The last few days I have been blogging about choices. Wednesday’s post discussed why I believe you need to start teaching children about making choices early (as in the first few years of life), and how I did it with my sons. Thursday’s post discussed consequences and the need to have child see that all choices have consequences as well as the fact that consequences can be both positive and negative. Today, I’m going to talk about the fact that every action is a choice.
I hope you are enjoying this blog thread. I am enjoying discussing how teaching has influenced my parenting and how parenting has influenced my teaching. Buckle up this one will make you think a bit more.
As a teacher and parent, there is one phrase that bugs me… “He/she made me do it.” Oh really. And how exactly did that person MAKE you do anything? By the fact of human nature we have free will, the ability to choose. Again let me add the caveat that there are certain neurological issues that impede the ability to make some of these choices quickly/easily.
As a teacher, I often made a statement that many people had to think twice about when they hear it the first time. “I can’t make anyone learn”… What stop, hold the bus, you’re a teacher your job is to teach, which most translate as make another learn. But, it’s not what we do. Teach: show or explain to (someone) how to do something. But, I can’t make you do it or understand it. So therefore I can’t make you learn.
The first time I say this to children we always get into a conversation about the fact that I can’t make them do anything. This totally blows the mind of 5-7 year old kids. They are told that their parents can make them do things. When in essence the parent can’t make they do things. They can just provide consequences when the child does not do what the parent wishes them to do.
Think about a time you told your child to go to time-out and the child then got up. You put the child back in time out, but you can’t make the child stay there unless you sit on them or in some way make it impossible to get up. But, the child has the choice still to sit still or move. To sit quiet or scream. The concept of time out is a place to calm down and think about the choice your child made, but we can’t make them calm down or think. To be honest, I often used it as a way to give me a time to calm down and think.
Back to the comment that I hate “he made me do it”, when I first was teaching when I’d hear this I’d call both children over to me and we’d discuss the situation and send them on their way or instill some type of consequence. Now even at that time, I believed that both children needed to deal with consequences.
But, I began thinking… I wasn’t addressing the issue of placing blame. How exactly did this child “MAKE” you do anything? So, I began dealing with this situation differently. Before I would call the other child over, I’d ask the first child “So how did he make you do it?” This is a question children never expect to get asked. Typically the answer is he did blah blah blah, so I did yadda yadda yadda. Doesn’t matter what the first or second answer is, my answer is still the same, so he didn’t MAKE you do it, you chose to do it. Again, this typically gets an upset answer of placing blame, but no matter what you chose what to do.
This is a hard thing for people of any age to learn, but think how much better society will be if all children learn this at a young age. You choose. You decide how you react to the actions of others. You take responsibility for your actions. And this is where parents and teachers need to make changes. So often we hear, “My child would never….” or “That child made my child…” or “My child saw so and so do it first…” Those my friends are excuses. And I don’t listen to excuses.
Again, you have choices. Many parents believe their child is perfect, but I have yet to meet one of these perfect children, or people for that matter. Everyone makes the wrong choice from time to time. They may see someone doing something that looks fun, funny, cool whatever and choose to join in, but doesn’t mean that the other person made them do it.
My own sons know this and even though at 9 and 10 they still try to tell me “He made me do it” they know the response they will get from me… “How”. After they tell me “how” I will say didn’t you choose to “_____” couldn’t you have choose to “____”. They hate this answer. They want to place blame on anyone else, but at this point, they understand they can’t. They choose.
To give a real life example. Yesterday the boys were out playing on their scooters. Blake came in and said he got hurt. I asked first if he was ok and then what he was doing. “Colby made me jump my scooter down the stairs.” “Oh really, how did he make you do this?” “Ok well he told me to do it.” “And you choose to do it?” This garnered some groaning, and finally… “fine, yes I chose to jump down the stairs.” “Ahhh and the consequence of that is you fell and got hurt. Might want to think about it next time.” (I will state that he wasn’t really hurt, he didn’t even scrape himself. I think he bruised his ego because Colby jumped successfully)
I will continue to try to get my sons and my future students to take responsibility for all their actions. I can only hope that this post has encourage you to look at choices in a new/renewed way. If you chose to read all three parts… thanks! If you choose to leave a comment, I’d love to hear what you think.
I hope to write more posts like this that show how teaching influences my parenting and how parenting influences my teaching because a teacher and a mommy is who I am!