My kids love candy. And it seems as though every holiday, party and even minor event they are bombarded with even more candy. So it came as quite a surprise when our daughter approached us asking to make a candy deal. Her friend’s parents were offering a big prize if she could go without candy for several months, and our daughter wanted the same deal. I lacked faith in her ability to complete the deal, and we offered a generous prize of our daughters choosing (a motorized scooter) if she went without candy for 5 months.
At first it was really hard for her. She complained when she saw her brothers eating candy and we constantly reminded her this deal was of her own choosing and she could back out at any time. But with each week that passed it became easier for her and by month three it was very apparent that she was going to earn her scooter. She had a strength and will power I had yet to see in her. She knew what she wanted and there wasn’t going to be anything standing in her way.
Just a few weeks before the deal was done, there was a knock at the door. There her friend stood holding a large lollipop with a birthday invitation attached. My sweet daughter read the invitation and looked me square in the eyes with complete disappointment. She had been invited to a Candyland party and she was not eating candy. I could see the immediate hurt and I watched her put the sucker in the cupboard. She didn’t say anything but her face said it all.
My immediate mom reaction was to shelter her from disappointment and do what it took to make it better. All sorts of things started running through my mind. Do we end the deal a couple weeks early and let her enjoy the party? Do we give her a free pass just for the afternoon?
She decided to attend the party with the understanding that she wouldn’t be partaking. We were driving to the party and just as I was about to give her a free pass for the afternoon, something in my gut said STOP. Let her do this. She is ready and willing to continue with the deal, why strip her of this tough decision she has chosen to make? She is proving not only to us, but also to herself that she can do hard things. She is learning that great reward often comes at a sacrifice. A sacrifice she was willing to make.
I walked into the Candyland party with her and there was candy everywhere. I mean everywhere; candy covered the tables and counters. They went to great lengths to recreate the game and left out no details. Her eyes were big as she looked at me. I whispered, “You can do this.” She looked back at the table and pointed to the cupcake on the counter and giggled. “At least I can eat that!” She had the best time, despite not eating any candy and she came home with a bag full that she promptly stashed away in the cupboard next to the large lollipop to be consumed at a later date.
Just a few weeks later, the day arrived when the deal was complete and she shouted from the rooftops that she was done! There was no doubt she had earned her scooter – without taking any shortcuts. The pride that beamed from her face was worth every piece of candy she had turned down. She knew she earned it.
As she zipped by me on her brand new scooter, she yelled, “This was totally worth it.”
My daughter earned a scooter and I learned a valuable lesson: Kids are capable of hard things if we allow them to and foster environments where they feel safe to try hard things. As parents we want to rescue them from hurt and disappointment, but as they work through hard things, they gain an inner strength that can only be learned through experience. I almost gave my daughter an “out” in her tough situation. Instead, she stood tall, stuck with her decision and didn’t turn back. She will be better off for doing so.
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