Encourage Responsible Thinking

Whenever my students gave me an excuse for something within their control, I didn’t discipline them in the traditional ways. Rather, my standard comment to them was, “Responsibility finds a way; irresponsibility finds an excuse.” The purpose of this mantra was to encourage responsible thinking and behavior.

Since being responsible requires thinking, effort, and choosing from a range of difficult decisions, many young people nonconsciously convince themselves that it is too insurmountable a challenge. Some blame others for their problems without any thought as to responsible responses to their challenges. Others hope that someone will come along and make everything right.

People can operate more responsibly if they have a strategy. One strategy is to ask young people the following question: “If you wanted to be fully responsible right now, what would you be doing?”

In most cases, the answer will be readily apparent. It’s just a matter of listening to the responses and acting upon them.

Another strategy is to use sentence-completion exercises. For example, just for a week have them begin the day by thinking of endings to each of the following sentences:

  • If I operate 5% more responsibly at school, I will. . . .
  • If I operate 5% more responsibly at home, I will. . . .
  • If I accept full responsibility for my own happiness, I will. . . .

Young people find that this exercise—as the question mentioned earlier—stimulates the mind to make new neural connections which, in turn, acts as a prompt to more responsible behaviors. The result is fewer discipline issues at school and at home.