Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Lesson of the Sandwich

I always tell parents that they don't always have to use Time Out or spanking. Those things aren't always appropriate or teach the right lesson. I try to teach them how to use Natural Consequence, but they always tell me that it's difficult to come up with natural consequences in the heat of the moment. So I decided to share an example of one that God gave me the other day. The timing of it was ironic because just the night before, I had a good parent coaching session and was feeling pretty confident and secure in my abilities not only as a coach, but also as a parent. Therefore, God felt the need to answer my prayer for help coming with good examples of natural consequences for clients by putting me in a situation to come up with one myself the very next day.

Friday morning the kids and I were in the car after running a quick errand. Kellyn is always asking to go to Chic-fil-a and I am always having to say No since we have been on our new Dave Ramsey budget, plus we try to limit fast food. But on this day we had the money so I thought I would surprise her and offer to stop to pick up Chic-fil-a for lunch without her even asking. However, I had to prepare her that we were not going to go inside and play because it was too cold outside and we needed go home and change for her gymnastics class. This news was not received well. I knew she would be disappointed that's why I gave her a heads up that we weren't going inside, but I had no idea she would be so mad. She said, "I hate that idea!" We do not use that word in our house so I calmly said, "What did you say? Do you want to repeat that?" Silence. "Did you say you hate Chic-fil-a?" "NO! I hate you!"  WHAT?! Inside I was losing it! But on the outside I was using self-control and talking in a calm yet stern voice so as to appear in control of my emotions because I know her brain has not developed rational thought and it is difficult for her to regulate emotional outbursts. I simply said, "Are you sure you wanted to say that?" She could tell immediately she had made a very, very bad choice. She sank down in her car seat, her face turned pale white, and her eyes got big. I could see it all happening from my rear view mirror just she could see the anger in my eyes in the same mirror. She genuinely looked afraid. Immediately she blurted out, "Sorry, sorry, sorry!! I'm sorry! I won't say it again!" I told her I accept her apology and I forgive her, however, she cannot think that speaking to her mother that way is ever appropriate and that I needed to think of a consequence. She said, "NO! I won't do it again. Stop thinking!" "Shhhh, I need to think. Shhh, don't speak until I tell you to." About this time we were pulling into the drive-thru at Chic-fil-a. At which time she began to ask, "Am I still getting Chic-fil-a? Is that for me?"  "Shhhh, please don't ask me questions. I'm still thinking." Which was true, I honestly didn't know yet. I went ahead and ordered a #1 for me and Max (I wanted to surprise him with a special lunch too) to split and a #5, 8 count for Rhett so Max could have the drink. I knew Rhett wouldn't eat all that, but had I not yet decided what I was going to do. Plus, I did not want to order a kid's meal and have her think it was for her. We rode in silence for the next 10 minutes all the way home. The whole time I was thinking in my head, "What can I do to make the punishment fit the crime? What was the actual crime? What am I trying to teach her? What can I have her do that will leave a lasting impression on her to not do this again?.... Just before we turned on our street I said, "OK, I've decided on your consequence. First of all, you spoke disrespectfully to your mother which hurt my feelings and means you broke a rule and Secondly, you were very ungrateful when someone offered to buy you your favorite lunch as a special treat. I cannot allow you to behave that way." Now, I knew that what I was about to tell her was going to cause a large amount of crying and possibly yelling, but I said it anyways knowing that the tantrum was worth it if it means this consequence will guide her one step closer in becoming a respectful, grateful, contributing member of society in the long run. "So, when we get inside you will need to make yourself a sandwich while Rhett and I eat our chicken." Of course she began to cry and say she couldn't do it. "I will get the peanut butter and honey down for you, but you need to get the bread, a knife and a plate and open it yourself and put it on the bread yourself then cut it in half by yourself. You are old enough now that I know will be able to do it." She continued to cry while we ate and as she globed peanut butter onto the bread said, "I never get to eat Chic-fil-a! Rhett always gets to eat it!" Again, I stayed very calm in tone of voice as I said, "That is not true. You have told a lie. You have actually had Chic-fil-a many more times than Rhett. Are you sure wanted to say that or would like to take it back?" Through tears, "I take it back." She eventually finished making her sandwich, but when it came time to cut it in half she couldn't do it and wailed in sadness and frustration again. "Don't worry. You can still eat it. You will just have to eat it whole instead of sliced in half. I'm sure it will taste great because you made it all by yourself like grown up." As she began to eat it I wanted to cry knowing just how sad it was making her having to watch her Mommy and baby brother enjoy her favorite meal while she had to choke down a messy sandwich. I was so proud of her for eating half of it without complaining. I said, "OK, your consequence is over. You made your own sandwich by yourself and then ate it. Do you understand why you had to do that?" "Yes." "Were you ungrateful?" "Mm hum." Where you disrespectful?" "Mm hum." I asked her what she would like to do to make restitution for her bad choices. She said she hasn't decided yet so I gave her about 10 minutes then asked her again and she chose to hug me and apologize and told her I forgave her.
The 1st sandwich Kellyn made all by herself.
I wanted to take a picture of it before she ate it, but she was still crying and very upset
I didn't want to add insult to injury by pulling out the camera so I waited until she left the room.

