Promises – Bribery – Weighing the Cost – A Lesson Learned

I will say first off, this post has nothing to do with our ministry but is a reflection of life lessons and the training we are doing with our children (and even mirrors part of a Biblical tale).   I will also say that because I’m trying to prevent unnecessary embarrassment on the part of my children I’ve removed their names so it is a touch more complicated to read.

Tuesday evening I found one of my children (child A we’ll say) in tears.  After they’d calmed down enough to talk I discovered they’d been promised a treasure, of their choosing, by one of their siblings (child B) in exchange for having shared something the weekend before.  I told Child A to go discuss it directly with Child B and I would help out later if still necessary.

The next morning the issue was still there so we sat down to discuss the issue and hear the full story.

The fuller scenario was that Child B had asked Child A to share part of a pop-tart.  In exchange Child A would be able to choose a treasured item.  When the time of choosing came however, Child B didn’t allow Child A to choose but just gave them an item without regard for the particulars and therein lay the problem.  Child A was upset they didn’t get the choice.

Point 1:  If you made a promise then you must honor that promise, as it was given.  Only in this way can you build trust with your sibling.  Just as if I tell you I’ll do something, you expect me to do that.  If I fail to keep my promise it  breaks your trust in me.   It was at this point Child B then announced (with great annoyance), “fine you can choose from these 4 but not these 2.”  That led to clarification of whether any stipulations had been in the initial promise (there hadn’t been).  We then had to talk about how it would have been within their right to place limitations on the choice, “you may choose of any, minus my favorite, etc” but since there weren’t limitations placed initially, for fairness and trust sake, they shouldn’t be put in now.  Frustration, but thankfully no tears, now ensued on Child B’s part as Child A took one of the items Child B did not want to part with.

Point 2:  I hate bribery.  I know there are times in society, in life, where exchanges occur naturally and it isn’t necessarily a bribe.  For example, if you help me unload the dishwasher then I’ll read you a book or if you get all your homework finished then you’ll be able to play a computer game.  My children seem to put a spin on this however so that they are often bribing their siblings.  To me that was much of this scenario.  Child B wanted something Child A had and didn’t want to share just to be kind (we need to work on this as well) so Child B offered something Child A would want so enough so they would feel compelled to share.  I realize Child A technically had a choice and could have said no but . . . . there’s simply no kindness or love in bribery.

Point 3:  Did you catch what the item shared was?  Part of a pop-tart.  Not a whole pop-tart out of a package of 2 but part of a pop-tart.  I guess I should also say we try not to eat much sugar in our house (or wheat) so pop-tarts and candy/cakes are limited and therefore very special, but still, part of a pop-tart?  Food, which is temporary and gone in a matter of minutes (or in this specific case probably 4 bites) in exchange for a tangible item that will last quite a bit longer.  I asked Child B if this reminded them of a Biblical story at all.  They did recall Jacob and Esau and the buying of birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew.  . . . .   I tried, gently, to point out the cost value of the traded item versus part of a pop-tart and to talk about weighing the cost of our decisions.

Our discussion ended.  Child A was elated for getting to choose with no stipulations.  Child B was a bit somber at having her favorite item taken and over the discussion but I think lessons were learned.  Now on another day I need to re-sit with Child A and discuss kindness (again) and how sometimes we should extend grace and not take the known treasured item, even if it’s in our right to do so, and how perhaps they should share the treasured item with Child B on occasion.

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