“Show responsibility! This is all your fault!” I said to my 16-year-old son who had just come home with a zero on a school paper he had handed in late. Showing very little compassion, I pointed my index finger to his face to justify the anger and shame I was feeling inside. “How could you let that happen?” I insisted.
While my parenting tantrum was taking place, my son kept looking outside the kitchen window, verbally acknowledging zero of my questions. Mostly, he remained silent, probably waiting for the storm to boil over. His behaviour showed how I had trained him to ignore his own feelings and emotions and the feelings and emotions of others. He was behaving as I had taught him: like a victim.
‘How was that possible?’ you might ask.
It is my belief …
When a parent is unaware of their conditioning and its impact,
said parent will most likely pass their dysfunctions
onto their unsuspecting children.
Before I became more self-aware (I hired a mentor to teach me how to parent myself), my primary emotional wound was invisibility. Growing up, I was an ‘invisible’ child. What that means is, I was raised to blindly obey my parents’ ‘their house, their rules.’ I was seldom (if ever) asked how I was feeling or what I needed or what I really wanted. I was mostly tossed along for their ride, often told to be quiet or else. And as long as I made my parents look good in the eyes of others, I was allowed to survive.
At the time of that incident with my son, I believe his primary wound was also invisibility. I cared little as to what may have caused him to delay handing in that school paper. I often ignored his anxiety, stress, sadness, depression, … I was quick to tell him ‘my house, my rules’ just like my parents had done before me. Therefore, I seldom asked him what he needed or what he really wanted. As long as he made me look good in the eyes of others, I was allowing him to survive.
As strange as it may sound to you, I loved my son (I do) and I wanted him to take responsibility (become more accountable) for his thoughts, words, feelings, and actions. However, my unconscious parenting method of shaming and blaming (what I had learned growing up) led to the opposite, a feeling of disempowerment and a lack of accountability in both him and me.
Accountability is owning what we say and what we do,
and owning the results we have generated.
My son’s lack of accountability often led to procrastination. He was procrastinating in most areas of his life (including school work.) My lack of accountability led to crappy parenting, often taking the form of blaming and shaming.
So, how do we foster responsibility in teenagers?
Here are eight (8) rock solid tips to assist you foster responsibility in your teenager(s):
Parent yourself. To help you do this, imagine there are 1,000 people looking at your every move and hearing your every word and thought. In front of that crowd, would you say, think, or do the negative stuff that might cross your mind and lips in front of your child(ren)? Let’s take the example further. Would you speak to a group of 1,000 four-year-olds the way you might speak to yourself or your children? If the answer is no, then perhaps you might want to start thinking that you are never alone and that everything you say, think, or do impacts all of us. Consequently, parent yourself.
Respect the child within. Inside each of us is a little child who knows everything we think, say, feel, and do. Honour the child within. Show compassion to yourself and other people’s inner child.
Most importantly, question every belief you hold. The first part of parenting ourselves is questioning our beliefs. In order to question your beliefs, ask yourself, ‘What is my belief?’ ‘Where does that belief come from?’ ‘Who’s taught me that belief?’ ‘What results am I experiencing right now because of that belief?’ ‘Who would I be without that belief?’ Adopt more empowering beliefs. Become more self-aware.
Ask yourself, ‘What do I need right now?’ To know what we need, we must really know ourselves. We must be willing to feel our truth and use that feeling answer to fulfill our needs. If you want to foster a greater sense of responsibility in your teenager(s), ask yourself, ‘What do I need right now?’ If you are feeling frustrated, perhaps you need a glass of water before talking with your child about helping them fulfill their own needs.
Ask yourself, ‘What is it that I really want to experience in my life?’ I have never met a person who loves the anxiety or stress they were experiencing while procrastinating (being less than accountable). On the contrary. What they wanted to experience was peace, freedom, and joy among many other things. By focusing on the feeling we really want to experience, it signals the brain to create that feeling for us. Then ‘all of a sudden,’ we might be taking deeper breaths, standing straighter, and relaxing our muscles.
Set consequences for yourself. Part of becoming more responsible is setting consequences for ourselves. A consequence is NOT a punishment. Let me repeat that again. A consequence is NOT a punishment. A punishment is something painful that is inflicted upon ourselves to make us feel bad about who we are and what we have done. A consequence is chosen by each person individually. A consequence is something that teaches us the self-discipline to make us feel good about ourselves. For example, when I was younger, one of my consequences used to be to skip rope for 15 minutes non-stop when I failed to follow through on what I had said. A punishment would have been something like one hour because it would have hurt me physically and emotionally. Feel the difference.
Forgive yourself. Forgiveness and greater responsibility walk hand in hand. To become more responsible, we need to forgive ourselves for our past lacks. We need to forgive ourselves for our past procrastination, blaming, shaming, rage, anger, resentment, …. In a place of forgiveness, we feel better about ourselves, which makes it easier for us to step up and be willing to behave with more self-responsibility and greater accountability.
Show compassion. Imagine you have planted a beautiful seed in the soil with the intent to turn this seed into a magnificent tree. If you were to pour blame and shame (both poisons) on that seed, what do you believe will happen? Chances are, the seed might start withering and dying before even cracking open. However, if you shower this seed with water, sunshine, and kind words (an analogy for compassion), what do you believe will happen? It is my belief, this seed now has a fair chance to grow into a magnificent tree. Each of us is a seed…
In fostering a greater sense of responsibility with your teenager(s) …
Kindly remember …
Your Emotional Intelligence Coach,
I am a monthly contributor to The Teen Mentor, platform with over 1,000,000 views per month.