Making it right means making it meaningful
Responsibility comes in various forms and at different times in our lives. To some it’s trudging off to the salt mines to provide for their progeny. Others are tasked with caring for their sweet and never argumentative siblings.A great deal of the “yutes” (as Joe Pesci would say) that I deal with are in the process of learning to take responsibility for their actions. Actions, in my line of work, involve a kid finding themselves in the unchartered waters of our court system. Whether the candy bar just “ended up” in their pocket at 7-11 or they started a fight at school, it is my job to help kids learn to right their wrongs. How do kids learn how to make it right and stand up and take the responsibility that is theirs? At YouthZone, one of our guiding principles is “no shame, no blame.” “No shame” means we don’t make kids feel bad for their actions – it slows down the process of taking responsibility. “No blame” means that the child is shown that there’s no one to blame other than themselves. They are encouraged to muster up the courage to stand up and make it right. Another YouthZone tool is separating the child from the action. A kid who steals a candy bar is not labeled a thief. A kid is a kid, and his action is not who he is. The key to teaching responsibility is to place emphasis on “righting” the wrong, not just suffering a meaningless consequence. Many a time in my younger days, I endured my dad’s special brand of punishment – digging a hole so that I could look into it and supposedly see my errant ways, then just fill it back in. Sure, I tried not to repeat the action in fear of a day in the hole, because I hated digging holes, but I did not get a chance to make anything right. Part of making it right is experiencing consequences for our actions that are meaningful to us. Digging the hole was a consequence, but not one that internalized a lesson. An instance I can recall making a consequence meaningful involved one of our recent clients, a child that had a passion for reading. We spoke in depth about various books and particular genres that he likes. I suggested a way to right his wrong was to go to the local nursing home and read to elderly folks who were having a hard time seeing. Reading was this kid’s strong point; that meant he was more likely to internalize the lesson, and he got the chance to give back to someone by reading. Everyone was a winner. The child is empowered and feels good, while making it right. Take the time with your kid and don’t hand them a shovel, try YouthZone’s winning formula: Choose a meaningful consequence while using their strengths to help them make it right. Rick Burchell is a YouthZone case manager. YouthZone works with kids who want tools to success and parents who want to raise more responsible kids. If you have a question you would like to ask YouthZone, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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