My son loves balance bikes. He got his first one with 2 and second (larger) with 3. Every morning he could choose whether he wanted to use the old or new one for the way to kindergarten, and he mostly chose the new one. He is currently 3 years and two months old.
Around a month ago we went to the playground with the new balance bike and some sand toys. He played. When the time came to collect the sand toys, he did not want to help collecting them. I told him that if he leaves them there, other children will take them and he will not have them any longer. He was upset, close to a tantrum, and said he does not want them any more and other children should take them. I said okay, then that's how it will be. Then I told him to take his balance bike. He wanted me to take it. I said no, YOU wanted to bring it along so YOU take it back home - or you leave it there, then other children will take it and you won't have it any more. He was really unhappy with the situation, he desperately wanted me to take care of his stuff (but I refused, trying to teach him responsibility), he started crying and again said he does not want it any more and other children should have it. I asked him if he was sure about this, since I see how much he likes it, but he stood by what he had said (but heavily crying). So we went home without the sand toys and the balance bike. A bunch of older children witnessed our argument and tried to help by carrying the balance bike after us, but my son loudly protested, so they stopped and put it down again. He cried for really long, on the way home and at home still, totalling around 20-25min.
After we had arrived home, I went back (without telling him) and picked up the toys and the bike and stored them somewhere where my son could not find them, so that in his view, they were actually gone, but that I could give them back to him later. In fact I don't mind having "lost" the sand toys permanently; he has plenty more. But the bike is, I think, too precious for him to permanently having "lost" it due to just a heated moment.
The next day we checked the playground again to confirm that the toys and his bike were gone. Over then next week, we tried to make him aware of the consequences of his actions by calmly reminding him (e.g. by saying "Which bike to you want to ride today? Oh, I forgot, you only have one. You left your larger one on the playground, remember?"), not too often but so that the lesson had time to sink in. Then we stopped talking about it for 2 weeks.
Recently - he and I were both in a neutral/collected mood - I asked him if he missed his large bike, and he said yes. I told him that I know a girl in the neighbourhood who found it and took it as hers. I offered him to ask her if she will give it back, and he said yes. The next day I told him that the girl said "No, it's mine, I found it", and that she was right, that stuff lying around belongs to nobody and anybody finding it can keep it. He was sad and said again that he would like to have it back. I told him that I will try to speak with her parents, maybe we will find a way to get it back, but I can not promise anything.
You see I have tortured him for quite some time in order to teach him a lesson. I plan on giving it back to him soon, but I am not sure how. I could easily invent a story where the girl just gives it back, but is that a good way?
My goal is that he knows
- he is responsible for his belongings.
- if he does not take on that responsibility, he cannot expect to keep his belongings.
How can I give the bike back to him without him learning "even if I do not take responsibility for my belongings, I get them back sooner or later"?