Life Lessons*

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 14 Comments A+ a-

It’s the kind of day where you want to beat your head against a brick wall, where even the deepest sigh can’t express the discouragement you feel. 

I knew this parenting stuff would be hard, but up until this year, its mostly taken a physical toll.  Newborn feedings, sick children, nights of steam showers, night terrors, energetic toddlers, dancing and running, and on and on.  Pure exhaustion resulting from lack of sleep and then trying to keep up with the Littles throughout the day.  These early years have been physically hard.

And now we’ve entered the emotionally and psychologically hard years.  I’d mentioned in Devyn’s birthday post that I’d never really envisioned her past kindergarten.  I’d never really given much thought to shaping and molding a person with character, faith, values, and integrity.  You mean to tell me that these kinds of people don’t just appear?!  That helping create this kind of person takes work?!

Well, we’re learning.  And we’re learning fast. 

Jon and I’ve always agreed that building character and integrity is far more important to us than academic, athletic, or any other kind of success.  That we would rather have a child who’s recognized for their character than any other award.  I don’t care if my child brings home a “C” as long as we knew their best effort was put forth.  I WILL care if my child brings home a B+ and is capable of an A but didn’t try.

Character.  Integrity.  Strong words, deep meaning.  Hard work.

Devyn is one of our easiest, there is little we have to get on her about, but she’s not perfect.  And lately, Devyn has been struggling with lying.  Its usually to avoid getting out of trouble (isn’t that the root of most lies) and we’ve tried everything in our bag of magic tricks to help her learn this valuable lesson in life.  We’ve done spankings** and groundings.  We’ve taken away privileges and toys.  We’ve discussed and reasoned until we’re blue in the face.  Nothing has worked.

And then today.  The dreaded email from school. 

Long story short.  Devyn signed my initials to her reading log and when the teacher confronted her on it, she pretended to forget who had signed the initials.  While I grew flustered at the email, embarrassed that my child had been caught red-handed, I was more concerned with the character issue that was at the root of this problem. 

A quick call to Jon alerted him to the issue that was brewing at home.  And then I turned to Twitter.  Because I needed a new idea, some new arsenal for our bag of tricks.  And boy did Twitter deliver.  (Thank you, thank you, thank you!)  Idea after idea rolled in, and within the hour I had a good idea of a sufficient punishment.  And after discussing it with Jon, agreeing that this was worth the try, we called Devyn into our room.

The moment I asked to see her reading log, she knew.  I could hear the whimper in her voice, the dread in her steps.  And when she returned to our room, her eyes flooded with tears.  We asked her if she knew what this was about, and she immediately started crying and apologizing simultaneously.  And let me tell you, its hard to remain removed from the situation.  That’s my baby who’s blubbering and apologizing over there.  My baby girl who is obviously sorry, and scared, and embarrassed.  One side begged to comfort and cuddle her, assuring her that it was all ok.  But I managed to remain stoic, determined that she learn this lesson now.  When the consequences aren’t so dire.

So we sat there.  Her dad, Devyn, and I.  We discussed the situation, we explained the consequences (both physical and emotional, ie, the lack of trust), and though she cried through most of it, we were resolute in our determination to see this through.  She knew that she’d be required to read double the time that is usually required from her homework.  She understood that she and I would be going to her teacher in the morning, before school started, so she could apologize to her in front of me.  And once again, we discussed why this was such an important issue to God, Jon, and myself.  I’m hoping it sticks this time.

And then we moved to the kitchen for the final part of her punishment.

As I poured a spoonful of T*basco sauce, I explained she didn’t need to swallow this.  But she would be required to keep it in her mouth until we said she was done.  “Devyn,” I explained.  “I want you to remember this the next time you want to tell a lie.  I want you to remember how this burned and how it tasted horrible.  My hope is that telling lies will soon burn your mouth, your lips, like this sauce does.  That this will make you think twice before the lie ever leaves your lips.”

I shot a look a Jon, twin expressions of dread filled both our eyes.  Neither of us wanted to do this, neither of us wanted to be in this position.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  But unfortunately, it had become necessary.

After a few seconds, I held a cup so she could spit it out.  It hurt.  It burned her mouth, her tongue, her lips.  And as I sat with her on her bed while she cried, I told her that it was my hope that soon lies would taste just like this.  She nodded and placed her head in my lap; spent from the long evening of discussions, tears, and discipline.  And unfortunately, she’s even more embarrassed to have to talk to her teacher tomorrow morning.

I don’t know if it’ll work.  I hope it does.  I don’t want to do this again.  But heaven knows I have three more children to go and a number of life lessons to teach.  I’m continuing to pray for guidance, wisdom, and yes, other unconventional methods of discipline***.  Anything that will teach these character issues to my Littles.  Its exhausting work.

*  I’m taking advantage of this last moments of talking about Devyn.  She’s soon reaching an age where she’ll get a choice of what is shared on the blog, and I’ll have to respect that.

