At the end of the story of the Little Red Hen, after the hen has done all the hard work while the others rested without helping out one bit, the hen has earned her reward of a loaf of freshly baked bread. The other animals eye it eagerly. At this point, the Little Red Hen has a choice to make. As the protagonist of the story, some might expect her to go ahead and share the bread she has baked, just out of the goodness of her heart. Instead, she eats it all, while the pig, cat, and rat go to bed hungry. When reading this story to your child, it’s important to explain this part and draw upon the lesson it teaches when you reach the ending.
After reading the story, bring up how the Little Red Hen doesn’t just go ahead and let the others have some of the bread. Ask your child to think about what may have happened had she let the others have some. It certainly would have been nice of her, but, just temporarily nice. Ask your child: if she gives them some bread, the next time the Little Red Hen needs help with something, what do you think will happen? They’ll likely think to themselves that they’ll just let her do the work, and they’ll enjoy the benefits of that work after she’s done. Because if she’s let them go once, they’ll think she’ll do it again.
This is an excellent lesson for children because many times they don’t understand the concept of losing privileges. They just see it as the parents or teacher being “mean”, and have a hard time seeing the bigger picture.
Relate this to your child by giving them an example. Tell them: imagine I told you that you had to finish your homework before dinner time or else you wouldn’t get dessert (if they recently were told a similar rule like this you could use it as the example). Then, imagine you didn’t have your homework done by dinner time. If I just decided to go ahead and give you dessert anyway, what would that teach you? You would be happy, yes, that you got dessert even though you didn’t earn it, but, what’s going to happen the next time I tell you to do something by a certain time?
Ask your child to think of their own example of a time where not following through with a lesson is the wrong thing to do. Have them think about and say what the results would be.