Last night when I tucked Marianna into bed, I told her this story.
"Once upon a time there was a girl named Madeline who was so very sweet. She loved her mom and dad and little sister very much. Madeline was a good little girl, but sometimes she enjoyed doing mischievous things that got her into trouble.
One morning Madeline was watching her mommy work when she suddenly came up with an idea. She thought it would be fun to go get the Sharpie markers out of the drawer and color all over her hands and toes and tummy. She knew she wasn't allowed to play with those markers, but it was so fun to make marks all over herself. She got the markers out and made beautiful designs all over her body. She thought she looked so pretty!
But when her mommy came looking for her, Madeline ran to hide behind the curtains because she knew that she was in trouble.
Her mommy found her and said, "Madeline, did you use the markers that you are not allowed to play with?
"Madeline, you know I love you very much, but it disappoints me when you do something you know is against the rules. That is disobeying. I will have to punish you for this, but I know next time you will make a better choice and we won't have to do this again."
Later on, Madeline and Mommy played with crafts, read books and went outside. Then when Madeline wanted to play with markers she said, "Mom, can I have my markers and some paper to color with?" Mommy told her that was a wonderful idea, and she had fun as she made pictures for her mom and dad. What a lovely afternoon!"
As I finished, Marianna looked up and said, "Mommy, that's just like when I went and got the paint out of the closet and painted my body today! Madeline is just like me!"
The similarities between Madeline's little adventure and her own did not escape her, and I'm hoping that the subtle (or maybe not so subtle) reinforced message might help her conceptualize a little bit better. Let's hope that it doesn't result in an episode with Sharpies =).