Did you know that there is a language where the word CONSEQUENCE or its equivalent is not found? United Families International learned this unforeseen truth when we introduced STAY ALIVE, an AIDS prevention program, to schoolchildren in Africa. It is easy for us to explain why we “do or do not,” and “should or should not” by explaining choice and consequence. The children we taught could not comprehend that there would be a consequence to their decisions and actions, because they had never heard the word “consequence” in their language. Our children are fortunate to know such a word as long as they understand its significance in the choices they make.
Several months ago my husband and I met a man who had recently been released from prison. I’m assuming that he had been married because he has two adult children living on the east coast. He has nothing to do with them…and they have nothing to do with him…I wonder which came first. He’s old and he’s sick and he has no one to care for him. I have wondered what choices he made that resulted in his being alone at this vulnerable time of his life?
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “We shape our lives and we shape ourselves…And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.”
1. Choice “implies the freedom to choose from a set of persons or things or actions.” It is an option. “The power, right or liberty of choosing.”
2. A consequence is “that which logically or naturally follows from an action or condition; an effect; the result.
3. Accountable emphasizes liability for something of value either contractually or because of one’s position of responsibility.” People who are accountable think about long-term consequences before they act. They accept responsibility for the consequences of their choices and their associations. They fulfill their consequential duties, not because of payment, force, or fear of repercussion, but because they are living a value that gives higher meaning and purpose to life. They do not make excuses, blame others for their mistakes, act like a victim, or take credit for another’s success.
In my opinion choice, accountability, and consequence are three of the most crucial words in our vocabulary, and we need to sit our children and grandchildren in front of us and give a lesson on how these three words will decide their future. Part of this lesson could involve roll playing, but however we choose to teach it, they need to understand the reality of the relationship. Then when real life choices are made, our children need to experience real life consequences…and the earlier, the better. We as parents do a great disservice to our children when we cushion the consequences of their choices.
Several years ago our teenaged daughter was involved in a minor car accident, (if $2000 worth of damage could be considered minor.) We gave her the option of paying the deductible and letting the insurance pick up the cost. We helped her understand that with that choice she would also have to pay the difference in price as our insurance premiums increased each month after that. OR she could work and pay the entire $2000. She chose to work and pay us the $2000. It took her all summer, and it was painful for her to hand over that kind of money when she would rather have spent it differently. However, we had talked to her about “tail-gaiting…” She chose poorly, and as mean as it sounds, we felt that she needed to feel the consequential pain. When this daughter married, she and her husband made the conscious decision to always drive so as to avoid accidents and tickets. Their money was needed too many other places. A wise and responsible CHOICE…perhaps because she had already felt the sting of that consequence earlier in life!
Again…“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words. It is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” –Eleanor Roosevelt