Susie Larson, says in her book, Growing Grateful Kids, that we can't grow beyond our ability to accept correction. I've heard it said that you can't fix what you don't acknowledge. Children as well as adults aren't always happy recipients of correction. As parents, it can be hard to determine when correction is needed and when the event that occurred has taught the appropriate lesson. It's a fine line that we walk. We understand the need to use situations to teach life lessons but we often wonder if the route we're taking is the best one. I'm sure there's not a parent alive who hasn't at one point questioned something they've done.
Mrs. Larson tells the story of a 16 year old son who had recently received his driver's license. Freedom at last, he thought! With permission and on one condition, this new driver borrowed his mom's Chevy Blazer for the evening. The only condition given by his mom was that once he arrived at the friend's house, the vehicle would stay parked until the next morning when he would return home.
When he arrived at his friend's house, the young boy and his buddies began the activity they had planned for the evening, working on a car. They had been at it a few hours when they realized they needed a part to continue working. Without even thinking about it, they all hopped into the Chevy Blazer and headed to the store...the same Chevy Blazer that was not to be driven once it arrived at the friend's home. Cruising along in the truck with his new found freedom and vehicle full of friends, the boy's buddies challenged him to pull into a school parking lot to do a few doughnuts on a thick blanket of fresh snow. The pressure from his peers was more than he could bear so he gave in to their wishes only thinking "in the moment". He soon realized that living in the moment isn't all it's cracked up to be. While doing the doughnut with the truck, the boy slammed into a concrete structure in the school parking lot. Thankfully, no one was physically hurt but obvious damage had been done to the Chevy Blazer.
When he arrived home the next morning with the side of the Blazer smashed in and the side mirror dangling, the young boy told his mom what had happened. Her initial reaction was thankfulness that no one was hurt, then anger and shock for his disobedience. There were lessons to be learned in this. The parents had to use this opportunity to teach their oldest child but how would they go about doing that?
After talking it over, the husband and wife decided the predominant lesson to be learned in this accident was that actions have consequences. Even actions that are accidental can have consequences. Thankfully, his consequences were not life-threatening for him or anyone else. None-the-less, there had to be consequences.
The monetary amount of $3000 came into this 16 years old's life and didn't leave for quite some time. You see, that was the amount necessary to repair the damage that had been done to his mom's Chevy Blazer. Even though it was accidental, the amount stayed the same - $3000. He would have to be responsible for that amount. The parents realized that $3000 was a lot of money to a 16 year old but they just didn't see any way around it. So, the boy began working. He picked up weekend jobs, odd jobs, doing just about anything that would contribute to the $3000 debt that he had acquired.
About a year and $1200.00 later, the boy seemed to be slipping into despair and discouragement from the whole ordeal. He had worked hard and willingly, placing all funds toward the debt that he owed but he began to feel that he would never be able to repay it.
With a 17th birthday, just around the corner, the teen's parents asked what he'd like for his birthday, He replied, "Just dinner at a restaurant with a few of my friends...that's all." Steak and cheesecake were two of his favorite things on earth, so they went about making the plans for their oldest's birthday.
The steakhouse was the perfect place...just what he loved. The friends that the boy had invited were good kids, fun to be around and the boy thoroughly enjoyed his special dinner on his birthday. The waitress brought out the final plate for the evening. It was his 17th birthday dessert, cheesecake, with candles blazing. She sat it down in front of the birthday boy. As he looked down at the cheesecake to blow out the candles, he saw two words drizzled in chocolate on the plate - "Debt Forgiven". The young boy couldn't believe what he was seeing. Could it be real? Through tears, he looked across the table at his mom and dad, jumped to his feet so forcefully that it almost tipped his chair backwards and wrapped his arms around his family. You see, those 2 words that were drizzled in chocolate on the plate were the only two words necessary to lift the tremendous burden that this young man had been carrying.
Mrs. Larson went on to say that "forgiveness took on a whole new meaning for all of us that day. With forgiveness in its structure, a family can withstand sins, mistakes and missteps and come out on the other side strong, loving and steadfast."
If you're blessed to be a parent, use your opportunities wisely and teach your kids those valuable life lessons like responsibility and actions having consequences. That's your job. Just remember to not make those lessons so difficult that your kids will never achieve what you're asking. Know your child. Be "in touch" enough to know when enough is enough, when it's time to allow them to wipe the slate clean and start over.
I'm not sure I've always been good at that as a parent, especially early on but this is one of those times when learning from other's mistakes, namely mine, can be as valuable to you as those life lessons are to your kids.