“Should I get my child to take responsibility for something that was his fault? But he’ll get in trouble at school if he admits to it. He learned from it, so we should just move on. I don’t have the time to deal with it.”
I recently heard a parent ask this question, and well, it disturbed me, and for more than one reason. One, as parents, regardless of how much trouble our child will get into when taking responsibility for his/her actions, it has to be done. Because, children just don’t “move on” if they are not guided to be accountable for their actions. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it will not happen again, and possibly on a larger scale. We have to be sometimes, The Big Bad Parent. Two, regardless of age, what is the opposite effects of them not taking accountability? Think about it...
If a child writes on the wall at school and you learn your precious offspring was the Picasso, are you going to just point your finger and say, “You know that’s wrong, don’t you do it again! I don’t have time to deal with your mess!” and hope it won’t happen again?
Or, are you going to take the time to take him/her to the school office, make them tell the Principal what they did, and if possible, that you want to buy the matching paint, take him/her to their masterpiece and make them repaint it, on top of doing extra chores to repay you for the paint money, ask the Principal what chores can he/she do around the school for at least a month, plus whatever punishment you think should be placed upon them at home?
Which one would you choose? I believe most parents are good parents and would choose the latter, but not all would do so.
Why? Could it possibly be tarnishing the child’s image? Or, it may bring others to look poorly at your parenting skills? Or, you don’t want your child embarrassed in front of the other children?
Isn’t that too bad?
A little embarrassment with children taking responsibility goes a long way.
Years back when my youngest daughter was in grade school, a “friend” suggested if she and another girl wanted to be cool, they had to write with her on the bathroom walls. So, they did. Even though she may not have realized what she and the others were writing, she did know it had to be carried out as if it were a James Bond secret mission – thus, if anything has to be done that secretly, then it’s wrong. And, since they’re no 007’s, they got caught. Lucky for her, I left that morning to go to an out-of-town conference, and as her teacher politely put it, “I thought, ‘Great, she goes out of town and all hell breaks loose!’”
When I returned, I went to the office to see if her painting the walls were allowed, but by then “all was taken care of” – maybe from their end, since she and the others were suspended for ONE day, but not from our end.
A few very special television recordings she loved and would occasionally watch – deleted. An upcoming birthday party invitation – a gift was given, but she was not in attendance. Her room and closet – super cleaned. Weeds around the bushes – pulled. “I will always respect school property,” – written 50 times, three times that week. Her hand written, and hand delivered, apology letter to Principal, and I believe her teacher as well, if memory correctly serves me. And, it was quite a while before she could go over to a friend’s home to play, because she had to rebuild that parental trust (and never again to one of her “art buddies” homes either).
Last, but not least, disappointment. I made sure she knew we loved her, but her actions were very disappointing to us, as well as to her teacher, and to old Mr. Joe, the custodian that had to clean and paint the walls because of her and her “friends” choices, which led to their actions.
And, that was another perfect opportunity to again discuss that we have the choice to choose our thoughts, and every thought has an action, and every action has a consequence.
Were those the correct ways to discipline? I have no idea. We’re only parents, we’re not perfect, but they were though, the best we could do with the knowledge we had at that time. All I knew was that her actions could not be ignored. She was in 5th Grade, and if she was old enough to hold a pen and secretly take it to the bathroom to write and draw on the walls, then she was old enough to take responsibility for her actions. If we did nothing, what would she be doing with friends in 10th Grade?
There are going to be moments in your child’s life where you will have the opportunity to help them take responsibility for their actions. Jump at those opportunities! Seize the moment to help them understand while they’re young, that their choices and actions affect us all. It has a trickle-down effect to everyone around them, even strangers. Regardless of age, there is no one that can do or say something that is wrong without it not only affecting others, but possibly hurting them, as well. And being one that believes in “What goes around, comes around,” some people may say “Kharma,” their actions, if ignored, may just come knocking at your door one day.
We all have different ways to guide and discipline our children, but our end result should be the same – teaching character, responsibility, and kindness. If we work together to help children understand the importance of taking responsibility for their actions, grow confidence and self-esteem as a result of doing so, just think how happy they will be as they grow into healthy, successful, responsible adults!
Life is what we make of it, so let’s make this life a grand one for our children!
Harry Pierre & PeTunia Puddlesworth
...enriching children’s lives, one story at a time...