I had no idea we were about to embark on a lesson in responsibility the day the front door of the house opened as Dave marched two little guys inside.
I didn’t even have to turn around to look – I knew there was trouble when I heard the thud of his feet as he came across the porch.
I took one look at my boys and knew they were the culprits. When I heard what had happened, I had to hide my face. What they had done was rather ingenious and funny, even though I couldn’t let them know!
“I am too upset right now to deal with this,” Dave told me. “These boys are yours for now and I’ll deal with it when I’ve had time to think about what to do.”
Dave had taken our guys with him as he made his rounds fixing the fence around the pasture on the farm he was managing. They loved to ride in the pickup and “help” their papa. Only this time, they had tired of all the walking necessary to fix the fences, so they stayed behind to play in the truck bed while he was within sight of the truck. It wasn’t long until they decided they wanted to slide – and the easy way to have a slide was to climb on top of the cab and slide down the windshield. Today, the oldest one says he’s pretty sure it was the youngest one’s idea. We’re pretty sure he is right.
The hood of the truck was a safe landing place. After landing, they’d climb up the windshield and slide down again. All was going well until their father came back and found two broken windshield wipers. That’s when he brought them back to the house.
“Because,” he told me, “they’re your boys right now. We’ll figure out what we’re going to do about it tonight.”
One of the problems was that this wasn’t Dave’s truck. It belonged to the farm owner. We would be paying to replace those wipers! Not only was the damage to the property wrong, their behavior showed a lack of respect for equipment, especially when it didn’t belong to our family.
That’s why he corraled his sons and brought them to their mother. Dave was too upset to deal out consequences, and he needed time to cool off. I’m so grateful that he didn’t just give them both spankings on the spot. They certainly deserved one, but it would have been given in a way that was not biblical because Dave was angry at their behavior. That evening, we came up with a plan that would help them learn responsibility.
- Dave would pay half the cost of the wiper replacements. The boys would pay the other half.
- The boys would do jobs for us around the house or on the farm to earn money for their share of the bill.
We made a chart and put it on the wall. Each quarter they earned was documented as the amount was measured. What the boys didn’t realize was that the money, though earned by them, was still coming from their parents since we were paying their wages!
The cost of the wipers (25+ years ago) was $24.00. Dave paid $12.00 and that left $12.00 for the boys to shell out. $6.00 per boy. Let me tell you: it was a long time coming, this paying on the wipers. You can be certain that a windshield was never used as a slide again. You can also be certain that they learned some things about responsibility!
When they took a turn vacuuming, they remembered. When they had to take out the trash, they remembered. When they chose to use their money for an ice cream cone toward the debt, they remembered. They were learning about responsibility and consequences of poor choices.
Every day, the chart in the hallway was a reminder of their infraction.
There are some things our boys learned from their windshield-turned-slide experience.
- Even when something doesn’t belong to us, we need to take care of it.
- When I choose to do wrong, I can’t choose the consequences
- When a harm is done, restitution must be made, no matter how long it takes
- When restitution has to be made, it will help me think before I just decide to do something that I think is fun.
Dave and I learned (again) that there are deeper ways to instill truth into our children than just giving them a spanking. We were reminded that doing this parenting thing right is a lot of work; we could just have paid it ourselves and been done with the chart-keeping and chore-doing. It certainly would have been less hassle. Yet the outcome would not have been the same.
Next time you’re tempted to just fix something your child has damaged, maybe you can think about this story and those windshield wipers. Help your child(ren) become responsible adults by helping them be responsible now.
It’s a win-win, for sure.