Monday, November 23, 2009

The Golden Rule

Not too long ago, someone came into my life and taught me a lot about responsibility. This person, whom I'll call Elphaba, was the most self-centered and self-absorbed person I've ever met. Elphaba made Tyra Banks look like Oprah.

Elphaba's tornado of self-love affected everyone around her. Elphaba had no regard for how her actions impacted others. And when someone would have the audacity to point this out to Elphaba, she blatantly ignored their feelings or took any accountability for her actions. She lacked empathy. To put it bluntly, the girl didn't give a shit about anyone but herself.

It's like the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Clearly, Elphaba missed the boat on that one.

Perhaps you're thinking the same of me now. 'Why would she write something so horrible about another person? What good will come of speaking badly about this person?'

My goal in sharing this with you is not to focus on how a person's values can be so twisted.  Rather, I'd like to figure out how to prevent someone from becoming this way. In short, how do you teach kids responsibility and personable accountability? 

I'm guessing munchkins are not born possessing these two virtues; they are taught and learned. Some parents lead by example. Other mums and dads use discipline and teaching moments.  Some kids learn these qualities by participating in sports. And other kids (more like teens) catch the drift when they get their first job.

But how can some children slip through the cracks and become irresponsible and self-absorbed adults like Elphaba and Speidi? And what sorts of things do I need to learn about parenting to ensure my future nuggets aren't like them?

So... to you... my dear readers, I'm asking this: please send me examples of what you do to teach your nuggets responsibility and accountability. Share your tips and tricks in the comment section - perhaps we can all learn a little something from each other. I look forward to reading all about it!

And, once again, thanks so much for stopping by Tales of an (Almost) Mommy! I'm so happy you're here!


  1. This is a toughie - as you really need to start ASAP when the kiddo is born! The books say that a 6-month old is capable (and trying) to manipulate their parents. 6 months old!!

    I think that no matter what tips you get, you need to remember to be firm but kind. Stand your ground when you're requesting (or ordering) them to do something and they buck the system.

    Something that has always worked at our house is giving options. We will give them two options to choose from - both of which are completely acceptable to us - and the boys pick. They feel empowered to make their own decision, but also, we still get them to do what we are asking. That empowerment builds responsibility.

    They've got things they are responsible to take care of around the house (yes, they're 5 and 3, so we're not talking mowing, etc). They help put dishes away from the dishwasher, they set the table (yes, one plate at a time), they clear the table, they put their laundry away, they put a new garbage bag in the recepticle when we take the garbage out. It doesn't seem like a lot, but they JUMP at the chance to help. I think that we're HELPING them become better people by having them do these things. Little responsibilities will evolve into larger responsibilities and hopefully a very non-self-absorbed person! :)

    I do have one question - how do other parents get them to take care of their "stuff"? When things break, they don't seem to care. I've tried taking toys away but they really seem ambivalent about it. I don't know how to get them to realize the value of their things. Any tips on that out there??

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  3. That's an interesting name you picked to call this person. I'm afraid this is a clear sign of the entitlement generation and I am one of the guilty. It is something I fight with regularly. I believe it is only getting worse with the next generation.

    So I do try to help my kiddos by giving them consequences to every action and provide them with opportunities to be responsible and pay for things with their own money. We'll see if that works!

  4. Hey, my sickness has finally worn off, replacing a ball of aching lethargy and fatigue with a listless new energy. (*yay!*)

    Anyway, I have been thinking about this post since I read it. Obviously, as you know, I don't have kids. Also, I don't think I have grown up to be the perfect person; but that's not for my mom's lack of trying.

    There is something she used to do that got me thinking at an early age about other people's feelings. When I got in a fight with someone at school or if I felt there was some kind of injustice in my life she would ask me: "What do you think you might have done to cause so-and-so to feel/think/act that way?"

    Of course, I would always say "nothing," because I was born perfect and immaculate. She never let me off that easily. She would ask me to think of at least 3 things that I could have done to cause the problem. Then, she would ask me if I didn't think I should talk to said person and work it out.

    Now, I am posting this with a disclaimer. First, sometimes people are unreasonable and things really are their fault, still it doesn't hurt to try and work around that (but I usually don't have the stomache for it). Second, as I got older and had a better sense of judgement I sometimes wished my mom could have just had my back when someone was driving me crazy. I mean, my hormones were enough to contend.

    Finally, I don't think I am perfect, far from it. There are many times when I act like a schmuck, but I think I try to understand how people are feeling. Also, I am not always walking around thinking the world has "done something to me" to make me a victim, like so many people I know. I feel like I am at least partially responsible for most situations.

    I don't know if that helped... and I certainly hope it doesn't come off like I think I am some kind of saint. I sure don't think that. It was my mom's good practices, that's all.

    Good luck with the baby making, Momma!

  5. One of the things my parents did when I was growing up that drove me absolutely insane at the time was to take away my ballet lessons when my grades dropped. It was torture. I moped, I cried, I sulked, I gave them the silent treatment, my friends would even call and plead my case, probably because I was driving them nuts with all this, too.

    In retrospect, I think it was probably the best (and hardest) thing they could have done. Left to my own devices, I doubt I would have bothered to get a high school diploma. I would have spent my entire childhood in a ballet studio if I could have. Little did I know I'd wind up too injured and eating-disordered by the time I was nineteen that a career in ballet was completely out of the question.

    My parents made sure I got that diploma, and made sure I went on to get a higher education. But in the process, they also made sure I got something that in many ways is even more important: self-discipline. Show up, do your work, and do it the best way you can. Without the will and the dedication to do that, you've got nothing.