Lauren got caught jumping over the back of the couch, a big no-no in our house.
Daddy punished Lauren for it while Spencer looked on. I had a little chat with him after the fact and uncovered more to the story:
“Has Lauren ever done that before?”
“Have you done that before?”
Pause … “Yes.”
“Daddy just punished Lauren for doing that. Do you think I should tell Daddy?”
Pause … “Yes.”
The result was an apology to Lauren from Spencer, a week’s worth of extra chores (punishment chosen by Spencer), and a lesson in integrity. We explained that while we weren’t happy that he did it in the first place, it showed great character and integrity that he told the truth, knowing that the result would be a punishment. And we’re proud of him for it.
We’re a military family. At work, my husband follows the Air Force core values: service before self, excellence in all we do, integrity in our actions. At home, we also apply those values (with a few adaptations): family comes first, give your best effort, and do the right thing even if it means you might get punished, even if nobody is watching.
I was not thrilled that the kids were doing what they know they aren’t supposed to do, but I was proud of my boy for showing integrity when asked about his actions. Kids make mistakes (just as adults do). I feel that my job as a parent is to help my kids to become the best people they can be—and they have to make mistakes to get there. And learning at an early age to own mistakes is a step in the right direction.
We explained that as the big brother, like it or not, it falls to him to set a good example. Being the oldest comes with perks—such as more privileges and a later bedtime—but it also comes with responsibilities. He helps to show Lauren how to be a kid in our family, and that’s an important role.
So this week, the week of his birthday, Spencer will be carrying an additional list of chores to be done, but I also hope that he will carry with him the importance of acting with integrity.