Yesterday while I was reading to the children, Bethel (age 3) was climbing on the beanbag behind me and stepping (actually jumping) on my hair. I told her to stop jumping on the beanbag, and started to finish the page I was reading, when I felt her jumping again.
She was disciplined, and was told that she must go right to bed (we still had one book to read), and would not be able to read in bed. Not being able to read was the cruelest consequence, and she asked tearfully if I would read to her when she woke up. The first thing she did when she woke up was bring me a book.
Today after eating lunch with daddy and on our way home, the children were discussing our naptime plans. David asked whether we could read together, and Bethel was obviously concerned that she was included, too. She said, I won’t step on your hair, and so I can read in bed.
Well. This statement concerned me, because I want her to know that she is disciplined for obedience, not simply stepping on mommy’s hair. Was I unclear? Perhaps my irritation at being stepped on influenced how I interacted with her at that point. I’m not sure, but at least I could help her understand now.
So I explained: You could not read in bed because you did not obey. Mommy didn’t want you to step on my hair, but that’s not why you could not read. Stepping on mommy’s hair is not a sin. Disobeying mommy is a sin. Just obey mommy, and you’ll be fine.
I tried several times to explain the concept, but each time she kept repeating I won’t step on your hair, so I can read in bed. Finally, I gave up. 🙂 She’ll understand eventually. The issue will come up again, I’m certain.
I remember this issue when I taught school. Students would be reprimanded for teasing when not all teasing was problematic. If they didn’t understand the difference, they wouldn’t benefit from the discipline. I sent students to the office for disobedience, and when they talked to the principal, they said they were sent down for talking. Talking isn’t a sin, though, so she would ask questions until they indicated exactly what the sin was. It was important to her (and me) that these students learned why they were receiving consequences.