"It isn't a case of 'if the sheriff finds out about it.' It's a case of your breaking the law without intending to. If you tried to cover it up, you'd be running away from the law. Our prisons are full of men whose first real crime was running away because they didn't have courage enough to face punishment for a small offense. Tomorrow you must go see the sheriff."
Quote from: Little Britches - Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody
Of course nothing bad happened to Little Britches. The sheriff told him he was ok and bought him a birch beer, which is kind of like root beer. What a great lesson to teach our kids when they commit their first offense against the law. The key in this story was the father. He was in touch with his son's behavior. He was observant and noticed his son when he did anything out of the ordinary. On top of that he had established a relationship with his son wherein his son, Ralph, was comfortable telling the truth to his father. It was a reminder to me that I need to cultivate this environment where my children can feel comfortable confiding in me, even when they are sure they have done wrong.
There is a common saying at my work, where honesty is highly valued and lying is severely punished. The saying is, "Mess up, fess up." Things will go better for you if you admit your mistakes right away. Maybe not always in the short term but always in the long run.
I don't believe anyone was born a bad person. I think that if on their first offense people faced their fear and admitted their mistakes instead of trying to hide them, or hide from them, they would perhaps see that they are not so bad themselves. When we seek to hide our mistakes we often blow them out of proportion and start to believe that we are worse people than we actually are. Years of such internal misrepresentation can add up and result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's like tomato sauce in a can. If left in a metal can it will slowly corrode the can. People corrode their characters by leaving these little mistakes hidden deep inside them. It is by no coincidence that many religions promote the confession of sins. Or, perhaps the reverse will happen, which can be equally damaging. A person may grow complacent with their behavior if gone unpunished for too long and erode away their conscience. We all have seen the result of people with little to no conscience left. It is a tragic end to a chain that could and should have been broken at the beginning.
I can not say that I look forward to teaching this valuable lesson to my kids but when the time comes, it will be to their utmost benefit for me to have them face, instead of trying to protect them from, the consequences of their actions. One thing my wife and I have done already is talking to them about this as being wrapped in toilet paper. If you are wrapped in one layer of toilet paper it is easy to break through, but, if you allow yourself to get wrapped up in the whole roll, it becomes much harder to break free, almost impossible. But, as the scriptures teach, "the truth shall make you free."