**  Yes, we are spankers.  And I’m more than willing to discuss that with anyone who can maintain a respectful conversation via private email.  We also do timeouts, groundings, loss of privileges, and anything else that will teach a lesson.  Each child has responded to different methods.

***  For instance, when a tantrum is thrown and stomping is involved, our Littles will stomp up and down our stairs for a set amount of time.  We tell them to get their stomping out now.  Its usually by the third or fourth time stomping upstairs that they’re saying they’re sorry.

I’m a coffee drinking, book reading, laundry procrastinating, husband and children loving, mess of a woman who believes that chips and salsa can fix anything. We have chickens running around the backyard, a mountain of dishes in the sink, and on any given morning, I have at least 10 school forms that need my signature or initials. It’s a crazy life {I prefer to call it controlled chaos}, but its ours.

14 comments

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Vicki
AUTHOR
9:49 PM delete

When I was in grade school I too forged my parents signature on a bad test grade. I too was punished. I learned my lesson and would like to think I turned out ok :) Kudos to you and your husband for being such amazing parents even on the hard days!!!

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Jody
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12:00 AM delete

Wow, I will have to remember this post for when my daughter starts to tell lies like this. She is already starting to lie and right now I also spank and give timeouts. I am a single mom and have no idea if I would be able to go through with it though. But definite kudos to you and your husband for your parenting!
I pray that tomorrow goes well for Devyn and for you with speaking with her teacher.

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Janelle
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1:41 AM delete

I found your blog through Kelly's Korner. I think you did a great job of handling the situation. I don't know if you have ever heard of "Love and Logic." It's a disciplining method that is all about children being disciplined in a way that directly relates to the offense and causes them to have to take responsibility. It also focuses on the fact that we must discipline our kids because we love them, and talks about how to discipline in a loving way. It sounds like what you did was pretty close to a "Love and Logic" type of discipline. I just thought I would mention it in case you needed more ideas in the future for any types of problems you may encounter with your kids. There are books and cds that you can order online. I have started doing it with my 2 year old son and have been very impressed with the method. The suggestions they have for older kids are great.

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Sarah
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8:10 AM delete

I love your realness here:). Chloe struggles with lying too, I so much long to get to her heart on the issue. Good idea!

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Timmarie
AUTHOR
8:19 AM delete

Jenn,
I loved the authenticity of this post. Character takes time to develop - and I think you and Jon are doing great!

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Lindsey
AUTHOR
9:36 AM delete

I think you are an amazing mom!! I can't bear to think what I will do when that day comes- the terrible twos are where I am now, but I support what you did completely! You have taught Devyn a very valuable lesson and did it very composed which I feel is the hardest part in parenting. Thank you for sharing! I was grateful to see the influx of responses on twitter and made many notes myself!

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Alex and Jill
AUTHOR
9:48 AM delete

Oh I am just crying....I can barely see my computer screen. I had only read your Twitter comments about taking her to apologize but hadn't read this post yet. HOW HARD this must have been. I still agree 100% with your choices of discipline but no doubt your heart was hurting the entire time. You've taught me something as a parent today. Thank you.

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Christine
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1:08 PM delete

What a great post and I think a great discipline for lying. I think this is a very good "punishment fits the crime" way of dealing with lying. There's nothing as challenging (and rewarding) as parenting, is there?.
Way to go for teaching your children about character and integrity.

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Dareth
AUTHOR
2:28 PM delete

Oh Jenn, what a timely post. Just this week A and I had a situation with lying.
I have found building character to be one of my most important, yet most difficult, roles in parenting.

I love the object lesson in the hot sauce and the hope that lying tastes just as bad. Putting that in my arsenal. So proud of you and Jon for your courage to raise children in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. Love you.

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2:35 PM delete

I love the way that you wrote this post, as only a mom could. I'm sitting her crying, imagining having to one day discipline Zoe in a way that hurts me more than any short term pain she'll go through. Thank you for your honesty, and than you for your devotion to raising great adults! The world needs more moms like you. Seriously.

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7:39 AM delete

I can't even imagine how hard this must have been. I completely agree with the way you did things though. My little one is only 20 months and we're now in the full throngs of discipline. Most of the time I have zero clue what I'm doing. I may actually need to email you about this...

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9:08 AM delete

We have a particularly difficult time punishing McKayla for things, especially when we feel like she isn't here that often. In some ways, M worries that us punishing her will make her want to not be with us... But I can't worry about that. We have to make sure that we are doing the best we can to make her a good person. It sounds like you did a good job, Mama.

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Cari Brooks
AUTHOR
4:25 PM delete

I am not a parent so I can only comment based on my experience as the child who did something very similar.

I think the Tabasco metaphor is incredible. I wish someone had done that to me. Honestly. What a great way to explain how much lying can hurt both you and those around you.

I was spanked as a child, swatted I would say over the pants and it didn't hurt physically but it certainly helped me understand the consequences of my bad actions.

You're a great mom!

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Jillian
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12:57 PM delete

You are such an amazing mom, I hope I can handle a situation like that when the time comes!

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