How do we teach children personal responsibility?

I have become increasingly aware of how many children in the schools i work in find it so hard to admit they have made a mistake, done something wrong, upset someone or indeed to take any responsibility for their behaviour. I then began to think about some of the parents in the schools who struggle with exactly the same thing and are always blaming other people or things for their behaviour. Examples such as ” The taxi didn’t come, he won’t get out of bed, they (the children) overslept” are just some of the reasons i hear for why children arrive late to school.

If the children of these parents are provided with this behaviour as a role model, then it is increasingly hard for them to understand both how and why anyone would ever admit they had done something wrong, especially if they think they will be in trouble for doing so. This, combined with lack of confidence, low self-esteem and lack of self-worth, can make it extremely difficult for school staff to enable children to see the importance of taking responsibility.

It can be useful for schools (and families) to have an approach which acknowledges how difficult it may be to get things wrong, make mistakes and take responsibility, along with validating the feelings such as fear and shame that may be activated by doing so. School staff regularly sharing examples of when and how they got things wrong or made mistakes, are also useful as an alternative way of modelling how to behave. Lastly, creating an emotionally safe environment where children feel secure enough to be honest about the choices they have made, and are praised and encouraged for sharing their vulnerability, can go a long way in helping children to change their behaviour and learn about taking responsibility.

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