Something I will always remember learning from my parents growing up is the difference between foolishness and childishness. While there are no specific situations that stick out in my mind, I do recall many conversations over these two things in my youth.

Foolishness, by definition is “resulting from or showing a lack of sense; ill considered, unwise: a foolish action, a foolish speech.”

Childishness is “peurile; weak; silly.”

When seeking to raise your children to be godly, instructing them in righteousness and teaching them responsibility, it is imperative to determine the difference in their actions.

We have had a lot of practice in this particular area in the last little while. But how do you determine if your child’s behaviour is childish or foolish?

An example is probably best here. JJ (4 1/2) was sitting at the table at Grandma’s. He was warned not to stand up and lean on the table while eating, or he might knock the bowl off. 5 minutes after the warning, he stood up, leaned on the table – and sure enough, knocked the bowl off, which broke.

Since he’s only 4 1/2, it’s pretty safe to say that he wouldn’t necessarily have foreseen the result of his actions prior – if he hadn’t been warned. Which he was. So, it became a situation of disobedience and foolishness, instead of childishness, and just being silly (or not knowing). Thus, his consequence was to pay Grandma for the bowl (fortunately for him it was only a plastic dollar store one :D).

As another example – The Boy (6 1/2) was clearing dishes from the table. He was cautioned to be careful, take one dish at a time, and go slow. Instead, he cleared a plate in one hand, a bowl in another, and a cup in his mouth (what goes through these boys’ minds sometimes I’ll never know!). You bet he dropped the cup. And, since he was given fair warning and cautioned to be careful, he had to pay for the cup (and it’s happened since, with both of them, that more dishes have been broken…ahh the joys of having boys).

For an example on the other side – one of the boys (I won’t say who!) was playing outside in the backyard today. I happened to glance out the sliding door and see a full moon (and it was in the middle of the day!). I hollered for him to come in and sent him upstairs while I tried to figure out whether to laugh or discipline. Fortunately, I could see how he was able to confuse things as when we’re camping, they are often allowed to relieve themselves on trees in the middle of the night. So instead, he got a firm warning to never, EVER do that again, unless it was an extreme emergency and he got an ok from mommy or daddy first. Childishness at its finest :D

Above everything else, pray for discernment in these situations. There are also a few factors to consider when trying to determine childishness from foolishness.

  1. Age – are they too young to know any better?
  2. Instruction – have they previously (and very recently if they are very young) been given an instruction not to do a certain behaviour?
  3. Environment – are they behaving that way because of frustration, tiredness or sickness? No excuses for bad behaviour, but take that into consideration.
  4. Consequences – if you determine that the behaviour is foolishness, make the punishment fit the crime! If they broke something after being warned not to play with it, have them clean it up, or (if it’s a manageable sum) have them pay for it.
  5. Grace – having 2 boys in the house, I have had to learn to have grace for the noise and rowdiness and all-around free-for-all-ness that often occurs – to a point. I do believe that enough is enough needs to be instated at times, but sometimes it is just better for everyone to show a little grace, and jump in on the action :0)