My ten year old has made some poor decisions in the last few days. He turned his TV on in his bedroom after he was put to bed. He cheated on his science homework. He lied to my face twice in less than twenty-four hours.
And because of his past hurts, he cuts himself off from the emotional repercussions of consequences, so that nothing I take away from him does anything to affect his behavior.
So yesterday, after the cheating and the second lie, I took a page from a friend's book (thanks, Laura), and had him write a verse about lying 50 times.
Okay, we are all sinners, we all make wrong decisions from time to time, and kids are (definitely) no exception. So yes, my kids are going to do things they shouldn't, even things they know they shouldn't. I sometimes do things I know I shouldn't. So I can forgive him and we can move on.
But that doesn't mean I can just say, "Oh well, everyone sins. No big deal," and let him think that it doesn't matter that he tells a lie once in awhile, or disobeys his parents, or cheats on his homework because he's too lazy to look for the answers. Or anything else that he knows he shouldn't do. My job as a parent is to teach them how to overcome, with God's help, the temptation to sin, and to right their wrongs when they do sin. That is why it is important to me to choose consequences that are effective in changing behavior rather than simply punishments for the wrongdoing.
I also believe that the lying is a habit for avoiding getting into trouble for other wrongdoings. Not that that is an excuse or makes it okay, but I believe it needs to be treated as a habit to be broken rather than an issue of a hard heart or pre-planned decision to lie. Of course, there is still a heart issue to deal with, since in order to break the habit he needs to believe that it is wrong to tell a lie. So I've decided that the verse-writing will be the consequence of choice for awhile, in addition to losing privileges.
The frustrating part is when it seems like nothing works. Some days I feel like a horrible parent because I must be doing something wrong if he is not learning or does not care about doing what is right. But I realized last night that all I can do is pray for him and be consistent. God has to do the rest.