First Pangs of Conscience

Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket

Uncredited art inspired by Walt Disney.

My daughter Anna took a big step yesterday, and I am very proud of her.

She had acted out a lot on Sunday. She got into trouble and lost her computer for the day. But as long as she behaved in school and didn’t get any reminders for bad behavior, she would get her computer back yesterday afternoon. So when she came home, I asked her the same question I do everyday.

“How did school go.”

“Good,” she said. “No reminders.”

“Good job.” I turned her computer back on, and she played a few games on it that afternoon.

Later that afternoon, Julia and I were in the bedroom chatting when Anna came in. She was crying.

“Mom, Dad, I fibbed. Please turn off my computer.”

“What was that?” I asked. Neither of us quite understood what she was saying.

“I got a reminder today and I said I didn’t.” More tears flowed. “I hid it at school so you wouldn’t see.  I’m sorry I fibbed.”

We could tell that she knew she did wrong and she was genuinely upset about it. I turned off her computer and we discussed her punishment.

“Anna,” Julia said. “You know you did wrong in school, and that lying about it was wrong too.”

Anna sniffed and nodded.

“But you also did the right thing in telling the truth.”

The reminder slip would have cost her another day without the computer. Lying would have made it a full week, but since she confessed to lying on her own initiative, we decided to cut her punishment in half.

“Three days, Anna.” Julia said. “You can have it back Friday afternoon.”

Anna nodded again, wiped her eyes, and hugged us both. We reminded her that their nothing she couldn’t tell us and it was always better to tell the truth.

And we were both impressed that she was genuinely moved by her conscience to  admit she lied. It was a big step, and we are very proud of her.

She is learning right from wrong, and becoming a moral and compassionate person in the process.


3 thoughts on “First Pangs of Conscience

  1. Thanks so much, David, for sharing this. As parents, my wife and I always wrestle with the discipline side… when is it time for consequences, when is time for grace? And it’s not always a nice, easy, rule, either…


    • It was a tough call. We couldn’t let her off the hook for lying as we’ve told her she’ll always get in more trouble for lying itself than for what she’s lying about. But we had to give her some benefit for doing the right thing. It wasn’t easy, but I think we struck a good balance. And above all, we took the time to talk it through with her to make sure she understood. She needs to know she can be honest with us no matter what.


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