What is the most important characteristic you would want in your son or daughter? Is it being on time, paying attention, being accountable for their actions, keeping their word, being respectful, having goals, being persistent, or having gratitude? All are wonderful characteristics to be sure, but failing in just one of these areas could cause a serious threat to a child’s future success.
There is one descriptive word that will cover all of these characteristics quite nicely. That word is RESPONSIBILITY! When you teach your children responsibility, you are teaching all of the attributes above. If your kids are not responsible, they will not be trusted, they won’t succeed with honor, and neither will they be rewarded in honorable ways. Responsibility is learned behavior and must be taught at a young age--before bad habits are ingrained and have to be undone.
Here is Dr. Sutton’s story of a lesson he received from his father as a young boy. You see how this story has stuck with him over the years and was a guiding moment in his development of the principles of his life.
Children and teens learn responsibility by making a few mistakes along the way. Since mistakes are part of the process, wise parents allow for lessons learned through forgetfulness and error. It's not a time for tough discipline, necessarily, rather a time for simply correcting those mistakes. We've ALL been there.
One of my first lessons in responsibility came wrapped in a present from my parents. Well, actually it wasn't wrapped; it was a bicycle. But what a bike it was; a gleaming black, three-speed English racer. It was too, too and too: too big, too fast, and too much for this kid to handle. With Dad's help, however, I caught on quickly. That bike quickly became my chariot for discovering the world that included the three blocks I was allowed to travel.
On My Own
One evening my father handed me 75 cents for a haircut. He told me that, since I now had my own transportation, I could now go to the barber shop all by myself, if I so wished.
If I so wished? I was overjoyed! I don't remember much about school that next day; my mind was focused on the adventure of that solo trip after school.
The journey to the barber shop and back came off perfectly, without a hitch. Or so I thought. That evening at suppertime, I discovered I still had the barber's money in the pocket of my jeans. In my excitement to get back on my faithful steed and return home, I had forgotten to pay the man for the haircut.
I showed Dad the three quarters and confessed my mistake.
Making It Right
He immediately called the barber at his home and took down his address. Dad then drove me over to the barber's house so I could pay the man that very evening.
I want to make it clear that Dad was NOT angry or upset with me; mistakes happen. He wanted to impress upon me that a debt unpaid remains a debt, regardless of the amount. Besides, the barber had rendered a service and deserved to be paid for it.
As I reflect on the lesson learned that night, it seems to me that my father's insistence that I pay the barber on his doorstep that very evening carried another powerful lesson for me: Mistakes are best repaired IMMEDIATELY, whenever possible. It's not a bad formula for sleeping a little better at night.
Besides, it's the RIGHT thing to do.
I look forward to being a guest on Dr. Sutton's podcast on August 14th, 2015. Broadcast date will be later in the month and I will announce it when known.