I have written before about keeping promises and carrying out threats. I was tested on this on Friday night. For the longest time I have had a deal with my youngest son. That if he goes to shul (synagogue) with his brothers on Friday night and misbehaves, then he has to go to bed after kiddush and hamotzi (the ritual Friday night blessings). We started this in order to keep him focused on being quiet in shul, and not bothering his older brothers while they daven (pray). It’s the older boys that tell me about his behaviour and I require consensus from all three. For months he was well behaved enough to stay up for the meal. I know it’s hard for him and for his brothers. They are alone in shul, and have to keep themselves and their little brother in line. Hopefully soon it will be a thing of the past, and the KoD will keep a watchful eye on them.
Friday night they came home after shul and told me that the little one did not behave, did not maintain decorum fit for shul. I was saddened and disappointed. I called him to me, and asked him how he thought he behaved. After much hesitation he admitted he had been badly behaved. I held him in my arms, and told him that after we eat challah he has to go to bed, as that was our deal. He was so upset and it tore my heartstrings to shreds. It would have been so easy for me to tell him to behave better, and ok, you can join us for the meal. But I wanted him to learn the lesson and also to know that I carry out my threats when necessary.
We were both crying when I bensched him. He cried all through Shalom Aleichem and Eishet Chayil. He was crying almost too hard to drink the grapejuice. He managed to chomp his way through a piece of challah, softened with his hot tears. Before he left the table he came to curl up on my lap. I asked him if he understood why he was being punished. He knew why and promised to behave better next time. I reminded him how much I love him, but that he needed to go to his room.
He took some books so he could read in bed. He came out of bed a couple of times for an extended drink of water and another hug or two. I missed him at the table. I did.
Shabbat morning he crawled into bed with me and told me he felt so sad that we were all having fun without him, and the he knows if he would have behaved appropriately that he would have joined us for dinner. He promised that he would be the best boy in shul from now on, because it felt “bad” to be punished. He totally understood his punishment, he was aware that there would be consequences for his bad behaviour, but it hadn’t deterred him. He told me that next time he wanted to act up in shul he would remember how sad he felt to hear us having a fun meal and not be part of it. So I guess he learned the lesson. But why do I feel awful about the whole thing?
Was disciplining him this way heinous or harmless?