Yesterday, Steve and I decided to take a day to ourselves. A day to regroup, to talk about life uninterrupted, a business meeting of sorts to make plans for the upcoming months with regards to school, traveling, work etc. Steve's mom was ever-so-kind to take on the challenge of watching the boys for us while we were gone
Unfortunately, a CHALLENGE it was.
I could hear the difficulty in her voice when I called on Wednesday evening to see how things were going. My heart sank. And, as she continued to gently explain how UNangelic my pack of punitives had been all day, it continued to sink.....ugghh.....there's nothing like coming home to discipline. Fun. Fun times.
Apparently that day the moon and stars were not in line for good behavior. In fact, they might as well have fallen out of the sky along with all the planets igniting our Rulebook For Good Behavior into cosmic flames. Sometimes our kids are naughty or ornery and can be put back on course with a little correction, a couple of my famous eye-rolls and some muttering about loosing my sanity between huffs and puffs of exasperation - just enough to let them know I'm serious. And, other times they are ridiculous. Darn right ridiculous. Ridiculousness calls for special correction.
Special correction is typically uncomfortable for the kids and nice for me, because the house gets cleaned, cars get detailed, garage swept, garden weeded, toys are locked up, television unplugged and their handwriting improves with every "I will never again...." sentence that they have to write.
We don't expect our kids to be perfect. They are going to make mistakes, of course. But, (most) mistakes call for a course of action, appropriate action that will help the child:
1. Avoid repeat offenses
2. Consider the consequences of their actions
3. Examine how their behavior hurt themselves and hurt others.
Perhaps the most important on the list above is #3. Whether we accept this truth or not, it makes it no less true: Sin hurts others, it hurts me as an individual and it hurts my relationship with God. So how do you help a child make amends for a wrongful behavior that has hurt themselves, God and others?
1. Teach them (example is the best teacher) how to make a sincere apology.
2. Show them how actions follow words - they must act like they are sorry by trying to serve the one whom they have hurt, and try to behave in a more loving way toward that person.
Today, I asked each of the boys if they would consider writing their Granny a letter of sorrow. They each sat down and thought about what to say. I encouraged them to think about one or two specific things that they did wrong and to write a contrite apology for it. Then, they finished the letter with a specific note of gratitude toward their Granny for any of the wonderful ways that she helps, serves or loves them. Henry is too small to write, so he colored a picture for her.
After the letters were written, the boys delivered them to her with a hug. I think it's really important for kids to not only say that they are sorry, but also to follow the apology with, "Will you forgive me?" There is something conclusive and healing about hearing the words, "I forgive you."
They returned home after delivering the letters smiling and happy. I could tell that they felt relieved. It seems like a small thing, to learn the proper way to apologize, what it means to be contrite, how to ask for forgiveness and to be forgiven, but I hope and pray that these tools will serve them well as they grow into young men, and all-too-soon into adults.
"It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly
out of one's heart rather than out of pity.
A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security
in fundamental principles and values
in order to genuinely apologize."