Teaching children to tell the truth and accept consequencesWritten by Sandra Ring
What's inside this article
A phone call from the school principal . . . just the thought strikes fear in the hearts of children and parents alike.
When the phone rang, I glanced at the caller ID, and it was my six-year-old son Jordan’s school calling.
"Hello, Sandra, this is Ms. Yates, principal of Westbrook School." Ms. Yates explained in detail a shoving match between Jordan and another student. The other student had flattened Jordan’s snowman and he retaliated. No one was hurt, and Ms. Yates admitted the yard duty supervisor had not seen the incident in its entirety.
I was disappointed that Jordan had been physically aggressive with another student. He knew it was not acceptable.
Ms. Yates stated that he’d lose two days of recess for his poor judgment. I cringed. For Jordan, that would feel like a year of solitary confinement.
Ms. Yates added, "Jordan is a good boy. I asked him to tell me what happened, and he told me the truth. He always tells me the truth, even though this time it meant consequences for him."
Later that day, I waited outside the school for the children’s dismissal. When the bell rang, a stampede of screaming, laughing, excited kids burst through the doors. I didn’t see Jordan at first, then I spotted a forlorn six-year-old – his head down, shoulders slumped, school bag dragging behind him. He didn’t raise his head to look at me, only his eyes.
"I don’t really want to talk about my day," he said. He knew it was always my first question, and he knew Ms. Yates had already answered it.
"OK," I consented, but only a second passed before Jordan delivered an impassioned explanation of the time he invested in his snowman, and what devastation it was to see Frosty reduced to a crumbled mess. For several minutes I heard how Frosty’s assailant was a naughty boy and deserved a good shove.
I agreed the attack on Frosty was uncalled for and that Jordan had every right to be upset, but I reminded him that getting physical isn’t the way to handle anger.
"I don’t get recess for two whole days, Mommy." I knew Jordan needed comforting.
Jordan knew I was disappointed, but he didn’t know what else I felt.
"I’m proud of you, Jordan." He looked at me, confused. I reminded him again that he made the wrong choice to push his classmate, but I told him I was proud of him for telling the truth. The easier choice would have been to lie about what had transpired, especially since there were no eyewitnesses.
As we talked more, Jordan told me a friend walked by while Jordan was in detention and said, "You should have told Ms. Yates you didn’t do it." Even at six, Jordan knew that the truth is often a difficult and unpopular choice.
The right choice
As Christian parents, our goal is to raise honest, respectful, God-fearing children. Our job is a strenuous one, especially if we are parenting alone.
I bought Jordan a children’s Bible when he was younger, and we have been reading it together ever since. With all the negative influences in our world, we need to present kids with God’s truth through His Word and through our lives. Then, in the times when our children are faced with choices that challenge their beliefs, their response will be instinctive, because truth is in their heart.
Jordan survived his no-recess sentence. When I took him to school on the day he could go back to the playground, he bolted from the car without looking back.
In the afternoon, the phone rang and it was Jordan’s principal again. What now? I wondered. She was calling to tell me Jordan had completed his detention and had done very well. "He’s learned his lesson, and he’s free now," she said with a chuckle. But I knew Jordan was free the moment he told the truth, and that was the most important lesson he learned.
Sandra and Jordan lived in Ingersoll, Ontario, at the time of publication
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