Justice and Mercy

Justice and Mercy

Jul 14, 2014 | Families Blog | 0 comments

I have a friend whose teenage daughter has just lost her licence for speeding. Her friends at work were quick to ask, “What did your mum say?!” The teenager answered, “She said she’d drive me to work.”

I was impressed by that mum.. She could have yelled, punished or lectured; any of that would be understandable. But I have a feeling she knew an important parenting secret: let the consequence be the consequence. And focus on maintaining the relationship.

My husband has a memory of being a teenager and ending up at the police station after making some unwise (and illegal) choices. His father was called, and my husband, 17 at the time, was braced for a very serious talking to. His dad walked in, ruffled his hair, and said, “G’day Whiskers”. The matter was never mentioned again.

Too often we feel we need to “add” to the consequence; when our children receive time out, or a detention at school, or even end up at the police station, we want to add “our bit”. Or we want to punish further by withdrawing our friendship, distancing ourselves, or at the very least using a nasty tone of voice and letting them know we are not happy!

Our children do need to know their actions have results. Their choices have outcomes. Their behaviour has consequences. This starts when they are little. When they whinge, we don’t give them what they are whinging about. When they hit their friend, they have to sit out of the game and miss out on the fun. Missing out is the consequence. We don’t need to use a nasty tone, or give a long drawn out lecture.

We serve our kids when we let them take responsibility for their actions early in life, and not blame others for their choices.

And we reinforce these lessons when we let them know we are “on their side”. We also are sad that they have lost their licence, or they are missing out on that special treat. The consequence stands; and so does the relationship.

I love the scene in the movie “Cinderella Man” when the young boy has to return the salami he has stolen. The dad goes with him to the butcher’s; stands by him as he hands it over, and reinforces the values of their family. “No matter what happens we don’t steal. No matter what.” But then he hears the world and the worries of his son; the boy is afraid the family won’t have enough to eat; he is worried he will get sent away. The dad listens to this, he hears it deeply, and he reassures his son and gives him a big cuddle.

Justice and mercy are two words that have been around for hundreds of years. Let’s not forget either one of them.  Let’s remember how much our children need to know that their choices have results. And at the same time, show them we understand, we care, and we are on their side.