Monday, June 9, 2014

Understanding right and wrong — a teachable moment

My daughter, K-Bear, is five years old. Although not formally diagnosed at this point, we strongly suspect she battles ADHD and dyslexia. She is bright, kind, impulsive and a bundle of energy. She is a joy to run errands with, especially when we are shopping. She helps around the house, entertains her little sister and rarely has to be talked to about listening. This is most likely because we are actively moving and I usually give her jobs to do. She understands that items in the store cost money and that we must pay for them before we leave. Perhaps knowing she knows this made her recent decision that much more difficult to swallow.

Here's the back story: We had been to Target — surprised? I had shown her a display of nail polishes. Some were on clearance and some were not. The display was at the checkout, so I quickly picked a bright pink polish on clearance and added it to the belt. I then proceeded to help load the cart, entertain the baby and use all my mobile coupons. I paid and we left the store. Everyone was smiling and ready to have lunch before taking K-Bear to school.

As I unpacked my Target bags at home I found a bright sparkly purple nail polish I knew I didn't put in the cart. I double checked my receipt and it was not listed. The ladies behind us in line had also been looking at polishes and since I had almost left a bag behind I figured I got their nail polish by mistake. I intended to simply return the polish to Target at my earliest convenience.

This morning was convenient. My two little ones and I made a post office stop and then I turned to K-Bear and said: "I have to run to Target now. I somehow got a nail polish that I didn't pay for." She was quiet for a minute and then asked if it was sparkly purple. I confirmed that it was and she simply said, "I took it." I stayed calm. I asked her if she thought I paid for it and if she realized she stole it.

At that moment the switch of conscience seemed to click. She was quiet for the entire ten minute ride to Target. I calmly explained that we were going to go to the desk and she would have to explain what happened and apologize. Then she would pay for the polish. As I pulled into the parking spot I saw her little face with tears streaming down it. She explained that she was just very upset that she did something bad and she was really, really sorry. She walked into Target with her head hung low and tears streaming. She apologized to the clerk and explained what happened. She was thanked for doing the right thing in bringing it back. We then paid for it out of her money and I made a big deal about that being the way we get things we want from a store.

She was still upset when we got back in the car, so I used some deep breathing techniques with her. I encouraged her to blow so hard she could make the car move at green lights. By the time we were halfway to our next stop, she was back to her cheerful self and giggling. I know her well enough by now to know this experience will stick with her. I asked my husband not to say anything unless she brought it up.

Since it was a first offense, I chose to use it as a teachable moment instead of using a punishment. I think she learned a lot more from the way I handled the offense then she would have if I had taken something away. In fact, it has truly never been in K-Bear's nature to handle consequences. They just don't bother her. Conversely, rewards work wonders.

I guess we wait and see. Impulsiveness is difficult for all of us, but I imagine being five makes it even harder to control. No wonder she is so tired by night time. She is working so hard to control herself all day!

What would you have done if you had been the parent in this situation? Have you had a similar experience? Please share in the comments below.


Four of Amanda's most recent blog posts have been about Target. It might be time for an intervention.

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