Many young people in care feel they have limited say in the decisions that affect their lives and this can have a knock-on effect on their behaviour. Having relinquished responsibility for their actions they no longer hold themselves accountable for the outcome of any negative behaviour. While no one is responsible for the decisions and actions of others we are always responsible for our own decisions and actions, although sometimes we would rather not admit it. Often young people need to have the benefits of taking responsibility for their actions explained to them.
Here are some of the benefits:
Empowerment. Taking responsibility empowers the young person. Once they feel in charge they can achieve great things. They can decide what they want to do with their lives and set small achievable goals. I am often inspired by the maxim: "We are only limited by the extent of our imagination". It is so true, and by taking responsibility we can empower ourselves to achieve.
Liberation. Taking responsibility liberates the young person from the constraints of their peer group. By passing responsibility to others they live in the shadow of that person’s experiences, expectations, successes and failures, and this results in frustration, anger and bitterness. Once the young person takes responsibility they are no longer beholden to the actions, attitudes or opinions of their peer group and a huge burden lifts from our shoulders.
Achievement. When a young person takes responsibility for their life they can also take the credit for their achievements. Even though they may be working alongside others, positive outcomes are all theirs, and success builds success.
Development. By taking responsibility a young person develops as a person. They learn from their mistakes and can use past experiences to make better judgements in the future. Each new decision – regardless of how small or disastrous the outcome – is character forming. The young person will develop a strength and roundness of character that they never thought possible. Others will experience and appreciate their new-found inner strength, and soon they will be the one leading not following.
Satisfaction and contentment. Taking responsibility for their actions gives a young person the satisfaction and contentment of knowing that they did their best. Even if the outcome is not the one they hoped for, knowing they were in control and couldn’t have done any more engenders peace of mind.
So the next time a young person refuses to take responsibility for their actions it might be worth pointing out (in age-appropriate language) the benefits of doing so.