Four Year Old Avoids Slammer by Confession

Walking out of Staples after our run for office supplies, my four year old's sister yells, "Paaaaaaapaaaaaa!  She took a candy and you didn't see!"  As we were busy that morning, I turned mildly annoyed to my youngest, with packages in hand and immediately stopped struggling to find my car keys, while herding the kids along through the maze of pedestrians to our car.  She was looking pretty sheepish.  With her little head turned down in that look of "Darn, he caught me!" and her sparkling eyes up my way, I could see she was experiencing embarrassment.  She was also upset her sister turned her in.   At the same time I could see her little wheels turning and wondering what was next, now that her fantasy of sugar bliss wasn't so sweet.

"Babe, what did you do?" I asked in that kind of low sing-song tone, reserved for the kids to discern, "Something is wrong and Papa's going to take care of it."  This time, I didn't get that, "Nothing...", which I've been really working hard on to remove from their spontaneous replies to hiding mischief.  Instead, I got an immediate, albeit reluctant, confession, "I got this." Her soft voice matched the pace of her slowly pulling from under her arm a likely warm by now multi-colored jawbreaker on a stick.  My reply was an intentional tone that was affirming the confession, mixed with need for action, resulting in, "Babe, I know you wanted that.  But, we didn't pay for it. Honey, we need to go back in, and return that.  It doesn't belong to you."  She complied with some hesitancy, due to her not knowing what to do.

On the way in to the store holding hands, I gave her some quick instruction, which I had to repeat only about two times.  "When we get to the lady, you hand her the candy. Say, I took this and I'm sorry."  Her sister in the background was like most sisters singing up the ultimate punishment, "She could have gone to jail!"  So, now experienced in multi-tasking and manging with some degree of success two conversations at once, I reassured my youngest, "Honey, you are not going to jail." To her sister, "Sweetie, stop that; she's not going to jail.  But, I really appreciate you taking care of our family and doing what is right" (Although I do wonder why she waited until we were outside the store before telling me).

The clerk we saw just moments before was very inviting, but also had that question on her face of, "What did I miss in my customer service?" as I approached her register.  I pointed to my little one to re-orient the clerk's attention.  With arm outstretched, candy in hand, walking toward the clerk, we could all hear a fairly good attempt to make amends. My little culprit was now back on the straight and narrow and comforted by the clerk's, "Thank you, Honey, for bringing that back."  On the way out of the store, I picked up my darling and my oldest trailed behind. I continued with "Thank you, Sweetheart for telling me what you did (I left out the part, after your sister busted you).  Let's tell Jesus your sorry." She did and I increased the affection.  "Later, we'll pray about this. Okay?"  She replied with a smile and apparently wondering, "Okay, I think?"

Her sister needed a few more re-orientations to the fact that jail was not in the immediate future.  Now upon reflection, I can see from a child's point of view, that would be pretty cool, to visit a jail by way of police car and sirens just for the fun of it.  Heck, I'm thinking since I know my daughters, even jail is better than "Nappy time", which was a few hours away (Napping: Children and Adults).  After this, we were back on track for the remainder of the morning, all in good spirits.

Side note: I wonder if my little one took Staple's new advertising to heart, "That was easy!"  Maybe in another context, but not when Papa is around and sister is looking for something gone wrong.

As most parents know, it is difficult to deliver messages that are clear while on the run, but I have found immediate, specific and short messages best, preceded with establishing a history of a lot of hand holding, high-fives, praises for accomplishments, tickling, hide-peak-and-sneak and just plain acting silly.  These seem to make the "messages" and "teachable moments" go over a lot better and they feel better for everyone, resulting in a very quick recovery time from "corrections" and return to the practical stuff of the day mixed with silliness.

That evening, before they drifted off to sleep, we chatted about where we saw God in our day, what we are thankful for and what we could do better.  Of course, this was followed by a lot of hugs and kisses and reading from the Magnificat, usually when I'm not too exhausted and there aren't too many "I'm thirsty", "I'm hungry" (again), "I have to go potty" or "I want my bear...rabbit. No, the other one" cycles of patience testing. If you don't know what I mean, see Goodnight, Junior, by Veggie Tales for an animated version of my experience (but with two girls)!

God bless,

Ed - Known this week as "Popsie-Wapsie" to my kids.

Prayer for the Evening:
I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy (Hos 2:21). 

Teaching Children Moral Behavior

Amazing Grace
Rhema Lil - Gospel Singer - Age: 8
Rhema lost her mother, Wendi Marvanne,
to ovarian cancer on November 8, 2008.


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