I'd read an excerpt from a Dave Ramsey radio call in show about how to discipline a 6 year old and wanted to know what my husband thought. He is a lot more of a "peaceful crunchy granola attachment parent" than I am . The caller had a 6 year old daughter who had stolen $350 from her mom (and subsequently lost $50 of it) and this missing money had caused a fight between the parents before they discovered that the unlikely thief.
My husband suggested that at 6 years old the child didn't understand the value of the money stolen, and so it should be explained to them. The parents were responsible for explaining why stealing is bad. The fact that it caused an argument between the parents, was not the girls fault he said because really she couldn't have foreseen this.
I took another approach- I believed that the child did know better- which is why they didn't confess to having the money when the argument broke out. I believed that the best way to teach the child not to steal - was to let them FEEL the same loss their parents felt. I would have taken a garbage bag into their room and taken $350 from their stuff. Which in my kids room would have meant most of their toys and some of their clothes too. The level of remorse felt by the child would dictate if and when they could get their stuff back.
It was then I heard my oldest (5 year old little princess) a bit surprised by my answer. I hadn't realized she was still awake. I then asked her what she would do- if she was the mom. She said she didn't know. I pushed- "come on- think about it- what do you think a mom should do?"
Dh whispers "don't put her on the spot- that is a hard question for most grown ups. "
I continue to wait ( secretly wondering if she is falling asleep).
And finally she says "well.....I think time out is a good idea. I would put in her time out the same minutes that it took to find the money so she could think about why it was bad"
And I think that is a pretty good answer! More interestingly though....this week she's been talking a lot about "when I'm a mom" and telling me that she won't let her kids watch tv (because then when you have to turn it off there will be whining and crying and such) and that she will buy her kids an ipod so they can play on it (but not all day or anything). She has started to think about what kind of kids she wants and what she would do to encourage them to "be good" and " be nice".
I'm happy to learn that my daughter is developing this understanding. Not only because I think that it will make her a better mamma one day (learning how to reflect on what her values are and how to teach them to her children) but because I think it is important that my children see me as a mom. Not a friend. Not a jail warden. But as mom who has an important job to give them the tools to be successful in life. And who might do things that are difficult on them- but only done out of love.