The Path to Responsible Behavior

There is an old Greek myth about a gentleman who was looking for Mt. Olympus. On his journey, he asked directions of an elderly man who turned out to be Socrates. When the traveler asked how to get to Mt. Olympus, the old sage responded in his reflective tradition: “Be sure every step you take is in that direction.” The counterproductive approaches of rewarding expected standards of behavior and punishing do not take us in the direction of fostering responsibility.

Although we often think we can give responsibility, the truth is that responsibility can only be taken; therefore, desire is essential for developing this characteristic. Desire comes only through internal motivation. Responsible behavior is a chosen behavior.

Remember the paradox: Our goal is to assist young people to become responsible, self-reliant, independent problem solvers; yet, external approaches (punishments, rewards, and telling) set up young people to be dependent upon an external agent. The ultimate goal should not be to have the child obey and keep parents happy. The ultimate goal is that young people act in a responsible way because it pays off for them; it is in their own and others’ best interests.