Story #98 Teaching Our Children The DifferenceBetween fun and mischief.
When my youngest was 10 years old, we lived in a high rise apartment building.
One day, for fun, she pulled the fire alarm, and then she hid away so she could watch as the fire trucks came and the firemen went rushing into the building and hunted for the trouble spot, only to discover, there was no fire. And they left.
Half an hour later she did it again. Same fun result. Ho-ho-ho-, what a great time she was having. She did that several times that day. I didn't know it was her. I had dropped her off at the community center that morning and thought she was having fun at the day camp they ran during March break. But she was bored and had left, telling them she was going home for lunch as she didn't like the lunch they were having. (the community center was right next door to where we were living and she had permission to come home for lunch if she wished.) Finally, just about dinner time, she did it once too often, and she was caught.
The fireman brought her to me and told me what she had done. I thanked him and asked if there was some kind of penalty, or fine or......well.......what she had don't was not only illegal but dangerous. I expected that I would have to pay a fine, but there was nothing but a stern lecture. Then he left. I didn't say much to her about it that evening. I gave her supper, told her she was grounded for the rest of March break and she couldn't watch tv that night. So she went to her room, listened to music, read a while and went to bed early.
The next day, I got her up and gave her breakfast, told her to get dressed, because we were going on a field trip. I took her to the nearest fire station. Showed her the sign on the front of the station that told how many fire deaths there had been in our city that year already. There were 4, and it was only March. I asked her how she would have felt if someone had died in a fire because the firemen were busy responding to one of her false alarms. She didn't think she would feel very happy about that. After having that talk with her, I rang the bell at the Chiefs office and asked him to have a talk with her about being a fireman. He told her about responsibility and what it means to be responsible for the lives of so many people and and how they don't really have a whole lot of firemen who can go running to a real fire while some are playing with false alarms. He told her about who had died in the fires so far that year, including one child.
I think she came away with a whole different idea of what is and isn't fun. And I'd be willing to bet she never turned in a false alarm again. I think she learned something from the experience. Much more than if I had simply taken away a few privileges.