Dad had bought a brand new bike for his older son. He asked, "Do you want to ride it home?" Heck, yes, the boy wanted to ride it home. "Okay, but go straight home. We don't have a lock for the bike, so you can't stop anywhere on the way." So the parents drove off, and the sons headed home (the older son riding, the other walking/running).
On the way home, they were about to pass a convenience store, and the boys thought, "We've got to stop and play Asteroids!" But that would mean leaving the bike outside. They decided they would take turns--while one person played his turn on the game, the other would watch the bike. But the non-player was inclined to watch the game, too, so they were soon dividing their attention between the game and glancing at the bike, which was leaned against the front of the store.
When the game was over, they both looked, and the bike was gone!
So, as it got darker, they walked home without the bike, with the older son dreading what Dad would say.
Think how that would feel. Has anything like that happened to you?
After the boys got home, and Dad spoke with the older son, Dad showed him the bike, safe!
Dad had seen the bike leaning on the storefront and snatched it away, as a lesson to his son. To make a quick getaway, he didn't want to stop to load it into the car (with the delay of arranging it, tying the trunk down, etc.), so Mom drove the car home while Dad followed on the bike. One adult who saw it challenged him as a thief, but he got away.
Many years later, both Dad and son told how they felt about the experience. Dad felt bad about it. He felt as if he had ruined what should have been a happy day for his son, giving him fear and dread on a day of celebration. He meant to teach a lesson, but it didn't feel good to have done it. The son, however, got the opposite of the intended lesson. He had thought all was lost when the bike disappeared, but was mighty relieved when the bike was actually safe at home. He said that he always felt safe after that. "Even when you mess up, you can be hopeful there will be an unexpected second chance."
So, the Dad who wished the temporary experience to teach his son, "Take care of what you have, or you might lose it," instead taught him, by the final experience, "Even if you don't take care, things can turn out okay."
Do you have an experience of a parent unintentionally teaching a different message than what they intended?