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The Gift of Responsibility
Mom with a View

The Gift of Responsibility

Teaching our children how to really grow up.


My son told me a joke he heard at school the other day.

A young man says to his mother, “I don’t want to go to school today. Everyone gives me a hard time – the boys are difficult to get along with and the teachers are mean to me.” “I understand” says his loving mother, “but you have to go. You’re the principal.”

Everyone has days (weeks, months) like this – children and adults, whether our job is to go to school or earn a living, whether we work for a business or a non-profit. And part of growing up, part of what we need to teach our children and ourselves is to accept this reality.

Children imagine that once these high school years end, they will finally experience their dream of a carefree existence. Their parents know that nothing could be further from the truth.

The thing we need to keep an eye on, the thing we need to train our children to focus on, is the privilege of a life of responsibility.

Even though we may not always feel like it, we want to accomplish and we want to succeed.

We need projects and jobs. We need responsibilities and commitments in order to feel like we are making something out of our lives, that we are using rather than squandering our gifts.

Most people are surprised to discover that the CEO actually has less freedom than his salaried employees. Because the buck stops with him. He (or she!) has greater responsibility. And also the ensuing greater pleasure and greater reward.

It’s good to build that recognition while young. It will help our children stay motivated.

Even the principal in the joke would still rather be in his role than be one of his teachers. How do I know? Because he could step down. But he has probably worked long and hard to reach his position. It’s a proof that we want responsibility, that we recognize the opportunity for growth and character development. Rarely does anyone choose to be demoted rather than promoted.

Yes, our children frequently don’t feel like getting up for school in the morning. They argue that they will “never use this chemistry again,” that “the teacher is incompetent,” and that “the other kids are idiots.” They may be right.

But they still need to go. Being responsible doesn’t mean only when it’s easy. It means when it’s difficult, painful, frustrating, challenging…That’s when our sense of responsibility means something. That’s when we grow up. That principal couldn’t just think of himself. He had to think of all his employees and students who were depending on him. He couldn’t let them down.

And that’s how we need to behave also. We have created worlds where many people depend on us – spouses, parents, children, employers, employees, co-workers. We can’t just do what we feel like. And the honest truth is we wouldn’t want to. Ultimately it’s ourselves that we can’t let down.

May 13, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 9

(4) Cathryn, May 28, 2012 8:03 AM

I agree, but...

I do agree with this article, but I have an observation to make, from my own experience. I had a manager and a colleague at a higher level than me once, and they both joked that they would love to have the job of Charlie's father in 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' (putting toothpaste lids on the toothpaste tubes) because it didn't have a high level of responsibility. The reason they didn't quit their jobs and get another job with less responsibility? They wanted to keep getting their high level of pay! So I would say that one of the reasons this principal in the joke wouldn't go back to being a teacher is because he would get paid less, not just because we all really like responsibility deep down.

(3) Simcha, May 16, 2012 4:36 AM

Helping a teenager find himself!!!

I was asked by a divorced mother whose 13 year old son has gone off the path to Judaism including not going to school to help her son and convince him to go back on the right path. The boy is completely rebellious and refuses to follow rules and stays out late at night with friends who are also not on the right path. The father of the boy was abusive when the boy was little. I am doing everyhing to try to help him but he refuses to listen. He does respect and like me which is a positive sign because others have even been less successful than me. I show him that I truly care about him and help him out of love unlike others who have tried to help him. He refuses to go to school because he does not understand the Gomorrah (Talmud) that he is learning and is very frustrated. He went to school today after a long break but did not stay because he did not understand what he is learning and the teacher has no patience to help him. What is the best solution? Please let me know!!!

Akiva Burnhouse, May 17, 2012 11:17 AM

Finding the right path

I'm not Emunah, but I can offer you a couple of suggestions. As someone who thought of herself a stupid for many years, I can assure you that just because you learn differently doesn't mean you're stupid. Sometimes the brain just works differently. If his school doesn't have an assisted learning program, with a teacher (Rabbi) that's gifted in working with students with learning issues, either switch schools or find a tutor that specializes in learning challenged kids. The most important thing is for him to realize that he's not stupid or inferior in any way. There are many very talented and successful people that have had learning issues. This kid may be a talmud chochem yet, he just has to learn how it's best for him to learn. His strengths may be in other areas. Not everyone is the same,and that happens for a reason. Many kids that go off the derech because they feel like misfits come back, so stick with it, you're doing a great job. May you be zoche to be sandek at his first child's bris. Hatzlocha

Simcha, May 23, 2012 7:12 AM

Advice on a teenager!!!

I hope you still see this even though quite some time has passed. I just saw your response now. What should I do if the boy screams at me in the middle of the street while others are watching? It is dangerous for me because others may think that I am G-d forbid hurting the boy which could G-d forbid get me into trouble with the law especially with the situation these days. I may be giving the boy advice in order to prevent him from getting into trouble and he will start screaming at me because he doesn't like my advice. Any suggestions?

Aviva, May 24, 2012 1:10 AM

We can all use some sometimes

First of all, you should try to avoid having a conversation that might trigger that kind of response in a very public place. Don't go too private either. Always keep some physical distance between you, you're more likely to have witnesses that nothing happened. Keep you expression bland and meet people's gaze, don't allow embarrassment make you look guilty. When he's calm, talk to him about this behavior, if it's something that he does periodically. Tell him that you want to help him, but that you expect respect. Don't push your opinions on him, just offer them as friendly advice. If he doesn't want to accept it, let it be. He may come back to you about it when he's thought it through. If he does behave like that after you've warned him, turn around and walk away. He'll learn that yelling won't get him the attention he obviously craves. Do your best to always remain calm. Kids grab on to people that they feel can be anchors in their stormy lives.

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