My daughter Lainey is 5 years old, and I love her. Lately, she's been making trouble at home, but behaving at school.
The other night some friends joined us for dinner. Lainey played downstairs with their son, while the adults and babies hung out upstairs. At one point a parent checked on the kids and caught their son writing on a basement wall. The boy (a sweet kid) apologized and the night went on smoothly, but once our guests left, I prodded Lainey for details.
“You must not have seen him writing on the wall, right Lainey?” I said. “You would have yelled at him, right?”
Lainey nodded at first, then confessed: It was her idea to write on the wall. Her friend just made the mistake of using the wrong end of the pencil, which left a mark that could not be erased.
“Writing on the wall?” I exclaimed. “Why would you do that?”
“I’m sorry!” Lainey spat .
“That’s not how to apologize,” my wife said.
Lainey curled into a ball on the bed and kicked her feet. My wife left the room with , and I waited a moment for Lainey to calm down.
“Is writing on the wall wrong?” I asked.
“Yes,” Lainey nodded.
“Then why did you do it?”
“You just had a great report card,” I said. “You’re good at . Why aren’t you good at home?”
“I can’t be bad at school,” Lainey said.
As simple as that, I sighed. Going to the principal’s office, or being labeled a bad kid, were consequences Lainey feared, which did not exist at home.
“We need better punishment,” I said. “What should I do?”
“Take a away?” Lainey asked.
“You have too many,” I shrugged. “You’d just play with something else.”
“Make me go to early?” Lainey suggested.
“You won’t ,” I shook my head. “You’ll lie there and whine.”
“Just tell me,” Lainey sighed.
“Fine,” I said, thinking fast. “Time-out time.”
I directed Lainey to the entryway rug, and made her sit there for 10 minutes. She never cried or fussed, so maybe the punishment didn’t work, we’ll see.
The next day we ate at Lainey’s favorite restaurant.
“To celebrate the great report card,” I reminded her.
Lainey smiled and nodded with those big brown eyes. Who could stay mad at a face like that?