The Abduction of the Kindergarten Classroom Stickers

This week we had a new parenting experience. I received an email from Hazel’s teacher saying that Hazel had taken some stickers from the classroom. When her teacher talked to her about taking stuff that’s not hers, and about honesty, Hazel stuck to her guns and insisted that we just shop at the same store and the stickers are ours. Her teacher wanted me to follow up with Hazel at home.

So I emailed Hazel’s nanny (who had picked her up while I was at work) to ask if she’d seen Hazel with stickers. She said yes, that she and her friend L had unopened packets. The stickers had stars on them, and Hazel and L both had cards that said, “Star Student”, so J naturally assumed the stickers were related to the cards.

I texted L’s mom. She said that Hazel had given L the stickers as a present from home. Fabulous: L was now an unwitting accomplice to Hazel’s Kindergarten Crime Spree.

So, Ted and I talked about how to handle it that night. We agreed that we didn’t want to try to trick Hazel into telling the truth, but just to ask her about it. So the next morning I told her that her teacher had emailed me, and that we needed to find out what was going on. I told her she wasn’t in trouble, that I wasn’t mad, but that if she was taking stuff that didn’t belong to her obviously something was going on and we needed to know the truth so we could help her. She stared at the floor.

“I’m not mad, Hazel. Look at my face. Do I look mad?”

“No.”

Having not had the book thrown at her, Hazel confessed. Then we talked about how when we make a mistake, we apologize and repair. It’s handy to have the ready example of our intruder.

“A broke into our house, and we’re not mad at him, right? That’s because he’s apologized and is making it right,” I said.

She nodded.

So, I walked Hazel to school and told her she needed to apologize to her teachers. On the spot, though, she was too upset and scared to do it. I hugged her and told her she didn’t have to right then, but she needed to do it that day. Her teachers were wonderful and supportive. Later I heard that they had had good conversations.

Ted and I also agreed that Hazel needed to repair, to pay back what she’d taken. So a couple days later I told her that she was going to write a note of apology and that we’d help her pick out $2 in change from her piggy bank, and she’d give it to her teacher. Last night she made a note (with spelling assistance from me). I found a piece of nice stationary, which she decorated, and this morning she and Ted counted out quarters to put in the envelop. She brought it to school and gave it to her teacher, who emailed me later to say thank you.

Part of me, the pre-Positive Discipline angry punisher part of me, feels that without angst and shame and punishment Hazel will have got off scot-free, will not have learned her lesson. How could she learn anything, that part argues, when she actually ENJOYED making the card and picking out the money? Lessons are only truly learned when they are given and received in anger and retribution.

The more recently developed part of me is proud of how we handled it, that we stuck to our boundary but with kindness, love and acceptance. We did not shame Hazel. We did not tell her she was bad or wrong as a person. However, we insisted on a thorough apology and repair. And time will tell how this lesson has impacted her.

I know that I feel better than I do when I react out of anger. And that helps. So I choose to take that as a good sign.

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