The Power Of A Teachable Moment

Daily Reflections

The power of a teachable moment! 1/4/2007

Today my 5 year old son and I went to the supermarket to buy some breakfast items. It was really fun letting him help me choose the vegetables and take different items off the shelf to put into the trolley.
Then I turned around to see him breaking an Easter egg, taking a piece and putting it into his mouth. He walked off as if nothing happened. Half of me wanted to laugh at his audacity but the other half knew that it was actually very serious. He was chewing frenziedly in an effort to rid himself of the damning evidence before I saw him.
Now I normally blow my top when he does things like that but I have really been trying to teach him right from wrong rather than taking the easy route of screaming or smacking.
I realized that this was a defining moment in both our lives. It would define me in his eyes as a father and it would define him in his own eyes as a son. I am so glad I realized this. I am so grateful that I was presented with a rare opportunity to teach and not just discipline. I grabbed it with both hands.
“What’s that you’re eating son?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Nothing,” came the usual reply.
“Let me have a look at you. What’s that brown stuff all around your mouth? Come here let me see!”
With that I wiped some off with my finger and tasted it.
“Hmmm…chocolate! Where did you get that from?”
Knowing he was cornered he began to chuckle nervously as he made a little pointing gesture with his chubby little finger toward the Easter egg display.
I opened up my mouth wide in a mock gasp of horror.
“What did you do son? Did you break that Easter egg and take some of that chocolate?” I asked.
His smile disappeared and he nodded quietly.
“But son, you didn’t pay for that. That’s stealing.”
His expression became anxious.
“Was that the right thing to do?”
His little head nodded furiously from side to side.
“Please Dad,” came the hoarse tearful whisper. “Let’s not tell anyone!”
“I’m sorry son, but we just can’t do that. Taking something without asking and not paying for it is wrong. When you do something wrong you have to face up to it and take responsibility for it and that’s what you are going to have to do now!”
His big brown eyes welled up with tears and as he began to sob. I knelt down and took his little face in my hands.
“I love you son,” I said tenderly, “but you made this mess and now you have to clean it up! I want you to take the broken Easter egg and go to the manager’s office and knock on her door. When she let’s you in I want you to tell her that you broke this Easter egg and stole a piece of the chocolate. I want you to tell her that you are very, very sorry and that you will pay for it and not ever do it again!”
He began to cry hysterically, his chest heaving with every heartbreaking sob.
“No Dad please don’t make me do it…I don’t want to go to jail Dad, I don’t want to go to Jail!”
I wrapped my arms around him and held him close. I could feel the tears welling up in my own eyes but I knew that this was the moment for him to learn this lesson and I had to be the one to teach him, I was his father.
“Son, I know this is hard to do but you have to do it. You have to do what is right even though it is hard and even though you don’t know how things are going to turn out. Do you understand?”
He nodded his little head pathetically in the affirmative.
With that I marched him off to the manager’s office and he knocked on the door. She was quite taken aback to open her door to a sobbing little boy.
“Good morning Maam,” I said. “My son has something he would like to say to you.”
With tears streaming down his little f ace he brought the broken Easter egg out from behind his back, looked up into her face and said with absolute sincerity: “I broke this Easter egg and took some of the chocolate without paying for it. I am very, very sorry. I won’t do it again, I promise!”
The manager’s eyes filled with tears and a lump appeared in her throat. She bent down and gently hugged him and said: “Its ok my boy, thank you for telling me, it’s over now.”

As we walked away I stopped and knelt down and lifted his head for his eyes to meet mine.
“I am so proud of you son. You did the right thing even though it was very hard. I love you very, very much and I don’t want to see you growing up not knowing the difference between right and wrong. Will you ever do that again?”
He shook his head vigorously. “No Dad I won’t ever do that again!”

As we paid for our things and walked out of the supermarket hand in hand I thanked God silently for the opportunity he granted me and for opening my eyes to recognize that it lay before me. Never again will I take for granted the power of a teachable moment!
Toelover1on1 Toelover1on1
1 Response Oct 15, 2012

Good for you, and thanks for sharing your story. The love and teaching of a father is so important to children that being raised by a single mother ought to be classified as criminal child abuse.