrubbing the baseboards, taking out everything from the game closet sorting and putting the correct game pieces back in the right box, etc, cleaning out kitchen drawers, things that needed doing but that I didn’t get to often, or not usually done until spring or fall deep cleaning. It could involve yard work, or whatever and the chore was adapted to the deed done and of course the age and ability.
- Their misbehavior caused me to leave my projects or helping with homework, or other family duties, to deal with their situation, so they now worked for me, for free.
- Kids and teens need to understand that their actions lead to consequences. They always have a choice of what to do, but they do NOT have a choice of the consequence – that is life!
- If a person is allowed to get away with things that are not ethical, legal, or in their own best interest long term, the consequences down the road will be dire. It is best to learn them at home while they are manageable and small.
- Whenever your child, loved one, spouse, or anyone makes a mistake, it is not for all social media to know about! It may not even be for other family members to hear of, unless it is in their best interest (and not just to gossip).
- It is difficult enough to swallow pride and make amends without the entire world watching, or seemingly so. Be kind, be wise, be charitable. When handling these matters, act as our Father does with us. He definitely gives us consequences for our bad decisions and rightly so; that is how we grow closer to Him and more like Him. Let’s be very careful to do as He wants us to, and remember to pray about this continually. He is our Father remember.
- Whenever we have to give ANY punishment at all, help our child apologize, we have the obligation and duty to show a HUGE increase of LOVE to our child.
- This does not mean:
- to spoil them afterwards as this would send the wrong message that to do something bad brings really great presents or gifts
- to say you’re sorry for punishing them – that’s making their problem yours, and that sets you up for a lifetime of heartbreak
- It does mean:
- to completely forgive them for their wrong doing
- to let it go and not bring it up
- LOVE THEM COMPLETELY
- Pray for them continually, particularly if their choices lead them into terrible paths
- NEVER, EVER give up on them. People can change HOWEVER do not PUT yourself or others in harms way. You can love from afar if necessary, and again ask God what is right in your situation.
Allowing our children, from toddler through adulthood, to grow, stretch and accept responsibility; without our meddling or protecting, will create a bond of respect and love that will flow like the river. Just as the river brings the life giving water to the roots of the plants along its banks so they can flourish. The plants then spread seeds for more flowers, trees and beautiful foliage to grow for miles and miles around. That is what you are setting the groundwork for, as you lay down the shadow of responsibility of consequences and love.
Copyright Carrie Groneman, A Mother’s Shadow, 2015
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