I remember as a child, often getting into trouble, sometimes for things I didn’t do. (There were also many things that I DID do, that somehow got missed by my parents! ) Punishment was mostly fair, as fair as any parent could be with six children running around causing absolute mayhem at times.
There was one particular time where I KNEW that I was innocent. I wasn’t even in the room when the alleged offense occurred. However, for this particular crime punishment was swift and broad. We ALL got punished in even measures. I refused to take the punishment protesting as indignantly as any 8 year old can protest. My protestations fell mostly on deaf ears, until bedtime.
Dad was on bedtime duty this particular evening and was aware that something had happened but wasn’t quite sure of the details. I was! In spite of the exhaustion etched on his face from 12 long hours as a bus conductor, he duly listened to my spin on the incident. He acknowledged that justice had been a little too swift, gently defending my mother’s enormous workload in keeping the six of us safe from each other and the world for another day.
The details of the crime have long left my dwindling brain cells but what has remained with me are the words echoed by my father. In a nutshell, he simply explained that I had only two choices about the incident. I could ‘blame’ my mother or the offending sibling, or I could simply get on with things. This was my initial experience with the whole notion of positioning my life through choice (well, as thoroughly as any 8 year old can self-reflect!).
Now, of course, I have embodied many similar experiences, albeit a little more ‘adult’ and serious in nature, into my life. Not only is it a daily awareness but it has become an intrinsic part of my teaching and living practice.
How We Teach Personal Responsibility
Every student in our learning programs must make a clear choice when facing learning obstacles. They must literally ask themselves the question: ‘Am I at cause in this situation or effect?’ In other words, if I choose to stay in ‘effect’, I give my power away and resign myself to the flotsam of randomness. Often with little, if any clear result. However, if the choice is ‘cause’, I can create options for solutions and assume full responsibility for my learning. This is the true alchemy of learning success. To turn the ‘lead’ of problems that are ‘out there’, into the ‘gold’ of success, by assuming personal responsibility for the solution. This is often where the magic of learning happens and becomes a springboard for ongoing success beyond the classroom.
When life gives you lemons (and it will), the right choice can quench your thirst with some pretty nice tasting lemonade!