Several years ago, I had an acquaintance who continually blamed her mother for the circumstances of her life and how she acted and reacted to things. I remember asking her once how long she’d lived away from her mother. As she was in her forties, it transpired that she had lived away from her mother for longer than she’d lived with her mother. She was a person who had never learned to take responsibility for her own actions. The sad thing was that the same pattern was emerging in her children’s lives.
There are things that happen in our lives over which we have no control – there’s no denying that. Illness occurs, accidents happen and some people suffer at the hands of poor parents. I’m not saying that a person has to take responsibility for those things – there are some things we can’t change. (That person may need support to not let that incident define the rest of his or her life.)
One of the most important things we can teach our children is to take responsibility for the choices and decisions they make. Allowing them to experience the consequences of those choices can be hard for us as parents. We tend to want to make life easy for our children, but we are doing them a disservice when we do that. An example might be helpful:
Zoe continually leaves her school hat at home and several times, Mum has had to race home and bring it in for her. Zoe knows that if she leaves things at home, Mum will go and get them for her. They discuss the importance of her taking responsibility for her own actions, and look at what will happen if she forgets her hat. It is decided that she should put her hat into her bag as soon as she arrives home each day. Zoe has been warned that her mother will no longer go home for her hat and she must suffer the consequences. After a couple of days, Zoe forgets her hat. Mum refuses to go home. Her teacher did not accept her excuse that Mum didn’t pack her hat for her and she experiences her first detention. Zoe and her parents discuss how she was responsible for what happened, what she learnt from the experience and how she might do better in future.
Taking responsibility for one’s own choices, decisions and problems helps build better self-esteem and stronger character. It also assists us in making changes and developing better habits. It can be painful at times, but the benefits and rewards far outweigh the negatives of blaming others or circumstances.