After dinner the other night, Essie, Jojo, and John D asked if they could have dessert. Halloween candy. What else, right? Since they hadn't had any in a couple of days (sweets are a treat, not a food group at their house), I said yes. Nine-year-old Essie made her choice. I made John D's for him since he's only two. And Jojo, who is six, made her choice...a snack-sized bag of m-m's (not the mini size).
She knew she'd chosen something bigger than she would normally have been allowed to, so she asked, "Can I eat all of these?"
My reply was, "Sure, go ahead, if you want. But if you get full before they are gone, you can save the rest for another day." She assured me she was up to the task of eating them all.
A few minutes later Jojo said, "On second thought, Nanna, I'm not going to eat all of them. Eating too much sugar makes our tummies sick."
I complimented her for making such a wise decision on her own. "You know, Jojo," I said, "you are pretty smart to know that doing something just because you can, isn't always the right thing to do. I'm proud of you for figuring that out on your own."
"You're welcome," she smiled. Then she finished putting the uneaten candy back in the bag for me to put away until next time.
Teaching our children the art of discernment and self-discipline is not just a good idea. Or something we should do 'on second thought'. No way! These are essential life skills every child should be taught as soon as you start giving them the freedom to make any choices at all. Prompting them to think things through to see the 'bigger picture' vs. going with the instant gratification 'thing' makes for a happier, healthier child, a less chaotic and stressful parent/child relationship, a more harmonious home, AND it produces conscientious, thoughtful, and wise young people and adults. Taking the time to emply the 'on second thought' process in their decision making will save them countless hours, weeks, and even years of regret, and will save them from having to spend time cleaning up after their mistakes and emotional/mental messes.
I know you might think it's a stretch to get all of that from a partially eaten bag of m-m's, but I know for a fact it's not. Something as sweet and simple as a bag of candy (pun intended) is exactly the kind of thing kids can relate to and learn from. So, instead of only setting boundaries first and requiring them to deal with the consequences of stepping outside of them (good or bad), teach your kids to recognize the consequences FIRST and figure out on their own, how to enjoy the good ones and avoid those which are bad.