Taking responsibility for actions

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Taking responsibility for actions
15
Thu, 12-08-2005 - 10:23am
Just a general question here. Do you think that it's damaging for a child's esteem to let them know that something they did caused something bad to happen? Let me give you an example. If you tell your child not to overfeed the goldfish and they do it anyways and the fish dies, do you let them know that the overfeeding caused it or would that make them feel guilty so you pretend like it wasn't their fault and makeup some other reason. I have this ongoing discussion with some family members of mine and they feel that when a child makes a mistake you should disguise it so they don't feel bad. My take is that a child needs to see that their actions have consequences. The fish is just one example. I told him the fish was fed already, to leave it alone and he dumped the whole container in. My in-laws were telling him "He must've been old. It's not because of too much food" even though the fish was belly up 30 minutes after he did that. Then it made me look a liar because they are sending him the message that you can't kill a fish by overfeeding even though I warned him that it could happen. What about less "traumatic" examples? If you tell a child to pick up their toys and they "forget", would you tell them it's ok? It's not their fault. My stepson uses "it was an accident" as an excuse when he doesn't listen. I tell him not to do something, he turns around and does it anyways and says it was an accident. I tell him not to jump on his bed because he could break it, then he jumps on his bed, breaks it, and says "Oops, that was an accident" and walks away like la-dee-da, who cares. He says "As long as it's an accident you can't get in trouble". Nothing is ever his fault according to him and after he does something he shouldn't and he realizes what he did his attitude is "Oh well. No biggy". It happens all the time! He just ignores what you tell him and does what he wants anyways. I feel that he has learned to manipulate by picking up on what others in his life have taught him. I do feel that sometimes things happen that are out of your control, but doesn't a child need to learn that their actions will have consequences? Which is more damaging in terms of child development? Letting them think that they do no wrong so their esteem isn't damaged or having them see that they did something wrong? Oh, he's 7 1/2 by the way and it's been like this for years.

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Avatar for cdollar
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 12-08-2005 - 11:35am

For the fish example, I woudn't put it in a blaming way. I would NOT say, "you overfed the fish and it died" but I WOULD say, "overfeeding the fish can cause them to die" or something like that.

In other words, I wouldn't use accusatory "you" statements but instead I'd try to either 1. give information or 2. describe what I see.

For the toys, I'd probably say, "I still see toys on the floor! Pick them up NOW please!" If it still didn't happen, they would be in danger of losing the toys for a while.

For the bed, if I caught him jumping on it I'd say, "beds are for sleeping on, not jumping on" and if he didn't stop doing it then I might "help" him stop by removing him from the bed. If he did it again and broke it, I'd probably look for some way for him to show responsibility about it. In our house, breaking something like that would probably put him "in service" to someone else. (If he broke something that didn't belong to him then he'd be "in service" to the owner.) I'd also explain that even if something is an accident, we have to take responsibility for our actions.

Carissa
~ momma to bookworm Keithen (2/1/99), artist 

Avatar for dzyg
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-17-2000
Thu, 12-08-2005 - 1:28pm

I definately think children should realize that there actions have consequences. Yes, I would of said because the fish was overfed, it died. I hardly think it will damage their self esteem to know they did something wrong.


This summer while we were raising Monarch butterflies we went to let one go and my dd (5 at the time) wanted to hold it first. I put it on her hand and it sat there a bit then tried to fly but kinda flopped to the ground. This startled my dd and she kinda jumped and stepped on it. It wasn't dead as it didn't get squished but it was obvious it was going to die and did that night in our butterfly cage. She totally blamed herself for this and was really upset, she knows I am very protective of the butterflies we release. However I did make her understand that it wasn't totally her fault. I for one did not realize that it was only 63 out with a light breeze. Monarchs cannot fly in temps under 60 and this was too close with the breeze for the butterfly to be able to fly. So it was partially my fault too. It took her a bit to want to hold one again but she got over it and learned to be more careful of them too. I hardly think it damaged her self esteem even though she was upset. It was just one of lifes lessons.


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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 12-08-2005 - 2:52pm

While I do think children should be held accountable for the things they do, I don't hink telling them they are the cause of hurting or a death or something is the way to do this.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-31-2004
Thu, 12-08-2005 - 2:52pm

I think it is better for them to learn that their actions have consequences now, while they are young, and before their mistakes become too 'expensive' for them. Here is an example of what I meant by 'expensive.'

If your SS does not believe that his actions caused the goldfish to die, then he hasn't learned that animals in his care are dependent upon him for their survival and happiness. It is a great responsibility to have animals in our care. What happens when he is twelve years old and gets a puppy? You tell him that Puppy must stay on a leash. If he hasn't yet been made to understand the weight of his responsiblity for Puppy's well-being, he could very well decide it would be fun to take Puppy off of the leash and let him run around. When Puppy then get killed by a car, will he THEN learn the lesson? I think it is less expensive for him to learn that lesson now on the goldfish. While I don't think that you should rub it in too much, I think he needs to know that his actions caused a helpless animal to die. That little fish had a place in this world and its life had value. It was up to us to take care of him and that didn't happen. Now he has died, and your SS should understand that. Because he will have to learn the lesson someday. Why not learn it now on something less traumatic then a bigger animal like a puppy? Or God forbid one of his own children if he hasn't learned responsibility by then?

