"I can't stop wo-wo-wo-worrying that I'm going to go to jail", is what my baby blubbered Sunday night. He'd come sobbing out of his room about an hour after he'd been put to bed. An hour after we thought he was already asleep, because he'd gone to bed almost an hour late as it was. I couldn't make eye contact with hubby because I was afraid I would start giggling. Which would not, of course have been the appropriate response to my baby's emotional pain. Probably.
Let me go back to earlier, to share with you the back story. And then you can decide if this was a parenting fail, or success. Because, in truth, I'm not sure. Even though I'm still giggling about the whole thing.
Saturday I had to work. Hubby had both boys and took them to the grocery. The were walking along and saw a Superman key chain. Hubby commented on it, as he is quite the fan of Superman. And then they walked on. Back to Sunday. I was down in the basement cleaning up the kid's "man cave" as we were having some friends over for dinner that evening. I noticed a Superman key chain I'd never seen. I asked him about it. He said they'd gotten it from the grocery the previous day. I thought nothing of it and continued cleaning.
Less than 10min later, I heard hubby telling the kid to go to timeout. (Side note, I was very proud of hubby for remaining cool and calm throughout this whole thing.) Apparently the kid had shoplifted the key chain when they were at the store. Hubby was asking him about it, but getting little response. So we let him stew in timeout for a few minutes then asked him to come sit at the table with us.
We explained that what he'd done was stealing. We don't take things from our friends' houses when we're visiting them, because the things at our friends' houses belong to them. Not us. And the same principal applies with stores; things in stores belong to said stores until we pay for them (either with cash or debit/credit cards). When he walked out without paying for the key chain he'd stolen something that didn't belong to him.
And then I threw in there at the last minute, just for fun, that people who steal things can go to jail. I wanted him to know that there was a serious consequence for stealing. His immediate consequence was that he was going to go the following day and return the key chain, explaining to the store employee what he had done.
The whole time he refused to sit down, and just stood there looking immensely pissed off. I asked him if he was angry, or what he was thinking, or if he had any questions. He just growled "no" and refused to make eye contact. So, we let it go at that, reminding him that we love him no matter what but know that he feels better about himself when he makes good decisions. (insert glare and another growl here)
We didn't say another word to him about it and had a lovely evening with our friends.
Then, Sunday night, long after we thought he was asleep, he came out. I assured him that he was not going to jail, because they don't put 6yo's in jail. But, if he continues to steal, it may be a consequence. After many hugs and cuddles and reassurances and kisses (in between me trying not to look at hubby or giggle), I finally got the kid back to bed.
Monday morning, hubby took the kid back to the store and they returned the key chain. He told them what he'd done and apologized. Theyasked him if they needed to call the security guard. She dropped his head and mumbled "no" between a few very real tears. They then told him it was okay, but not to do it ever again. He seemed much relieved that there were no police or jail involved. And - hopefully - that will be the end of that.
I know that this is normal kid stuff. And, truly, I don't think he understood that what he'd done was wrong. He didn't try to hide it from me when I saw it downstairs. He doesn't pay attention to us paying for things when we're at the store. And we only ever pay with credit/debit cards, which I think probably further makes paying seem rather ambiguous. In retrospect, I think some of his pissed off-ed-ness when we were talking about it was just not understanding what the big deal was.
I do think he gets it now. I don't think he steal again. He'd better not. And we've got some work to do regarding teaching him about this whole buying/paying system that we live in. Obviously.
Today's lesson: Sometimes, your kid's pain may make you giggle a little. Or a lot. And that may or may not make you a bad parent. But, also, sometimes that pain can go a lot further in teaching them the lesson. Because, sometimes, the pain means that the lesson has sunk in and they really get it. And by pain, I mean like the kid's fear of going to jail. Not like a broken bone or anything. Just clarifying for those of you out there in the whole "spare the rod, spoil the child" camp. That's not actually a good lesson. Just sayin'.