This week as an educator and parent, I have been drawn into several discussions on the topic of young people and personal responsibility. A few school based incidents, alongside some personal parenting challenges (which have probably been shared by most of our parent community) have highlighted the simple truth that all human beings (young and old alike) make mistakes and poor choices. We fail to act when we know we should and there are times when we all look the other way when we know the right thing to do is to take action. As parents and teachers we readily give advice along the lines of, “Life is about making choices. What you do today depends on what choices you made yesterday”. And, while such expressions are very clichéd and overused, at their heart they are of course true and so it is important that we do encourage our children at each stage of their development to accept personal responsibility.
Sometimes, especially when we’re young, we don’t always see the long-term effects of our behaviour or really think about the consequences of our actions, not just to others but also to our own character development. But, it is important for young people to understand that accepting responsibility is a vital factor in defining a person’s true character. When that responsible moment comes, what you do (or don’t do) is a strong indication of the type of person you really are. Of course, avoiding assuming personal responsibility may work to your advantage on occasion or in the short term; you might get away with keeping quiet about something that you’ve done, or even blaming someone else so that you don’t have to face the consequences for your wrong actions...at the time. However, eventually this poor choice will catch up with you and, more often than not it, it will cause more pain for you down the road than if you’d stepped up to the situation, took responsibility for it and honestly said, “I did it”.
And while occasionally making a wrong choice is not a terrible thing, if we repeatedly fail to accept responsibility for the choices we have made, or fail to learn from the mistakes we have made, then it does start to impact on how we see ourselves and how others see us. Self-respect is about the worth or value you place on your own life and so one of the consequences of continuingly failing to accept personal responsibility is that you could eventually end up having little self-respect or self-worth. There’s also a good chance that when you avoid accepting personal responsibility, someone will know that you’ve failed in this way and that you’re responsible for the wrongdoing or poor choice. So, when they see you fail to accept responsibility, they’ll lose respect for you. If this happens on a frequent basis, you’ll never gain the respect of others.
As parents and teachers we must keep working hard to help our children understand the importance of taking personal responsibility (Big or small from remembering your PE kit, doing your household chores to admitting a BIG mistakes). We need to role model what this looks like. We need to be consistent with our expectations. We need to talk openly and frequently. We need to follow through on our promise of consequences-good and bad. Of course this is all easy to say but very hard to do! I will keep trying with my children and hope that you will too.
Niki Meehan, Vice Principal