Now, let me assure you that we got the message loud and clear! But, was that really necessary? I have a few nieces and nephews that would freak out if they saw that! So, should parenting differ for each child? Or does it even matter what method one uses, as long as no one gets hurt?
Sometimes object lessons backfire. Like the time my son decided he wanted to gamble. Not gamble as in poker, no, he wanted to buy one of those tickets where you scratch off the silver stuff to see if you have won. It was when we lived in New Zealand and to him, it didn't seem like a big deal. I was in the car discussing with him why it isn't good to gamble and he just was not having any of it. So what did I do? I decided on an object lesson! I pulled our car into the space right in front of a little shop where he could by a "scratchy". He only had 5 dollars and he wanted to buy 5 one dollar scratchies. I warned him one last time and then said to him "Okay, you go spend your money and then when it is gone and you have nothing to show for it except some silver crap stuck under your nails, you will know and always remember how it feels to gamble and lose." and with that he got out of the car and went inside the shop.
He had only bought one card with five different silver places to scratch. The first one came off and he yelled. Josh had just won 10 dollars. The second one was scratched and then the third and when it was all over I didn't get to give my speech and my son was proudly smiling and holding 50 dollars. It was an Object Lesson FAIL.
It was almost as big of a fail as the time I fell off the second story of a building while trying to show my kids how unsafe it was. This happen about 6 months after the gamble fiasco.
It was on a Saturday. Our family was just returning home from seeing the matinee showing of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". The plan was to grab some lunch and then maybe a nap. My oldest son had not gone to the movies with us. Instead, he had slept over with friends and had decided to come home earlier than planned. When he got home the house was locked up except for a few windows on the second floor and since he had forgotten his house keys he began to climb.
When we pulled into the driveway the front door was open and out walked Josh. He explained what had happen and pointed to the railing and then a window ledge and proudly told us all how he scaled the building to get in.
I couldn't believe it. He knew better than to scale a 3 story building!!! I couldn't believe it! The route my spider man had decided to take was directly above a two story drop onto big rocks and a few little shrubs. The other kids were listening to him intently and thought he was brave, so I interrupted his story.
The next thing I knew I was laying on the very rocks I had just pointed to. I couldn't move and my arm hurt. I remember my daughters face. She was kneeling by me holding my arm and crying. My husband was running down the hill to get to me and my son Josh was on the phone with the police dispatcher. I kept going in and out of consciousness and each time I came back around I would ask "Did I fall?". The ambulance arrived and soon I was at the hospital prepping for surgery on my wrist. I now have a seven inch scar on my right arm where they put a few pins and fixed me up. I spent a week in the hospital but I don't remember much of it because I had a pretty bad hit to the head.
I definitely taught my kids about safety that day, although I would not recommend my method. My question is this, when it comes to parenting, what are the lessons we need to teach by example and which lessons do our children need to learn on their own? What are the things we should tell them not to do and just leave it at that? We don't teach our kids to stay away from drugs by introducing them to the druggie down the street and we don't teach them that they shouldn't hurt others by showing them how it feels to be hurt. This parenting thing is tough. Parents have such a big responsibility and those kids don't come with a manual!
I have friends that believe you should shield your children from all the craziness of the world by keeping them from every and all potentially dangerous incidents. I also know parents who have decided to let their kids learn life's lessons for themselves.
I guess I must be somewhere in the middle. I don't think you should shield your kids from the world so much that they cant function when they eventually have to face it. Just like all parents, I try and teach my children the difference between right and wrong. I tell them not only what they shouldn't do, but why they shouldn't do it. I'm still back and forth on the object lesson thing but I have definitely gotten better at my technique. At the end of the day, I guess all we can do is go with our gut.
My main goal is not to train them to make all the right choices because their mom & dad told them to. My goal is to instill in them the knowledge to decide for themselves what the right thing to do is. As my kids get older, the time will come when they have to make big, tough choices without my help. I just hope I have given them all the information, desire and the courage to make those choices good ones.