Josie got to choose a reward for sleeping in her own bed. She chose fairy wings, wand, and tiara set from the $1Tree, one for Joy and one for herself.
I took her to pick the items out and she was so excited. She had told Joy that she was getting her a surprise but not what it was. When we got home, she proudly presented Joy her fairy gear and they played for quite a while.
That evening, Josie wanted to play again, but Joy was doing something else. Josie was angry about this and then when Joy also did some other minor offense (sitting where she had been sitting for the previous 20+ minutes...) Josie yelled and shouted, and finally, hit her. Hard. With the plastic fairy wand. Screams and cries abounded from both parties. I comforted the wounded and confronted the attacker. The immediate consequence of course was that the wand went to time out and Josie went to time in.
In an effort to get away from me, Josie pleaded “potty” and I let her go. I stood outside and listened to her wail and rail against me, life, and the universe in general. When she was finished and came out, I opened my arms, thinking that perhaps she was ready to hug and talk. Instead she had a “look” and rushed past me to hide.
I went into the bathroom and saw that she had unrolled and put into the toilet, an entire roll of TP. I went to her and told her that she was allowed to be angry, but not allowed to hit and not allowed to be destructive. I asked her who she thought was going to clean that out? “Not me” she said. Wrong answer. I told her it would indeed be her. That she was going to put on gloves and get it out.
“I don't have gloves”, she protested...my reply, “Guess what? I do!”
So she followed me as I went to the guest room closet and got the plastic gloves. I pulled out two for her and then pulled out two more. “You are going to help me?” her voice was both surprised and hopeful. “Of course I'm going to help you. I love you. You are my kid.”
We went back into the bathroom, I put the giant glove on her tiny hand and had her pull out a token amount of the toilet paper. I of course finished the job and we got the toilet to where it could safely flush.
As we washed up and went out, she was much quieter, but not completely over it all. You could almost see the anger stir back up in her. “Well, I'm NOT going to say sorry!”
“I don't want you to say 'sorry', why would I want you to lie?”
Then she started to cry- an angry cry. “If I say I'm sorry, then I'll be lying and then I'll be in MORE trouble! My wand is going to be in time out forever!! And anyway (crying in earnest now) I'm HUNGRY!”
Oops, my bad... I realized that with the way the evening had gone, everyone off in different directions, she had not had a good dinner. I stood up and told her that I would help her get some food, found some leftovers and quickly heated them up. When she sat down to eat, I sat with her.
She again protested that she still wasn't sorry, almost trying to convince herself at this point.
I told her she would be sorry later, that when we hurt people we love, we are always sorry later.
She again began to list all the ways that Joy had offended her: she wouldn't play, she sat where Josie wanted to be, and now it was Joy's fault that she had lost her fairy wand.
I listened and simply told her again that we don't hurt people. We use words, we can say, “I'm upset that you don't want to play with me!” She assured me, “ Oh, I did. I yelled at her and told her I was MAD... and she still didn't play!” (hmm... you think?)
Again, she went through her entire list of reasons why she had hit her sister and I simply kept saying, “We don't hit people. We don't hurt people.”
“Well I'm not sorry!!” half-hearted crying between bites.
“You will be later, and then you can tell her you are sorry and you love her.”
“But I HATE saying sorry!”
Ahh... now to the heart of the matter.
Oh yes my dear, don't we all? So much easier to convince ourselves that the other person deserved it and we were not wrong.
Then the negotiations. “I won't say sorry...I will just see if she wants to be friends again.”
I reminded her that when she feels hurt, she is pretty insistent on an apology...We have all been recipients of her own demands to, ”Say you're sorry!!”
“What if she doesn't forgive me?”
“Joy loves you SO much, she does everything for you, she will forgive you.”
“But what if she doesn't?”
“She will. Remember when you forgave me?” I reminded her of a recent time when I had apologized to her for something. “She really, really, loves you. We want to forgive people we love. I bet she is waiting right now to forgive you. Why don't you go say, 'I'm sorry, I should not have hit you. Will you be friends? Do you want to share some cake?”
Tears again... but different tears. “Oh, I can't think about eating cake with her after what I did!”
One more assurance that she would be forgiven and the cake gladly shared.
“Will you come with me?”
“I didn't help you hit her, I'm not going to apologize for you.”
“Just walk up there with me. You will stay outside the door.”
So of course I did.
I walked upstairs with her and in she went. She did shut the door so I do not know what she said.
A moment later the door burst open, “She forgives me!”
Door shut again.
Open again with an excited, “She wants to be friends again!!”
Open again, “and she want to have cake with me, and she let me hug her!”
Eyes still wet with tears but shining brightly with the joy of being forgiven and accepted by her loved one.
I headed back downstairs and she came with me to get the cake ready. “Joy will be here in a minute”, she told me.
Joy joined a minute later and they sat close together, shared their cake, and then began to play.
Joy spied her fairy gear on the couch and said, “let's play fairies!”
“Ok!” exclaimed Josie... and then her face and voice fell. “but I can't, ...I don't have a wand.”
And then, grace upon grace. ”That's ok, you can use mine. You will be queen fairy and I'm a baby fairy that hasn't earned her wand yet.”
This whole exchange took well over 30 minutes. Some would say that Josie should have been spanked or punished harshly and be done with it. Some would say that she should have been hit with the same stick she hit with. I disagree of course, but am not going to argue that point right now.
I did hit her... hit her with grace, with mercy. The changes that occurred in her spirit when she realized that I was going to help her fix the mess she made in her rebellion...these were the beginning of repentance. She absolutely knows that wasting toilet paper is not ok. She absolutely knows that clogging the toilet is Bad. She did this on purpose.
But well beyond my grace of a parent seeing a teachable moment and grabbing it, was the grace of the sister she had struck: open arms with love, with forgiveness, with, “here, take my wand.”
There will be future offenses, many of them. Josie has all the self-control of a typical four year old, which is to say, very little. But the lessons learned tonight are invaluable, foundational. Grace has a way of softening hearts that mere punishment can never even approach. She had it reinforced that mommy is here to help her when she makes poor decisions, and more than that, she experienced the utter peace and relief of being forgiven, being loved, and of being welcomed back into relationship.
-Comfort the child who was hurt first.
-Put the object in time out as a consequence and to get it out of the situation. This is not about an object, it is about attitude.
-Validate/ help her name and recognize her feelings; “you were angry because Joy didn't want to play.” Josie had chosen as part of her own reward to give a gift to Joy, and then Joy didn't want to play. Doesn't matter that she had played with her for a long time earlier in the day and it was 10 hours later, Josie felt rejected.
-Don't force an apology, no use making a kid lie about it.
-When she was ready, I helped her by modeling an apology she could use.
-This did not come into play on this occasion, but I also don't force forgiveness or words of forgiveness.
-She had to “own” her mess in the toilet and correct it, but was not punished separately for it. Of course we talked about it, “You were angry with me, so you chose to do something that you know upsets me.”
She did apologize for that later. Even more importantly, several days after the incident, she came up t me and said, “You love me even when I do bad things. You get mad, but you are still happy that I'm your little girl.” She had obviously been chewing on that for a while.
-I realized that part of this was my fault, she was legitimately hangry and it was late at night. She was kind of set up for failure/over-reaction.
- I did not give her wand back just because she had reached true repentance. Consequence is consequence, the wand remained in time out until the next day, just as I had originally said.
- I did not prevent Joy from sharing her own wand and require that Josie remain wand-less The wand was Joy's to give and the lesson there... oh I would never want to stifle that lesson!