We have talked before about all of the things that we have to do and of course there are all of the thing that we want to do. I am 55 years old and I still like to do the ‘want to do’s’ before the things that have real priority in my life.
When we look at priority items they are generally things that affect other people, many times those who are the closest to us. As a young person though it was easy for me to think that it did not matter, or that I just did not want to do this or that now and could see no reason to do so. How do we help our students think beyond that thought?
First: Help them to list all of the things that are on their plate. School work, work at home for the family, friends and of course their own fun things to do. Then give each item a priority label. You can use something as simple as High, Medium or Low – A, B, C or if they are young a color code.
Second: Discuss how each item has an affect on other people when they complete them or choose not to complete them. The higher the priority the more affect it has on others and them as individuals. This is all about recognizing the perspective of dependability. You may even discuss how your actions affect them personally.
Third: Give examples of those in your family or people in history who kept their word and demonstrated dependability. Many times the story is better than the lecture or just your desire for them to act in a certain way.
Fourth: One of the things you will hear me say over and over again is that “we do the right thing because it is the right thing to do”. I so believe this that I do not believe in bribing a child to do the right thing or dependable thing. While we can help them think through what the consequences might be for making a bad choice, do not bail them out from choosing to act in an undependable way.
If they do not tell you about the science project the night before it is due allow them to suffer the consequences. If they leave their bike out in the rain – let the natural consequence take place. These are awesome teaching moments – even if it is hard for us as parents to see it happen to them.
One final story. We have 4 children and have promised all of them to pay for 4 years of college (none of this 5 & 6 year plans) and 6 months of living expenses after they get out of college. After that, they are on their own. You can imagine how when the first one got to the 6 month period and wanted more support – it was hard to stick to our commitment. And it was our only girl, that made it that much harder. But in the end she figured it out – she got through it and is doing very well today. This was not just a great lesson for her but for the 3 boys that followed. Believe me they all knew that we were committed to our word. We could be depended on both for the good and the “Oh that hurts”.
In the end the best way to teach dependability is to demonstrate it – even when it is challenging to do so.