Doubts began to creep in my mind. Fear took over. My mother said he needed punished. I began to wonder if maybe she was right. After all, I couldn't let it go on. It was affecting my oldest. I'd talked to him about it. I'd asked him to empathize with his brother. I'd called him out on it every time I heard a put-down and told him it was inappropriate.
Effectively, what I'd done is shone a great big light on it, and it fed off that light. The problem grew.
I began to think maybe he did need punished. I had to protect my oldest son. I had to let my youngest know that he could not hurt people. I was angry and could no longer see this problem through my usual lens, but all I could see was this ugliness rising up in him that needed to be stopped immediately.
Knowing the "natural consequence" of hurting his relationship with his brother apparently didn't mean anything to him, I began taking away the only thing I knew that did. His allowance. Every time he did something "wrong", I told him he lost a dollar off his allowance. I kept a record of it.
-1 for teasing.
-1 for pinching.
-1 for a put-down.
They kept adding up. He was very upset that he was losing money, but it didn't stop the problem. Now he was teasing his brother and really mad at me both. I felt defeated, and I didn't know what else to do. Everyone in the house was now feeling the negative effects of this issue, and the atmosphere here was suffocating.
Then, one morning, I was scrolling my newsfeed and I saw this:
When our kids say hurtful things, they're hurting.
When our kids lash out, they're hurting.
When our kids resist and rehash, they're hurting.
When our kids get rigid, they're hurting.
When our kids are chaotic, they're hurting
When our kids ignore, pretend, defend and act out, they're hurting.
What if we *started* with the hurting instead of bypassing the hurt in favor of behavior and how to quash it?
How would we see our kids' intention and motivation differently?
How would we treat them differently?
How would they respond differently?
What would we have to change in our own hearts in order to embark on this process?
When the hurt is accessed, the heart heals, the behavior is understood as the symptom, not the cause. - Lu Hanessian Parent2ParentU
The anger I felt toward my 5 year old dissipated and I was able to see him as a hurting child who needed my help. I'm normally able to do this, but in this particular situation where he was hurting another child of mine, my judgment had become clouded, but suddenly it was clear to me again.
Why? Why was he hurting? When did it start? What caused his feelings? What was he trying to communicate?
I looked at his allowance deduction list. I saw a record of wrongs.
Love keeps no record of wrongs....
I crumpled it up and tossed it in the trash.
REDEMPTION NOT RETRIBUTION
Redemption: The act of redeeming or the condition of having been redeemed.
Redeemed: To restore the honor, worth, or reputation of:
Retribution: Punishment for doing something wrong
Do I want to seek to restore his honor, worth, and reputation, or do I want to punish him?
The world says children need punishment. I think children need redemption.
They will grow and mature and come to naturally understand how the world works. They will come to understand laws and consequences without being "primed" for them with smaller punishments now. We think if we punish them for little things, they'll want to avoid punishment for the big things later, but that's not really how it works. Punishment highlights their faults. Punishment eats away at their self-concepts. Punishment is retaliation, not teaching.
Redemption restores honor and worth. How do you redeem a wayward child? By highlighting their strengths, not their weaknesses. By shining a spotlight on their rights, not their wrongs. By believing in their goodness and making sure they believe in their goodness. By ensuring that "kind," "helpful," "compassionate," "responsible," and "good" are part of their self-concepts because humans behave according to what they believe of themselves, and children believe of themselves what their parents believe of them.
Correction is necessary, but shining that big light on their mistakes only makes them grow. Correct gently, shining the light always on their decency, listening to the communication of the behavior, and seeking always to redeem them.
I realized my 5 year old was feeling rejected by his brother because he didn't play with him much anymore. We called a family meeting. Both children were heard. A solution was agreed upon. I am now working on repairing our relationship and restoring his honor, worth, and reputation.
Don't wade through troubled waters. Build a bridge. Redemption is the bridge.
Redemption not retribution. Love never fails.