Learning responsibility is an ever widening and lifelong process.
As thinking, acting human beings we have the ability to choose our response to events, people and circumstances. We do not become responsible when we mature; we mature when we become responsible.
Psychologists teach that the only reasons people are ever motivated or moved to action is to gain a reward or avoid a penalty. As you teach this principal to the children in your charge be sure to explain what they will gain or lose by the choices they make.
ME: I am in charge of those things that directly affect me as a person.
Grooming, nutrition, exercise, education, choosing friends, a mate or a career. My choices might irritate or disappoint others but the consequences will ultimately hurt only me.
YOU: My actions in this circle affect those I love and care about. I want you to like and approve of me, so I am motivated to do what will please you. I have a responsibility to those who work or live with me to do the things I say I will, accept blame when I am wrong, make restitution, be co-operative, care for my possessions and safeguard other people's resources. Consequences have a ripple effect on those around me and will affect my daily life.
US: The community within 10 miles of wherever I am standing determines us. Some people and organizations I know, some I don't know yet, but they are a part of my extended neighborhood. This is the place to practice random acts of kindness, courtesy and service. We are each the representative of the groups we belong to; family, teenagers, school, soccer team etc. The whole may be judged and influenced by our individual actions and role model. The reward may come later in life in the form of recommendations, job offers, networking and a stronger more vibrant community.
The Universe: I have a responsibility to the universal family of humankind to make the world a better place. I need to be a part of the solution of preserving the earth, eliminating bigotry, giving service, and treating others, as I would like to be treated. The Universe may never give me a tangible reward, but I will gain an inner reward of doing right and making good choices for the higher good of all. I recognize that I have a responsibility to not only have positive actions, but thoughts, words and intentions towards others and to act with dignity, respect and love. As parents and leaders we need to give children the opportunity to be responsible as early as possible. Teach the concept of a pause button in order to stop, think and choose before acting. Whenever they are allowed to have a voice and a choice, they will grow up knowing that they have the power to guide the outcome of their life and contribute to the well being of the group.
This handout© 2003 has been prepared by Judy H. Wright, Missoula, MT parent educator and author. You may have permission to make copies for other parents and teachers but the entire article, including the signature line, must be included. A complete list of parenting books, aids, workshops and a FREE ezine is available at www.ArtichokePress.com. To contact us, please write [email protected] or call 406-549-9813.