A friend recently shared with me a childhood experience that greatly influenced him. Like almost every young boy, he loved playing football and often chose to play it in ‘high risk’ areas with a lot of breakables, like the living room and premises with parked cars, windows, etc., despite warnings from well meaning adults, who at the time were perceived as killjoys by him and his cohorts.
On this fateful day, he and his brother decided to get their game on in their compound, despite previous warnings from their dad. As expected the ball developed a mind of its own and decided to fly in the direction of their neighbour’s living room window, despite his ‘well-aimed’ shot at the makeshift goal post. The neighbours’ window shattered of course, and though the neighbour was not home, their dad was and was immediately drawn outside by the noise. It was too late to run away and they knew their fate was sealed for some well deserved flogging.
Shockingly, their dad did not come after them as they thought, instead he instructed them to get the neighbourhood repairs guy to come fix it. They fled immediately in search of the guy and for the rest of the evening they had their hearts in their throats, waiting for the due punishment to befall them. They had a hard time going to bed that night, for fear of a well-timed flogging in the middle of the night with little or no room for escape. They eventually fell asleep, woke up the next day, still nothing. And the dread continued for more than a week, but nothing happened and they couldn’t believe it. In fact he jokingly concluded that was his first experience of grace, and somehow it deepened his respect for his dad. What’s more? He and his brother never ever attempted playing ball again in the compound or anywhere near any breakable item; in fact, they carefully looked around to be sure nothing could be broken before they kicked a ball.
Life is filled with consequences. We live in a cause and effect world – where we reap what we sow and receive the consequences of our actions. As parents we are expected to set boundaries for our kids and establish consequences for their actions. Children are expected to know that their actions have consequences, which is perfectly okay.
Yet, sometimes it might not hurt to allow our children experience some form of mercy. Mercy is a vital tool that can sometimes reach our children in ways we can’t imagine. Yes, we might conclude children differ and because it worked for my friend does not mean it will work for every child. But the question to ask is: as adults don’t we sometimes wish for mercy? Don’t we sometimes wish we can get away with some things we have done? Don’t we sometimes desire favour to get what we might not totally qualify for? Don’t we sometimes desire forgiveness (with no consequences attached)? We all do… and this doesn’t make us bad or imply that we will deliberately set out to do the same thing again. Yes, we don’t always get this wish granted. But when we do, phew… aren’t we always extremely grateful?
By all means, set the rules, ensure there are consequences for your children’s action. But sometimes, mercy can be a very valid tool to get through to them – maybe when they are not even particularly expecting it. We can be discerning or sensitive as to when to use this great tool.
Let your parenting hunch guide you; you know those times when you feel you should let it go, let it go. You just might be making an indelible impart on your child.
This is in no way a rule or a must-do, it’s merely a suggestion that it would be nice for our children to experience mercy from us. For sometimes, the grace of forgiveness can be more powerful than the force of punishment.
Of course, most parents will not always bear down on a child for every simple mistake; we might have even forgiven much already. As mentioned earlier, let’s just ensure we stay sensitive to the right course of action per time. The same tool and tactics might not always work every time or for every child. Let’s just keep doing the best we can.
Well done, great parents!
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