Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Accountability

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."
- Stanislaw Lec -

My mother never let my brothers and I get away with anything when we were kids. If you broke the rules, you were held accountable. No excuses. No exceptions. She was determined to raise us to be responsible in every which way, and she took this job very seriously.


One clear cut memory of my mother’s commitment to this part of our upbringing was the way she handled the time the younger of my two older siblings got caught with some candy that he brought home from the neighbourhood convenience store that he *cough, cough*  ‘forgot’ to pay for.


Was she angry? Sure. Did she preach? Yup. Yell a little? You betcha. And after she got all that out of her system, did it end there? Nope. She took it one step further.

*Gulp*


To ensure that my brother would never, ever do something like that again, she held him accountable for his actions. She marched him back to the store to return the ‘borrowed’ candy, and to apologize to the shop owner. And she took me along, so that I could ‘watch and learn’.


Perhaps his "self-esteem" suffered a little that day from the humiliation he experienced when facing the store owner, but he did learn a very important lesson, and so did I:
That everything you do in life, every choice you make, has a consequence.

In this case, the consequence was not a good one.


Sure, self esteem is important, but I think sometimes our society goes overboard with it. Parents have become overprotective and unrealistically defensive. They dismiss or overlook bad behaviour and make excuses for their children instead of holding them accountable for their actions.



Was my mother insensitive that day? I’m sure plenty of parents who feel that my brother’s self-esteem should have taken priority will say she was. I personally don’t think so. She was determined to put out that small bonfire to ensure that a forest fire would never break out in the future. As she explained it “If he ‘borrowed’ candy as a little boy and I didn’t teach him this lesson, what would he be ‘borrowing’ as a teenager?”

My brother never ‘borrowed’ anything again in his life. And, unsurprisingly, neither did I.


28 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more, Martha. I hate the way so many parents indulge their child's every whim and do their utmost to make it feel as if it's the most important thing in the universe. The excuses I've heard for terrible behaviour far outnumber the remedies for it.

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    1. Yes, I think so. But they're not doing their kids a favour. Only mommy and daddy love them like that; the world doesn't. They're in for a rude awakening when they get out there, and the world doesn't accommodate them in the same way.

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  2. My parents were much the same as I was growing up. Frankly, if my kids ever "borrowed" something like that, I would make them do the same thing. Self-esteem is definitely important, but we all have to learn the importance of having integrity and doing right.

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    1. Pretending your child didn't do something legally or morally wrong, or worse, hiding it, doesn't build self-esteem, it enables bad behavior. I think we are obligated as parents to teach our children integrity.

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  3. More parents today should be like your Mom, that's for sure.

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  4. I only did something like your brother did once. I was two and I had no concept of money. I was just like "oh candy yay!".

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    1. Two-year-olds don't quite understand yet, but you can begin to teach them, so they grow to know better. My brother knew better at the age he was (much older), so his consequences were quite severe!

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  5. Wasn't it nice to have older siblings to screw up and face the consequences so you could learn from their mistakes!

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  6. my parents were exactly the same. I am sure that my parents would have marched us right back to the store to return the 'borrowed' item and apologize. I grew up in a small town, and everyone knew everyone. You just didn't do that.

    I do think kids need these lessons, just as you say. Our job as parents is to teach them these values. I am soft on my kids, sometimes. But not when it comes to these kinds of important value lessons.

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    1. Like you, I am soft on my kids sometimes, but not in ways that teaches them bad behaviours. I can be quite strict when I have to.

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  7. Such a wise woman. And I'm sure her grandchildren are all being raised the same way. When I was teaching I often saw that the parents who neglected their children were the worst offenders when it came to holding their children accountable. It was always the fault of the other child, the school, society etc. etc. As if a big song and dance at the point when the child most needed their guidance and discipline could hide the neglect.

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    1. I don't know if it's just me, but I think it's getting worse. When I was a child, if you got into trouble at school, you got into trouble at home. Now, parents show up and yell at teachers because their child did something wrong and got into trouble...but he/she shouldn't have...because poor little child's feelings were hurt. We've become a hypersensitive society.

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  8. My sister got the same treatment and so did my daughter when she was 4. They turned out fine. Better, I'd say!

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    1. I've no doubt they turned out fine. And it discouraged that type of behaviour!

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  9. I love the pictures and I totally agree. My mother-in-law is having trouble with her pre-teen twins now because she never made them take responsibility for anything. Now they run all over her and she can't stop it. I keep telling her to be firm, but I'm not sure she will.
    I believe that if we don't start young the world is in trouble. Thank you for this post!

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    1. Yes, better to start young rather than have bigger problems later on. That's the goal.

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  10. Great photos to accompany this family story, Martha! YES! Parents ought to be more like our parents were....consistent and holding their kids accountable. Your Mom did your brother (and you) the biggest favour she could have in his life. Good for her.

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    1. I think so, Jim. Parents also have a responsibility towards society. We raise these kids, and then send them out there. We should teach them good morals and values.

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  11. This deserves an "Amen", Martha... and yes, I went through this with one of my sons. He is the soul of honesty and discretion today (O.K. THAT sounded like a Mum, LOL, but seriously, he will never "borrow" again!)

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    1. The things we teach our children, particularly by example, contribute to the adults they become. We help shape them, so we must take that job very seriously. Good for you with your son!

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  12. Hi Martha ~ Fun photos and an important lesson. I, too, experienced such a lesson when I took something from a store as a little kid. I never did it again. We were fortunate to have such wise parents! Have a happy evening!

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    1. I'm sure you have never forgotten that lesson! My parents were very firm with their decisions. They were my parents first, not my friends.

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  13. I think two of the biggest mistakes being made are that parents expect schools to raise their children and the fact that parents think they have to be a friend to their children. They need to be parents and they need to raise their kids.

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    1. I couldn't agree with you more. I enjoy spending time with my children, but I am their mother first. And I have a responsibility as a parent to put them on the right road.

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  14. Beautifully written and so true!! A little discomfort as a child than a lot of pain as an adult!

    The pictures are great!!! ;)

    Alice

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    1. That is a great way of putting it. Yes, better to learn those lessons young than to suffer the consequences as an adult.

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