Yesterday, while we were getting ready for church, our 4 yr old, Simon, came into the bathroom with some news.
"Don't worry Dad. I cleaned up the raspberries."
Johnny asked Simon, "What raspberries?"
Simon replied, "The raspberries that fell on the floor. But I cleaned them."
Johnny was intrigued and followed Simon into the living where he saw a towel with blotches of red raspberry paste on the floor and three large pink blotches of raspberry smeared into the carpet. Apparently, Simon dropped some raspberries off the kitchen table, and I think he stepped on them and tracked them to the carpet in the living room. But we couldn't even be mad at him. Our little sweetheart tried to wipe them out of the carpet on his own. And even though he made it worse, at least he tried. We just smiled at him, and then Johnny tried to get the raspberry out the carpet.
As parents, we can be so quick to follow to household rules that we bypass compassion. Had we jumped to anger at Simon, we would have missed the opportunity to teach him responsibility. He's only 4 years old; he cannot act perfectly. We thanked him for tying to repair his mistake, and we stepped in as parents to finish the job he was unable to do.
When disciplining your children, remember that the purpose of discipline is to teach socially appropriate behavior. An older child can be taught to use carpet cleaner and be more aware of food falling off his plate. But a 4 yr old should have fewer expectations. If we let anger make our discipline judgement, we could have shamed him or discouraged him from being honest with us in the future. Maybe he would learn to lie to cover up mistakes, rather than try to repair them and tell us. Household rules are important, but it is more important that parents use judgement and compassion to decide how to proceed.
We have three pink stains in our carpet now, and eventually the carpet will get replaced when we remodel later this year. Until then, I hope that those little stains serve as reminders for me to be more compassionate with the kids.