The Missing Bags
G1 lost his swimming bag at school last week. He had an after-school activity and he said he must have left it at the playground. All it had in it were his wet swim clothes, googles, swim cap, towel, comb, sunscreen, and flip flops. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would want a soiled swimming bag so I figured it would either turn up at the “lost and found” or still be where it was that he left it the next day. So I instructed G1 to look for it. When he came home, he reported that he couldn’t find it. Unperturbed, I told him to try again the next day. Perhaps whoever found it hadn’t had a chance to drop it off at the “lost and found” yet. Nearly a week went by and still no luck. By this stage, I was getting a little concerned because swimming was coming around again and I would need to get him a new set of stuff if we didn’t locate his bag so I asked G1 to check with his teachers if there were other places that the bag might have been handed in to. They checked and they came up with nothing.
As annoyed as I was that I had to replace his stuff, I had to be reasonable. After all, didn’t I lose an iPad some months back? Mistakes happen. We just have to learn from them and figure out ways to make sure they don’t happen again. So I told G1 that he needed to be more responsible for looking after his belongings and talked to him about how he could minimise his chances of forgetting his stuff by packing his bag properly and making sure all his stuff was bundled together.
A few days later, he lost his PE bag…
What? Are you kidding me?!
I was really struggling to stay cool.
This time I was less hopeful. I didn’t expect his bag to turn up. And it didn’t. But I still told him to keep looking. We also revisited how he could pack his school bag to fit everything inside so he wouldn’t have to remember if he brought an extra bag to school that day. The problem with an extra bag has always been the fact that it isn’t usually part of the routine so the extra bag is more easily forgotten. Eliminate the second bag and the problem should be resolved. I think.
The Music Slip
Last week, G1 came home from school with a permission slip for his piano lessons at school. He needs approval to get two music books. The slip had to be signed by me and returned to the music office. Since G2 was sick and I couldn’t go in personally, I instructed G1 to take it back to the music office.
Surprise, surprise, he forgot. Not only that, he can’t remember where he put the slip.
Then I asked him why he didn’t give it to his piano teacher when he had music. He replied that he didn’t have piano lesson this week. When I asked why not, he said he didn’t know. Did he ask his teacher why not? No.
I confess, I want to swoop in and take over. Ordinarily, that would be my instinct if I see a job being handled with incompetence. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself, right? But how would that help him learn to take responsibility? Nothing I have expected him to do is beyond his capability of handling. If I keep doing everything for him, when is he expected to take responsibility for himself? It has to start somewhere and these are tasks simple enough for him to manage on his own.
The excuse used to be – but he’s just a little boy. Well, he is not so little any more. He’s 7 years old. At that age, I was responsible for a lot more than I’ve made him responsible for.
We obsess over how our children are performing in school and giving them extra-curricular opportunities for development so that they can have every chance of being successful later in life. Well, teaching them to be responsible and accountable for their actions is also an important part of ensuring that success. If they don’t learn to take the initiative to do things for themselves, how will they ever become successful without us nudging them along from behind?
Teaching Children Responsibility
- Start as early as possible
- Identify responsibilities and use responsible language
- Be an example to your child
- Coach responsibility, don’t lecture (whoops)
- Teach accountability – rewards and consequences. Reward actions that demonstration taking responsibility and provide consequences for disregarding responsibilities
- Talk to you children about responsibility and what is going to be done differently – this is particularly helpful for children who are being introduced to new responsibilities
This is also a good article to read: Make Your Kids Responsible for Their Actions – Love and Logic.
A perfect image and perfect school transcript are poor substitutes for character and the attitude that achievement comes through struggle and perseverance.
I have worked with many parents who have fallen into this trap. They all love their children. They all want the best for them. They talk about how they don’t want their kids to struggle like they did. They are prone to rush to blame others for any lack of achievement on their children’s part. These parents are willing to hold others responsible for their children’s actions. However, they are often willing to change their parenting style once they see the crippling effects of this parenting style. Many of these parents have said to me, “I now realize that even if I succeed in creating a perfect life for my kid, there is little chance that he/she can maintain it without my help.”
One very astute father once said to me, “Jim, I’ve got it. There is a huge group of trophy kids growing up today who won’t have the character and resilience to compete in the labor market. If my kid grows up knowing how to get what he wants through struggle and character, he will be the one with the true advantage. He will stand head and shoulders above the others because he has the tools to create his own perfect life.