It was the kind of pounding that made me wonder if I needed to turn off the water with the shampoo still in my hair and call 911 from the bathroom.
“MOMMY! I need you!” she sobbed.
I grabbed a towel and shouted through the door, “What is it? What’s wrong?”
I could only hear indiscernible sobbing and mumbling from the other side.
When I got the door open I saw her holding the shattered tablet. All at once I was relieved and furious because she had had me thinking there was a dead or dismembered sister somewhere on the property.
“What happened?” I asked. This was the tablet she had saved her money for, the tablet she had debated for months about buying.
“It’s not my fault!” she cried.
I thought she must have accidentally dropped it down the stairs or knocked it off a table.
“It’s okay. Just tell me what happened.”
That’s when the real story came out. It turns out that she had left it on the seat of the recliner in the living room when she had gone to bed the night before. Someone must have unknowingly sat on it in the dark room.
“Hold on,” I said. “Dropping it accidentally is a very different thing than leaving it a dark room on a surface WHERE PEOPLE SIT. If you had dropped it, I would say you were right, that it isn’t your fault. As it is, you KNOW that people sit in chairs. You KNOW it is hard to see in the dark. You KNOW that your tablet is made of glass. It IS your fault. If you cared about it getting shattered, you could very well have put it in a better place before you went to bed.”
I then asked her a series of questions which she answered.
“Why was the recliner a bad place to put your tablet?” (Because people sit there)
“Where would have been a safe place to put your tablet?” (My desk drawer)
“Why is your desk a better place than the recliner?” (Because no one sits there)
I went on to discuss with her how unhappy her life would be if she continued to have the “It’s not my fault” attitude that doesn’t take responsibility for her mistakes. We all make mistakes, but it is the learning from those mistakes that gives us the freedom to not repeat the same mistakes time and time again.
If she would accept the responsibility for making a poor choice about where to put her tablet before going to bed, then she would be sure to never again leave a breakable glass item on a seat in a dark room. She would realize that she does indeed have control over whether someone sits on her tablet. If she holds onto “It’s not my fault” then she will always think that someone sitting on her tablet is a completely random possibility.
Don’t we all know adults who seem to be perpetually in a downward spiral of “bad luck”? One negative happening after another seems to plague them, but upon closer inspection it becomes evident that the negative happenings are a result of poor decisions. They lose one job after another, go through several abusive marriages, are constantly worried about having their car repossessed or being evicted from their apartment. Why are some people so bad at making good, healthy decisions?
I firmly believe this cycle of “bad luck” can be a result of not taking responsibility for poor choices. If something bad that happens is completely random, then there is no controlling if or when it might happen again. However, if something bad that happens is the result of a poor choice, and the chooser realizes this and learns from it, then there is an element of control over happenings in life.
My speech may have been difficult to hear and even hurt my 10yo daughter’s feelings, but more importantly, I hope it impressed upon her that there are happenings in life that we can control.
Accepting the responsibility for our mistakes is the first step in controlling those.