3 steps to fixing that mistake!

word of month character

mistakesWe made a mistake – responsible people would do what?  We know that they are going to be accountable to others for being on time, following through with their commitments, and if they make a mistake – do something about it.   Here is the 3 step process we have given our students to showing responsibility for their mistakes:

  1. Admit it
  2. Apologize
  3. Fix it

I asked each student to tell me which of these would be the hardest to do.  Amazingly they were evenly split with each of the steps getting about the same number of votes for being the hardest one to do.  Which one do you think would be the hardest?

Now consider this scenario:  You yelled at a friend when you were tired.  How would you show responsibility?  First you would admit it and that may sound like, “ I was wrong when I yelled at you yesterday.  I feel bad that I acted that way.”  Second you would apologize and that may sound like “ I Am Sorry”, each word sounded out and emphasized the way you would like to make the person understand how you feel.  The third step is ‘Fix It’  –  How would you do that?

Getting this conversation going with your children can help them to see how they can accomplish doing what is required, needed or expected of us.

Taking on personal responsibility

word of month character

personal-responsibility1Taking responsibility for ourselves is not just about when we make a mistake. Many times we hear children say after a bad behavior – “He made me do it.” The difference between an adult and a child is that as we mature we begin to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts and behavior. We are who we are because of everything we have done, the way we think and the words we speak. Our life experiences – good and bad – have created us.

Sometimes circumstances are not great at the moment, or we are in the process of changing seasons (age, relationships, financially) and blaming those things never allows us to move forward in our lives. The question we can ask though is what can I do now to get the job done, to keep the commitments I have made to myself and others, learn from my mistakes to make my life and the world a better place.

There is plenty that we cannot change – but we can always recognize what we can do to move forward with our lives. How do we help children learn this skill and attitude?

It comes down to the 3 step process – the same one for changing culture in our family.

  1. Set expectations

  2. Role model what you would like to see

  3. Teach (talk about it) on a regular basis with our children

We are going to make mistakes in this process and on a day to day basis. When we do though, we must admit our mistakes rather than running and hiding from the mistake. Most mistakes can be fixed and doing so or dealing with the consequences sets the example for our children.

Teaching responsibility by being punctual

word of month character

Deadline-clockIn our quest to be responsible adults and to assist our children to do the same – we have to ask ourselves what does a responsible adult do, what would be a sign that they are responsible?   For me one of the standout qualities is punctuality .  Maybe that comes from being an employer for the past 34 years or maybe it was something that my own parents were very insistent on.  For an example, I remember having arranged for a ride to an event as a child and my parents not only insistent on being ready – but also be sitting at the window watching for the ride to arrive.

Everyone appreciates the punctual person.   Employers for sure, but employees too – especially if they work at a job like a fireman who is dependent on the relief shift to be on time or they cannot leave their post.   In addition though parents and teachers appreciate it when chores or assignments are completed when they are assigned on time.  Who has ever been in an audience when a speaker was late arriving or worst did not stop talking when their time was up.

How do we build that quality of punctuality into who we are?  

We may have to admit first that we need to work on this trait.  Many believe that if they are just a couple of minutes late it is not a big deal.  As one instructor said to me, 10 minutes before the appointed time is on time, being on the dot is late.  Imagine how much time is lost in the workforce when people “start work” at 10 by arriving and then fixing their coffee, having a bit of breakfast, say hi to their workmates and then sit down to do what they were hired to do?  Even if you got all of that done in 12 minutes – that is one hour a week or 52 hours a year more than a full week of work.

That attitude is not respectful of those around you.  It says to others, “You can wait for me, because I am more important than you.”   This sort of attitude hurts everyone in line with you on a project, with others waiting for your part to be complete so they can finish their part and pass it on to the next person to contribute their part.

Being on time for whatever the event or the assignment is most of the time requires that we demonstrate self control and be realistic about the time it will take to complete a task.  Allowing many things to be started or not started on time can make the difference on the deadline we might have.  Controlling our own desire to start something new or put off preparation will help us to be on time for other commitments.