I wouldn't be harsh, but I would certainly be honest.

Susan

Photobucket
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Registered: 03-27-2003
Thu, 12-08-2005 - 9:21pm

I love reading your posts, Susan. I think I respectfully disagree with you on this one, though. I know with Tre, for example. I would never put him in charge of fully taking care of Trinity and her basic needs. Why? Because he is a kid. Even though we are talking about a fish here, it's the same principal, IMO. He shouldn't be made totally responsible for any living thing at the age of 6 or 7. They just don't have the ability to think that way. That's adult thinking,

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-31-2004
Thu, 12-08-2005 - 10:28pm

I love reading your posts, too, Janet! :)

But I think I interpreted the original poster's message a little differently then you did.

This statement made all the difference:

" I told him the fish was fed already, to leave it alone and he dumped the whole container in."

There is nothing in her post that I saw that said her SS was responsible for the well-being of the fish. And she WAS, in fact, supervising him, as she clearly told him NOT to feed the fish. She had already fed the little guy. This is nothing more then her step-son deliberately disobeying her with very sad consequences for the fish. What if he was throwing a baseball in the house and she told him not to throw balls in the house? And what if he disregarded her instruction and threw the ball so that it hit her grandma's depression era glass collection that she had thought was safely stored on the top book shelf? Would that be any different? Should he have consequences for that?

Now by no means do I think she should be unkind to him. I am envisioning the conversation going something like this:

Mom: Oh no... our fish has died. What could have happened to him? Hmmm... I see an awful lot of food floating around in his bowl. I know that sometimes fish will die if their water is too dirty and that water sure looks dirty from all that extra food floating around in it. Did you feed him after I told you not to?

SS: Well yes, but it was an accident. I didn't mean for him to die.

Mom: But he did die, didn't he? How do you feel about that?

SS: I don't know... bad, I guess.

Mom: I feel bad too. I really liked our fish and I wanted to keep him healthy. (Pause) I remember one time when I was a kid, I was supposed to feed our dog before we left for a trip, but I didn't. It was my job to do it, but I was on the phone talking to a friend, and then my dad called for me to get in the car, so I just ran out of the house without leaving food out for my dog.

SS: Oh no - what happened?

Mom: Well, I was afraid to tell anyone, so I worried about him the whole three days that we were gone. When we came home, I was afraid to look. I was so afraid that he had starved to death. Luckily, he was still alive, but he was so thin that I could see all his ribs and he was crying and frantic to be fed. I felt so terrible that I never forgot it. It was pretty hard on the dog, but it was a good lesson for me. I realized that we are responsible for making sure that our animals are well taken care of. Do you think this will be a good lesson for you too?

SS: Yes...

Mom: Here, give me a hug. I know these lessons are hard, but it is so important that we learn them. I'm proud of you for listening and for really thinking about what happened.
===
Now, I think that with Tre, it WAS an accident and he was trying to help the fish. That is different. He had the fish's best welfare at heart and probably learned his lesson without you ever having to say a word. I did not get that from the original poster's message about her SS.

Take care,

Susan

Photobucket
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Fri, 12-09-2005 - 10:13am

Well alrighty then! LOL!!


Thanks for clearing that up. I DO like the conversation you mentioned. That isn't as strong as I had in mind. I am just cautious when talking to children about them being responsible for death, KWIM? In your conversation there is nothing that says it died because you overfed it. It just says there is a possibility of that having been the cause. That is better. =)


Thanks again for explaining your point of view, it was very enlightening. Sometimes board responses can be a bit "nerving". Some people just get irritated and don't want to clarify. I appreciate your willingness to go the extra mile! =)

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2003
Fri, 12-09-2005 - 10:36am

I think it all depends on the situation..


For example: Last summer Bryce had 2 mice. One was a little loving thing and would crawl all over him, sit on his little trucks, and all in all just loved to be held and played with. Well one day we were all out front and Bryce wanted to show his mouse to



iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Mon, 12-12-2005 - 9:16am
Oh, no offense taken. When I post on this board I don't expect everyone to agree with me. I'm looking for different perspectives to help me to come to my own conclusion. With the fish incident, I didn't say anything. His grandmother told him the fish was probably old or sick so I let him think that. He was not at all upset about it. He said "Oh well. Maybe I can get another one." This was a hard one so I let the more experienced "mother" (the grandmother in this instance) have her way. I was unsure about how I felt but I thought it was better to play on the more cautious side and not say anything otherwise. Thanks for your input. Everyone had great responses to this post. It's a touchy subject when it comes to death and pets. It's inevitable but for the sensitive little people in the world, it's so much to handle.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Mon, 12-12-2005 - 12:35pm

You're such a great spirit onboard! I am glad you can take different opinions and filter through. I sometimes get worried because it

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