Once upon a time, there were two brothers, ‘Own-Up’ and ‘Disown-It’. Even though they were brothers, their personalities were poles apart. While Own-Up took responsibilities for his actions; Disown-It, however, was quick to deflect blame. Their father was heartbroken at Disown-It’s inability to accept responsibility for his actions and wanted to teach him an important life lesson. One fine morning, he summoned for his two sons. “I have built you both, two sturdy boats. Take them out to sea and you will soon find the most valuable thing in life,” said the old man as he sent his sons to explore the four corners of the world. Accompanying the two sons were the old man’s two faithful servants, who were to do the master’s bidding when the time came.
As the two brothers set out to sea, one headed east while the other, west. However, as soon as Disown-It fell asleep, the servant removed the plug from the hole. As the water gushed in, the servant started shrieking. As the shrill shrieks woke up the sleeping son, he soon realised that the boat was sinking. Cursing the servant, the sea, the father, the boat, the waves, his destiny and the Gods, Disown-It soon found himself in the gurgling water. At the servant’s urging, the brother soon swam to a distant shore, which turned out to be a deserted island.
And on the other side of the world, a similar fate awaited the other brother. Own-Up too found himself on a deserted island, with his servant and without a boat. While the old man, who was sure the servants would have made the boats sink by now, awaited his sons’ return.
A few days later, the old man awoke to a loud knocking. As he opened the large wooden door, he saw that it was his son, Own-Up. With a mug of brewery in his hand, Own-Up sat next to the toasty fire and regaled his father of his maritime adventure (never knowing that it was indeed his father’s bid to test his sons). Even as he talked about how he had crafted a floatation device of bamboo and coconut leaves, he wondered out aloud about his brother, Disown-It.
The old man got up from his rocking-chair and walked towards the fireplace. He removed a picture-frame from the mantelpiece and longing stroked his son’s photograph as a lone tear slid down his wrinkled cheek. Even now, he could remember the instruction he had provided his faithful servant, “Be with your master. Ensure he has plenty to eat and plenty to drink. But extend no help beyond food and water.”
As he placed his son’s photo gently back on the mantelpiece, he quietly said: “The day he learns to take responsibility for his actions, he will find his way home.”
And that – Ladies and Gentlemen – is how you can teach your kids about accepting responsibility for their actions — through stories; through metaphors; and through situations.
In fact, we all know that kids learn from watching and mimicking their parents and elders – aka “socialisation”. Thus, in order to teach your children about “accepting responsibilities”, you yourself — first and foremost — need to start taking responsibility for your own actions. This is because every child needs a model to emulate…and this model is often the people he/she interacts on a daily basis. After all, how can a child learn about ‘accepting responsibilities’ when a child sees the parent themselves deflect blame to: circumstances…people…God…even destiny.
Hence, the next time you feel an urge to blame your boss, your in-laws, your relatives, the Government, etc. for your problems, remember what Hal Elrod said: “The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life.”