As I left the playground the other day I saw Johnny (4 years old) at the corner of the residential building. I knew that he had just gone to the bathroom and he looked to be heading back to play with the other kids. He was using his t-shirt to wipe his mouth that was covered with white crumbs. I was in the middle of reminding him that his shirt was not a napkin when the penny dropped and I wondered why there were crumbs on his mouth. I noticed he was chewing something also.
When I asked him what he was eating, he pulled a small piece of roasted cassava from his waistband. Since we haven't served cassava I wondered where it had come from. He said he had found it on the ground and pointed to the ground right next to him. I knew immediately that he was lying and insisted he tell me the truth. He then said he had found it on the floor of the bathroom. I had him show me exactly where. He pointed it out. Since it was such a small piece of cassava I thought it was entirely possible that one of the nannies had dropped something in there. I lectured him on eating things off the ground and then let him go.
I then walked with him back to the playground and asked the nannies if it was possible that they had dropped cassava in the bathroom. They said no, but that they had left a few pieces behind in the little unfinished room where they do their cooking on a little brazier.
I knew then that Johnny had lied (again!) to me because where I found him initially was right next to that room. I called Johnny over, and took him to the staff kitchen. After first denying it twice, he eventually confessed to taking the cassava from the room. I started telling him how naughty it was to steal and lie to me and as I explained everything I reminded him how he had hid the cassava inside his waistband when lo and behold I discovered that it was full of even more cassava. He had been smart enough to only produce a small amount in his first confession so that he could keep the mother lode.
After an explanation of his wrongdoings I asked him to apologize to me for lying and then to the nannies from whom he'd stolen the food. By the time he was finished apologizing to everyone one by one, he was sobbing--whether from true remorse or because his stash had been discovered, I'll never know. I do know that it made an impression on him.
Johnny is one of our brightest and smartest kids and it shows by him being one of the first to try such a big crime.
Tom remembers stealing a toy at about 5 years old and hatching a plan to hide it in the bushes so he could 'find' it on a walk with his mom that evening. I guess that sinful nature and 'normal' kid behavior is truly universal.
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