Even more difficult for many of us is the ability to be real about how long it will take to complete a given part of the project.   Almost every task we attempt may involve more time, research or have its own interruptions that delays our being punctual.

Teaching children to be punctual is done in our 3 step process.

  1. Establish punctuality as an expectation, a core value or at least a part of our requirement to demonstrate responsibility.
  2. Role model this character trait for our children
  3. Teach our children with establishing routines with them of preparation, (getting ready for school, ready for bed,  departing ahead of the minimum) and insisting on it around the home.

Doing these things is a great start in teaching our children to be responsible (doing what is required, needed or expected of us) adults.

Keeping our commitments shows responsibility

word of month character

responsibilityWhat kind of promises have you made to your friends / classmates / children or those that you work with?  Following through on those promises is a way for us to show our responsibility.  Most of us have at sometime made a commitment though that we found ourselves not keeping.  Those commitments may be to others – but the hardest ones to stick to are the ones that we have made to ourselves.  How can we do a better job of keeping commitments that we make to ourselves?

1.  Be specific to what we are committing to.  If I say I will eat healthier, what does that mean?  What will eat or not eat?  Do I have an eating plan, what time I will eat, how many calories, will I prepare my food ahead of time?  Being specific about what we will do will help us when our willpower is weakening.
2.   Be accountable to someone.  There are always times when we will want to give in to our own selves, but having a partner that will hold our feet to the fire may be key to our ability to fulfill our promises to ourselves.  Need extra leverage?  Put a dollar value to it.  If you do not complete your promise – it will cost you XX$$.
3.   Start small and practice.  The more you are able to keep small commitments on a regular basis, the more momentum you will have for getting the bigger ones done too.

Why is this so important? It is our ability to keep commitments to ourselves that shows the measure of respect we have for ourselves.  Respect for ourselves, trusting ourselves to keep our promises that we make to ourselves opens the doors for our ability to keep promises to others.

If we are a parent – our practice will set a great example to our children and we will be able to help them to keep their commitments without being seen by them as hypocritical.

Who is responsible to do this job?

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rake leavesAll of us have responsibilities / jobs / chores.  I have thought about how to help our students see that their responsibilities or jobs are just as important as those of their parents.  I have asked them what would happen if parents decided just not to go to work?  or to clean the house? or to drive them to an activity?  They agree that there would be chaos.

What would happen if no one took out the garbage?  did the dishes? brushed their teeth? went to school? fed the dog?

What would happen if teachers chose to not teach? just play all day? If waste collectors did not show up?  or You fill in the blank…..

When we think about the jobs that we do as adults and those that children are asked to do, the only difference is not if the job is important – the only difference answers the question;  Am I able and responsible enough to do the job?  If you are 8 years old you won’t be driving, but you could set the table.  If you are 12 years old you won’t be paying the mortgage – but you may be asked to keep the yard clean and green.

Who is responsible?  All of us are responsible for what we are able to do, been asked to do, or have promised to do.

Helping children learn about responsibility

word of month character

kids-choresWhen we talk about responsibilities we are generally talking about the job we have, the things that are required of us to do to make our lives or that of others better.  Just as important as it is to get the job done, doing so with a good attitude is important also.

How do we feel or express ourselves about our responsibilities? Do we grumble about them, mope about or become upset when it is time to perform our work?  This question is important for both parents and children to consider.  We want to invite our children to start young taking on what they are able to do.  However most times it takes them longer, they may not do the ‘perfect’ job and it is easier and faster for us to do it ourselves as parents.

How do we teach our children to be responsible members of the family and not do so begrudgingly?

When it is time to do our chores about the house, smile, invite our children to be part of the team – taking on some of the responsibility.  Starting them at a young age will make them feel valued and a part of the team, and they are learning to take on some of the chores.  Let them know that you rely on them to do this part of the work, hold them accountable for the finished product and depend on them to do their part even as they grow older.

Responsibility is really about us using our ability to respond to what is required or needed and expected from us.  As parents we not only set the example, but we also need to set expectations and let our children know what is required, needed and expected.  Then – do not do it for them.  In the end they will be amazing members of any community they are a part of, because they understand that responsible people do their part – even when they are not asked to do so.