(Children mentioned. Originally posted at Mile High Mamas.)
If my son forgets to wear a coat on a chilly October day, he experiences cold.
If my daughter forgets to bring the lunch I pack for her, she experiences hunger.
Neither experience will cause lasting damage. In fact, my hope is that such lessons will leave lasting impressions.
I want my children to pay consequences they can afford. Like the time Tessa left her brand new Thumbelina on a playground swing, and we weren’t able to find it when we went back the next day. Tuition for this lesson? About $20 and a bucket of tears.
Or when Reed didn’t have enough money to buy the Power Ranger costume he wanted (we kicked in the first $10) because he shot his piggy bank wad in a manic spree at Chuck E Cheese. Tuition for this lesson? About 20 minutes of tantrum.
Most times, it would be easy to bail them out. To bring the coat, the lunch, to school. To buy another doll or spring for the costume. Time and money are small prices to pay to avoid tears, right?
True. But wrong. I think we do our kids a disservice when we separate their actions from the natural consequence of those actions.
It takes love to allow them to feel a little pain.
If our kids learn with small consequences, they are more likely to be able to avoid the big consequences. By “big,” I mean getting a costly ticket (or worse) for speeding. I mean getting arrested for shoplifting or being involved in a drunk-driving accident or facing an unplanned pregnancy — any of these could be natural consequences of their actions. If my children grasp that there is a link between what they do (or don’t do) and the results, they will, I hope, make more logical decisions.
So I hide my heartache when Tessa wails over her lost doll. I stay strong when Reed pulls out all the stops to get me to buy him the object of his affection. My children may never know how hard it is for me to be mean* and how I struggle to keep my eyes on the prize.
Sometimes mean = love. And it’s not easy being mean.
* OK, so deeeeep down inside, I’m going, “Bwahahahahaha!” But in my defense, it’s very, very deep.)