Keeping Short Accounts

Can't get a scene out of my mind that I witnessed while shopping at Trader Joe's yesterday. A little girl of about 5 or 6 was tugging at her mom in the frozen food section. It wasn't the tugging but her plaintive cry that caught my attention: "Please forgive me, mommy! I'm sorry. Will you talk to me now? Please talk to me. I'm sorry!..." But the mother completely ignored her daughter.

Ok, so I could very easily be Grandma Busybody and go up to that mother and very kindly say, "Hon, you will do your daughter a world of hurt if you refuse her plea for forgiveness. Keep short accounts. If she says, "sorry", then extend grace and forgiveness. Giving her the silent treatment will scar her for life."

Did I do that? No. I kept pushing my cart onto another aisle thinking of things to say to that mom. About three aisles down I couldn't hear the little girl anymore so my thoughts turned to making dinner and various other things. After walking full-circle around the entire store, up and down each aisle gathering what I needed for dinner, I again encountered the little girl and her mom. She was still crying and begging her mother to talk to her.

Today I'm sorry I didn't say something to that mom. It's hard to know when to get involved in something that's none of your business or when to make it your business.

Keeping short accounts is so important; teaching kids to say they're sorry as well as saying "I forgive you" are one of the building blocks of good, healthy character development, both spiritually and emotionally.

Issues are wonderfully simple when kids are young, and keeping short accounts prepares them to handle much more complex situations when they're adults. We have all experienced betrayals and hurtful situations between friends and family that needed to be confronted, talked out and resolved; but healthy resolution only happens if both parties are humble enough to sit down together and talk while the issue is still fresh. Avoiding or running from the pain creates a wider and wider separation that can be impossible to mend.

A steady toxic diet of the silent treatment wraps cords of bondage around little souls. As adults, that same bondage triggers a strong flight response to the first sign of trouble. And why not? They learned early that the road to forgiveness was far more painful than the resolution itself. Therefore, avoid the resolution process at all costs!

Spiritually, it keeps us from understanding God's great grace extended to us when we have repented and asked Him for forgiveness. Instead the expectation is getting the silent treatment from God because we've sinned.

The reason this scenario pierced my heart so deeply was I grew up in a home that feasted on the silent treatment, and it took years and years for the Lord to slowly, carefully unwind the bondage that was wrapped around my soul.

My husband and I tried to keep very short accounts in our household while our kids were growing up. It wasn't always easy when feelings were hurt or anger flared, but the rewards have far exceeded any momentary emotional discomfort.

Really wish now that I had given that mom a gentle warning.

Posted by Mutti at October 16, 2006 07:20 PM | TrackBack

I whole heartily agree with you, Mutti. I have put fourth quite an effort into the study of certain behaviours in adults that stem from a root planted by their parents. It really is incredible what you find when you dig deep enough. I can almost guarantee that little will grow up to jump from one relationship to another, trying to find the affection and forgiveness that her mother so obviously has taken from her.

Although my parents never did treat me in that manner, they weren't perfect either. Most likely, those imperfections were caused by the imperfections that their parents passed on, and so on and so forth.

I just noticed that I'm being a bit verbose, so I'll end here...unless further commentary is requested :-)

Posted by: Dan Ranes at October 17, 2006 12:46 PM

Thank you for your comments Dan. Sadly, no parents are perfect and we certainly made our share of mistakes with our kids.

But some things are just cruel. I wager that given a choice, a child would rather have a spanking and be done with it than have a parent refusing to speak to them for hours or days on end.

Posted by: Mutti at October 17, 2006 01:07 PM

It was probably a wise move to leave it alone. We really don't know what the issue was, nor are we in a position to be judgemental toward the parent. The silent treatment as an overall methodology is terrible, I agree, but not speaking to the child for 8 aisles of shopping might have been the right move in this case.

Posted by: Phil at October 21, 2006 12:13 PM

Thank you for your comment, Phil, I appreciate your input.

It wasn't my intention to come across as judgmental of that mom, but more so of the use of the silent treatment in matters of repentance and forgiveness. If the mom were not acknowledging a repeated and irritating request made by the child, that would be quite understandable. "I gave you my answer and we will not discuss this further..." and then proceed to not discuss it. End of story.

But this mom was ignoring her daughter's plea for forgiveness. That's altogether different. When a child has asked for forgiveness and said "I'm sorry" over and over to a silent parent, thereby begging for forgiveness and begging to resume communication, well, that's just cruel to the child. A simple, "Yes, darling, I forgive you" is all it takes. That was the point I was trying to make and this mom gave the perfect illustration.

Posted by: Mutti at October 21, 2006 01:01 PM

Wow, I feel your pain. I would have the same reaction. I guess we have to think: there, but for the grace of God, go we.
I admit that one of my pet peeves is when someone gets going about how kids need to behave.
My silently vehement reaction is that every kid needs a parent who behaves correctly, also. If we had more of those rare creatures, we wouldn't have to worry very much about the kids. ~~~ I only pray that I can be very kind when I get started on that subject!

Posted by: Dottie at October 24, 2006 11:29 PM