Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It is the most feared place; even the very mention of it can stop a person in their tracks and make one's blood run cold. In our household, it's come to be known as the Naughty Seat. In other homes, comparable locations are known as the Timeout Spot or the Corner. We initially referred to this place as a "timeout," but ironically enough, it was Nicholas, of our three-year-old triplets, who gave the location it's name - and he tends to find himself sitting that very location more than Hannah or Emily.

As I have observed our triplets develop over the past three years, I am amazed at how quickly a human being is able to readily identify and express love, anger, disappointment... and yes, shame. In fact, the three children are able to quickly identify good and naughty behavior; it's Hannah and Emily that quickly report to me when Nicholas is exhibiting this naughty behavior. Ah, how quickly they learn to "rat out" their brother at such a young age...

And Hannah, Emily and Nicholas are also able to readily identify behavior exhibited on the television that is naughty and say, "They are naughty, naughty, naughty; they have to sit in the Naughty Seat, Daddy" (particularly during an episode of Tom and Jerry). And how can you argue with their thinking?

Can you tell me what specifically happens between the ages of childhood and adulthood where one's understanding of right and wrong becomes blurred and "grey"ed? Politicians will tell us that "the end justifies the means" and leaders in authority will use words and phrases such as lesser of two evils, minimized impact, for the greater good to justify their actions and decisions that are bordering well over the line of unethical behavior. Somewhere along the line we are also fed the line, "It's okay... as long as you don't get caught." It's no wonder our children are so concerned with "growing up."

And do you know the irony of it all? Nicholas, Hannah and Emily know very well what is considered good and naughty behavior. But at the same time, they have the biggest heart of forgiveness for that person sitting in the Naughty Seat. It seems as our collective definition of right and wrong becomes more blurred, so does our sense of compassion; almost as if we were stating out loud, "He/She knew what they were getting into..."

Perhaps it's not an issue of children learning aggressive and violent behavior from cartoons such as Tom and Jerry. Perhaps it's more of a matter of children not knowing how to fit their identification of good and naughty behavior into our adult world of "grey" and normative ethics.


Post Note: Where is the Naughty Seat actually located? Is it an old and rickety wooden chair in the kitchen corner? Is it uncomfortable seat in a room away from the rest of the family? No, it's the very end of a comfy leather sofa in our family room where we tend to spend most of our time and watch television such as Dora, The Explorer, The Backyardigans, and Little Einsteins. Imagine their surprise when their potential teenage consequences may land them in a less cozy location.