Forgiveness the not the same as letting off the hook. So often children are taught, particularly through television shows, that no matter what they do, if they say they are sorry, everything will be okay, and there will be no consequences for whatever actions got them to the point of needing to say “I’m sorry” to begin with.
My daughter learned this weekend that actions have do consequences, and that being forgiven is not the same as being let off the hook. She had a bad temper tantrum, a really ugly one. She wasn’t in a situation where she was over tired or had been asked to be good for hours on end. She just didn’t want to stop playing when it was time to go home. Her behavior was absolutely inexcusable and unacceptable.
So straight to bed, no after-dinner treat, no TV and no story before bedtime. Those were the consequences.
She cried and cried and cried while she put on her pajamas. I asked her if she knew why she was in trouble. “I don’t know,” was the tearful reply.
“You did three things wrong. When we told you it was time to go home, you pitched a fit and wouldn’t come. Then you ran away from Daddy. Then you hit and kicked. When you act ugly like that, all the good things like treats and stories at bed time go away. You lose all the good things.”
“But I want stories. Please just one story.”
“No, actions have consequences, and your behavior was very ugly. You ran away. Then you hit someone you love because you couldn’t get what you wanted. You never, ever hit someone you love. Ever. That is really wrong. Do we ever hit you?”
“But I wanted to ride my….”
“We can’t always have what we want. You are the child, and Momma and Daddy are the adults, and when we say it is time to go home, it is time to go home. We did a lot of special things for you today. Instead of saying thank you, you pitched a fit. That kind of behavior is unacceptable. You need to try to do better.”
By this time pajamas were on, and we were headed to the bathroom. “Do you think you need to apologize to somebody?”
“I don’t know.”
We finished our business in the bathroom and headed to bed. I put on the nightlight and bedtime lullaby music and lay down beside her.
“I need a tissue.” She sniffed.
I got her one. She started crying again, “Please, may I have just one story.”
“I said please.”
“Yes you did. You asked very nicely, but you are being punished for your behavior earlier today. Your behavior was very ugly. You didn’t listen to Mom and Dad, you ran away, and you hit. When you act like that you get in trouble. You lose good things like treats and bedtime stories.”
“And I forgive you.” I hugged her. “And I love you very much. I will always love you, and because I love you I’m not letting you off the hook. Do you think there is someone else you should apologize to?”
Sniff, “I don’t know.”
“Well, is there someone else you treated badly tonight?”
“Yes, Daddy. I’ll go get him for you.”
Apologies were made; sniffles continued for a little while. I lay with my precious little girl until she fell into a gentle sleep clutching her ever faithful Floppy Dog.
You can’t always get what you want. Actions have consequences. Being forgiven is not the same as being let off the hook. Hard lessons to learn.
Ah well, as Anne of Green Gables would say, “Tomorrow is a new day, fresh, with no mistakes in it”.
© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.