The blame game. Pointing fingers. Blame shifting. We all know about it and we have probably all done it at one point or another. It happens from government offices, to large corporations, to school classrooms, to religious communities and at home. It is as old as time. Think of the story of Adam and Eve in the third chapter of Genesis. What was Adam's response when confronted by God about eating the forbidden fruit? In a paraphrased manner, [Eve made me do it].
Part of raising children into successful and mature adults, is helping them to understand how to take responsibility for their actions and owning up to their decisions - good and bad.
I was recently watching an episode of the Dr. Phil show (yes, on occasion I do enjoy watching it). He was talking to a teenage girl who had badly beat up one of her friends and posted the video online. There were a lot more excuses than confessions on her part. Finally, there was a little remorse shown and she basically said that what's done is done and there was nothing she could do about it now. To which Dr. Phil replied, "you can't take it back, but you can own it".
So what can we do as parents to help teach our children to take responsibility for their actions and own up to their choices?
Here are some tips that I think are helpful in doing this:
- Don't entertain (allow) phrases such as:
"It's not fair."
"It's not my fault."
"But....he/she did this or that so I did this or that."
"I didn't mean to."
- Consistency and follow-through when it comes to discipline.
When you set rules for your children, there should be consequences if those rules are broken...every time! Each family has their own rules/guidelines and their own consequences. Even at an early age, kids will know if you are serious about following through or if you are just nagging and threatening.
- Teach respect for authority and boundaries.
Teach children that they will always be accountable to someone for their actions, even when they become an adult - teachers, professors, law enforcement, their boss, the government and so on. I remember teaching at a school where an irate parent came in yelling at the administration for punishing her child for poor behavior (bad choices). She left the building ranting at how no one was going to punish her child except her. What kind of message did that send to the child?!
- Emphasize and re-emphasize the power of choice: the A+B=C theory.
Yes, it's true that there are things in life that are out of our control. However, let's be honest with ourselves and say that most things that happen to us and to others are the results of choices made.
When we bring a weapon to school, we will most likely be expelled.
When we speed, we are very likely to get a speeding ticket.
When we consume more than a moderate share of junk, we are very likely to have health
problems and become overweight.
When we don't do our homework, we are very likely to fail the class.
When we don't show up for work, we are very likely to get fired.
When we spend money that we don't have, we are very likely to go into debt.
Very simple equations really: A + B = C
- Teach them that their choices (good and bad) usually affect more than just themselves:
Very rarely, do our choices affect only ourselves. Mature thinking (and planning) looks beyond our own needs, wants and desires and thinks about how it will affect those around us. Learning this at an early age will save our children and those they love a lot of heartache.
From a Biblical standpoint, the Bible urges us in James 5:16 to confess [our] sins.
What a great way to keep a pure conscience and own up to those shortcomings and bad decisions that we all make from time to time.
I recently read the following very powerful and very true quote:
"Trying to grow up hurts. You make mistakes. You try to learn from them, and when you don't, it hurts even more." ~Aretha Franklin