I then hesitated before making my next move. Part of me wanted to stay strong and make her finish her sandwich. Another part of me wanted her feel better. I'm weak...I let her eat 3 chicken nuggets. I figured she had served her actual consequence already so why not give in a little. Besides after thinking about it, God showers us with grace all the time even though we disrespect Him and are ungrateful for the things He gives us daily.

I think I made the right choice because since then she has been so kind and sweet to me! She finished the rest of her sandwich for dinner that night. When Daddy got home from work that night she showed him her sandwich and told him about how she made it all by herself. When he asked why she had to make her own sandwich she said in a silly voice, "I can't tell you." At bedtime she told me that she loved me and hugged and kissed me over and over. The next day, Saturday, she wanted to share part of every meal with me. She gave me a piece of her breakfast bread, a few of her craisins, a bite of her Nutella sandwich (which she wanted to make by herself and did!), a few cherries, a bite slice of her quesadilla. She even gave let me eat the cherry on top of the sundae Max and I got from Sonic after dinner that night plus she offered some of her Strawberry slushy to me. And during the day she kept making me pictures and finding little toys and beads to give me as gifts. Each time I had to tell her No to something, she did not argue. She simply said, "OK, Momma." It's been great.

On Sunday, after I had calmed down and was able to think rationally, I opened God's word to find a good lesson for myself and my daughter. I decided to have a follow up lesson with Kellyn to discuss the story found in Numbers chapters 10 and 11 of how the Israelites grumbled and complained after God gave them manna (bread i.e. sandwich) to eat in the wilderness. They were ungrateful for being rescued from slavery and for the food God gave them but he still showed them grace and gave them the food they asked for, quail (meat i.e. Chic-fil-a), but in the end he did give them consequences. I also talked to her about how God commands us to honor our father and mother and what that means and how I have to honor my parents too.

It really is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting work to use self-control, model self-control and teach someone else self-control every day. So don't stress over having to say the perfect thing or come up with the right consequence immediately. Take some time to cool off and think straight before saying something you will regret or can't truly follow through. You can always come back 2 days later with a great lesson from the Bible. They might be more receptive by then anyways. And remember to not only thank God everyday for these precious gifts, but to also ask Him to help you raise them.


  1. I love this. Discipline isn't just teaching our children self control, but also learning self control ourselves. I love how you taught her a lesson with out spanking or yelling. Just goes to show you it can be done! Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is a great example. I understand the benefits of using natural consequences instead of spanking or time outs. But it really IS hard to think of those consequences!! :) My daughter (3yo) has had some out-of-control behavior lately, and my response has gotten, AHEM, less controlled as well. This post is such a helpful reminder for me. Thank you!