Luckily, it wasn't actually a baseball through a window (that's mighty expensive!) but it was the same type of lesson learned for my boys.
A friend and her children were visiting. While I was preparing dinner, the boys and their friends (aged 5 and 9) were upstairs. Colin eventually came down, in tears, having gotten hurt. His next comment was "Mom, you should see what they're doing up there." James went to investigate and promptly expelled all the kids downstairs. He murmured to me "They destroyed our bedroom."
After dinner I ventured up. As I peeled back the layers, I discovered it wasn't too bad. A mattress that had been leaned up against the wall had been used as a slide, or rather, a ramp that kids were pushed down. Some picture frames had been thrown to the floor, and I couldn't tell yet if the glass had been shattered. I peeked around the mattress and discovered a lovely wicker basket had been crushed.
I all but knew it hadn't been the idea of my boys - they aren't yet at the age of this kind of mischief. But as I washed dishes and pondered over what had happened, I wondered what sort of lesson (if any) needed to be taught.
(I myself was taught an important lesson - I did not jump into the pool of accusation too quickly, but rather gave myself a good couple of hours to appropriately think about what had happened, what role my boys played, and what consequences, if any, should be meted out. I will take a page from this one in the future.)
My dishcloth swirled in the water as I mulled it over. Then the image of the "baseball through the window" popped into my head, and I knew that this experience had the potential to be a much less costly version of that lesson. In the baseball situation, young children playing baseball too close to the house results in the ball smashing through the window. Although the intention to shatter the glass was not there, the result happened nevertheless, and the children must pay for the replacement.
That evening I called the boys to my room and showed them the basket. I asked what happened. They provided the explanation.
"Was it your idea?"
"No, it was (the older friend.)"
"Did you have an idea it was not a good idea?"
"Well, now those boys are gone, and only you two are left here. My basket has been broken and you will need to buy me a new one."
"How much will it cost?"
Bless his heart, Colin jumped in right there and exclaimed that he knew he had exactly $20 in his piggy bank. Caleb also offered everything in his. I gently refused, saying that I wouldn't take the money they had right now, but that I would come up with a list of money chores they could complete until they had worked off the equivalent of $20.
Finally, we spoke for a minute about the consequences of participating in something, or even being in the vicinity of something going on that is inappropriate. I cautioned them to beware when friends suggest an activity and something in their heart tells them it's not a good idea. Listen to that spirit, I warned.
Three days later I asked them both to work together to hand scrub the kitchen floor for $4 that would go toward the basket. The funny thing is, they were having such a good time doing it together that even Benjamin joined in. But remember, this isn't about making life miserable as compensation; seeing them work together in such a way was just as rewarding for me as the $4 they handed over.