Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Red-Bearded Perry Mason

Last Monday afternoon my wife brought the kids out to a nearby park to play with some friends. When they returned home, my four year-old daughter was exhausted and agitated at something causing her to act out and misbehave. When my wife put her in a room and closed the door so she could calm down and unwind, my daughter laid on the floor kicking the door and wall until she put a small hole in the drywall.

My wife pointed this hole out to me after dinner when we were all sitting downstairs and I called my daughter over, pointed to the hole, and asked her about it.

"Did you make this hole in the wall?"

"No, I didn't do it"

"How do you think this hole got here?"

"Someone slammed the door and made the hole."

I then had her open and close the door, illustrating the fact that it did not reach over far enough to make a hole in the wall.

"See, it is impossible for the door to have made this hole."

"I didn't do it."

"If you did do it, tell me the truth and I will not be upset with you. I will only be upset if you do not tell the truth."

"I didn't do it, Daddy!"

Seeing that I was getting no where, I had her come over to the hole once again and lay down on the floor. I then matched her heel up to the hole.

"Look, it is a perfect match."

"I didn't do it, Daddy."

"Who did?"

"~her brother's name~"

"Did you see him do it?"


"If you didn't see him with your own two eyes you cannot blame him for kicking the wall. There is nothing worse than blaming someone for something you do not know 100%."

"Ok, Daddy. He was upstairs when I kicked the wall."

"So you kicked the wall?"

"No. I didn't do it, Daddy. Bring ~her brother's name~ over and lets put his foot up to the wall. Check him."

I called my two year-old son over and told him to lay down on the floor. I raised up his foot and put it next to the wall; being shorter than his older sister, it didn't even close to the location.

"His foot cannot even reach it. This proves that he didn't do it. If you did it and tell me the truth, Daddy won't be mad. I will be happy that you were honest with me."

"I didn't do it."

"Well, who did?"

"The puniner [computer] did. It jumped off the table and made the hole in the wall."

"I know you did it. Tell me the truth."

"I didn't do it. I didn't do it, Daddy!"

"Ok, if you tell me that you didn't do it, I will believe you because you are telling me the truth. Now, it is time to take a bath. Whoever kicked the wall can be the first one in the bath."

"I did! I kicked the wall, Daddy. I just forgot. I am sorry."


At August 22, 2006 at 6:20:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz said...

Great work, Perry Redbeard! A few he'aros:
1. The heel of the foot is spelled with 2 ee's, not heal, which is to cure.
2. If you know she's done it & yet won't owe up to it, why not ask her a question that ASSUMES you know she did it, such as, "Were you very angry when you kicked the wall?" It usually works, and would have saved you a lot of potentially frustrating dialog.

At August 22, 2006 at 6:49:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Yitz: I corrected #1 and point #2 is an excellent suggestion.

At August 22, 2006 at 6:55:00 AM EDT, Blogger Baleboosteh said...

I think my Husband and I have had the same conversation a number of times with one of our daughters.
My Husband is much better at getting to the truth, he does exactly what Yitz suggested above.

Your daughter must like her bath!

At August 22, 2006 at 7:54:00 AM EDT, Blogger Mottel said...

At least she came clean in the end.

At August 22, 2006 at 8:07:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Baleboosteh: Maybe I should take lessons from him ;)

Mottel: Exactly. That was the most important thing

At August 22, 2006 at 9:06:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Yitz said is good. I would also follow up the next day with a talk about Emes. Explain that everyone sometimes does the wrong thing and sometimes we need to get consequence for it, but if you do something wrong and you tell Abba right away, he won't be upset. But if "someone", chas v'shalom, doesn't say the emes, it makes it much worse. The next time she says the emes, buy her a small present and call up your parents with her in listening range, and brag effusively about her.

Also, while there are many that apparently disagree, I do not hold from putting young children in closed door time-outs. Each child is different but I have found that mine get too agitated. My wife heard from a big rebbetzin that one should be careful about doing things that can cause children to be koneh certain middos, like ca'as, anxiousness, even through a justified punishment.

Hatzlacha Raba,


At August 22, 2006 at 9:54:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Michoel: I appreciate your comments and have followed-up this incidents with other conversations on emes with her, praising her for telling the truth.

As for your comment on time outs....chanoch l'naar al pi darko - this technique calms her down when she is otherwise enraged so I will continue to use it.

At August 22, 2006 at 10:04:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, Hatzlacha raba. You're right, "chanoch l'naar.." as long as it is effective. I am no expert.

At August 22, 2006 at 10:10:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks, Michoel :)

At August 22, 2006 at 10:37:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Yitz!
My wife always yells at me when I do that. She tells me that I am causing my children to lie when I do it, and that I should never "set up" my kids that way... that it is better to assume guilt (when it's highly likely), and you are more likely to get an honest response...
Also, it saves us from teaching the a possibly counter-productive lesson: that admitting guilt absolves us from any punnishment
(when we end up negotiating away the punnishment in exchange for the truth) - whereas if we take guilt as a given an appropriate punnishment is still available and perhaps proper...


At August 22, 2006 at 10:37:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I disagree with Michoel. I wouldn't give a present for telling the truth about a misdeed. I would emphasize the importance of telling the truth for its own sake, not for a reward.

I think the problem here was that your daughter probably didn't originally realize that she'd caused the damage during her tantrum and then was "backed into a corner": after her initial denial, it was difficult for her to change her story, even when it was apparent that there were literally holes in it. She was denying that she had *intended* to cause the damage. But she should learn that even unintentional actions have consequences, and amends must be made. I think it would be wise to involve her in the repair of the drywall, not as punishment, but so that she has a chance to set things right.

At August 22, 2006 at 10:51:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Everyone agrees with Yitz today! :)

Chabakuk Elisha: So you are saying that initially you would have handled it the same way - yet another way we are similar!

Shoshana: Interesting insight!

At August 22, 2006 at 11:03:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that it is a good idea to let children participate in fxiing what they broke. They get real shimush in "Im atah maamin she'atah yachol l'kalkel, taamin she'atah yachol l'takein." About the reward for saying the emes: I am basing myself on the Shlah Hakadosh (doesn't meant one can't have a different opinion). Saying the emes is not an easy thing to do and it is extremely important, perhaps the entire foundation of being an ehrliche yid. Kids need to know that. Then, they can do it without rewards when they are older. What I mean to say is, that if one holds that rewards for proper behavior are never appropriate, fine. But if they sometimes are, this is a case were they are. Telling the emes when one did something naughty, is not less an achievement than cleaning up one's room. Of course there has to be seichal. If a child forcefully beats up their little brother and admits it, it is not the time for presents. ken nirah li.

At August 22, 2006 at 10:22:00 PM EDT, Blogger torontopearl said...

Thanks for sharing that one. I like the fact that the computer did it.
I often tell my children (as a way of getting the truth out of them), "Hashem knows if you're not telling the truth." My youngest also still owns up to the truth with, "I mean..." or "I forgot..." as if he's "correcting" himself.

At August 23, 2006 at 1:55:00 AM EDT, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Very cute back and forth. Glad the truth came out in the end, but what I am most amazed by is a child who actually wants to take a bath!!

At August 23, 2006 at 4:50:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Pearl: You certainly pull out the big guns!

MCAryeh: I guess this was a rare occasion, because usually she does not.

At August 24, 2006 at 2:00:00 PM EDT, Blogger PsychoToddler said...

"Isn't it truuuue, that on the night you kicked the wall you were mad at your brother?"

At August 24, 2006 at 2:03:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...



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