In an ideal world, my boys would be perfect. They would have all their life lessons downloaded into their brains at birth and never make any mistakes.
Just think of it: we would have perfect little boys, never fighting or lying or shirking responsibility…wouldn’t that be the dream?
Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how it works.
By definition, a life lesson is something that we learn as we live our lives. But with a little help from their parents, our boys can jump ahead a bit on some of the lessons, not having to learn every single one of them the hard way.
One of the primary lessons I want for my boys to learn while they are young is to take responsibility for their actions.
Can I take you back a few millennia? There’s this incredible story in the Bible about a man and a woman who choose to follow their own way rather than God’s way, and their first response after this is to hide. Their second response? To cast blame.
In the same book of the Bible, we see Jacob running from his brother after a malicious trick, Joseph’s brothers covering up the fact that they sold him into slavery, and Potiphar’s wife casting blame for her actions on Joseph.
So much blame.
I am certainly not innocent either. I have a vivid memory of locking myself in the bathroom as a 6 year old, after lying to my mother about where I had been that afternoon. (*ahem, with my neighbourhood boyfriend…)
With such an incredible heritage of cover-ups, hiding, and blame, how can we possibly instill in our boys the habit of taking responsibility for their own actions?
The word “instill” means to “gradually but firmly establish (an idea or attitude, especially a desirable one) in a person’s mind.”
Instilling a value into our boys will happen gradually, but we must do it firmly, meaning we must do it with intention.
Here are 2 concrete ways to help instill the value of personal ownership in our boys.
Teaching my boys to take responsibility:
1) Teach them to apologize
I’m sure there are many articles that would disagree, but I think it is crucial to teach our children to say “I’m sorry” when they have wronged another. My boys naturally fight against this a lot, especially when I’m asking them to apologize for a mistake.
The exchange usually goes something like this:
“But Mommy, it was a mistake. I don’t have to apologize for a mistake!”
“What you did/said hurt someone else. Look, you made your brother sad. When you hurt someone, either by accident or on purpose, you need to apologize.”
The apology isn’t usually all that sincere at first, but apologizing builds empathy.
As a part of this empathy-building, I try to make a point of asking them to say what they did in their apology. For example, “I’m sorry for hitting you”, teaches them to acknowledge which specific action hurt their brother.
Afterward, I always ask the offended child to verbally forgive the brother. (Why? Read it in this post)
2) Be gentle when they make mistakes
I am learning to become a more gentle mom when my children make mistakes. I do not write this from a position of authority, but simply as a fellow mom who has real emotions.
It’s hard to be gentle when your kid messes up.
But the goal of most of our post-mistake conversations is ultimately about taking ownership, not punishment.
One of my boys currently has a patten of deception. When he hurts someone else (often by accident), he lies about the circumstances. As parents, we try to be very firm on the deception, reminding him that the consequence for lying is far greater than the consequence for the infraction itself. In fact, we are often very lenient on the actual problem because we want to help him kick this habit of lying.
Why should we care if our boys learn to take responsibility for their actions?
What’s at stake here?
In this world, men who don’t take responsibility for their actions hurt others and walk away. In a worst case scenario, they “accidentally” rape young women, they walk away from their wives and children, and they make terrifying leaders.
Conversely, men who DO learn to take responsibility for their actions are men with integrity. When they make mistakes, they own up to them and make amends, and through this process of taking responsibility and making amends, they learn self-control.
What’s at stake in this world? Family. Vocation. Freedom. The lives of others.
Eternally, men who don’t take responsibility for their actions never learn to repent. They won’t turn to God to change their hearts if they don’t acknowledge that anything is wrong.
Men who DO take responsibility for their actions have already learned how to repent, which means to turn off the current path and choose a new, better path. Their hearts will be softer toward God.
What’s at stake in the future? Eternity.
If it seems overwhelming to think about parenting in light of eternity, I encourage you to sign up for my 7-day Blessings challenge! In it, we’ll learn about the Biblical practice of praying blessings over our children, and I’ll give you a practical example each day that you can use with your boys.
Blessing your child is an incredibly simple habit that will help you tune into the lifelong and eternal impact of your boys’ lives, and help them grow in integrity! (just click here or on the image)