When does it become THEIR problem?

Seriously, when does it become their problem?

What is the it?

Control over their own education, their own life, their own responsibilities, their own goals, their owns tribulations…all of it. All of life’s stuff. When does ownership change?

First, it is a parents’ fault. We did or didn’t breastfeed. We did or didn’t raise them in a church. We did or didn’t spank. We did or didn’t use timeout. We did or didn’t feed them only organic food.

Then, it is a teacher’s fault. We did or didn’t teach phonics. We did or didn’t teach long division. We did or didn’t make them memorize stuff. We did or didn’t believe in ‘playground’ justice. We did or didn’t protect them from bullying.

This is the quandary I am always in when teaching college freshfolks. When does it become their problem? I’m sorry your mom didn’t nurse you. I’m sorry you were bullied. I’m sorry you didn’t pay attention. I’m sorry your parents made you be home by midnight. I’m sorry a teacher was mean.

Your assignment is still due. I still expect you to do high-quality work.

When does this happen?

I think of my father often. He said that while our past can affect who we are – we are still human beings making our own choices. We could choose to wallow around in mistrust and anger – or we can choose to move forward. To get hurt again, but to always believe the best in others….and most of all, to keep moving forward.

Have we become a culture of excuse-making and excuse-taking? I wonder…

When I make a decision I feel the need to find 14 reasons why that decision is ‘good.’ This drives my husband BANANAS. I’m not joking. It goes something like this…

Me: So, I’ve been thinking.
Him: Oh boy.
Me: I think we should buy the Brats at Hy-Vee.
Him: Okay.
Me: Well, I know they are about the same price as they are at that other place. But – we can also get some fuel saver points. Also, there are several types of brats there – green onion, apple, and your favorite – jalapeno! They also seem fresh, the other brats are packaged and who knows how long they have been sitting in that package. Also, H-Vee is based in Iowa – so we know that part of our money is going to help Iowans, not to mention our son who works at Hy-Vee. So, that’s why I think we should buy them at Hy-Vee.
Him: I already said okay. You are an intelligent woman. I don’t need all of the reasons. I trust your judgment.

Hmmmm…okay…while that’s not excuse-making. It may be excuse prevention at its best!

So, I’m sort of like my students. I would argue that providing excuses and justifications for even the smallest decision prevents having to make excuses for poor decisions. But even then, why do we need to make excuses? I’m willing to just admit when I have messed up – it isn’t my printer’s fault, or the road construction, or my roommate. I could have done a better job controlling all of those external forces. The real problem is me. It’s my problem.

Because it’s MY problem I want to be sure that I have thought all the way through my problem. When did these decisions and problems become mine? I’m pretty sure sometime in High School when I became responsible for the outcomes of my own decisions. Take for example, my first traffic violation.

I recently heard a story of a young person getting a speeding ticket. They didn’t tell their mom, because she would ‘freak out.’ Well…the young person evidently forgot that those pesky things are in the local newspaper. Whoops.

I was a bit dismayed at this – I remember my first violation well. It was a stop sign. I didn’t stop. Worse yet, it was right beside a house where my older brother was attending a party. Awesome. So, as I stopped for the officer with lights and sirens going – my brother and all of his friends stood and watched.

When I got home that night, I was a little afraid to tell my parents…but I certainly didn’t think they would ‘freak-out.’

Here is how that conversation went…

Me: I got a ticket for not stopping at a stop sign.
Mom: Where
Me: (Describe location)
Mom: Did you know there was a stop sign there? Hadn’t you seen it?
Me: Yes. Yes I did.
Mom: Well that was sure dumb. Do you need me to transfer some money from your savings to your checking account to pay for the ticket?
Me: Probably.
Mom: Okay. Go to bed. Love you.

No ‘freak-out’…why? What was the purpose? They already knew I wasn’t perfect. It was MY problem…not theirs. The very opposite of the title….I was a Junior in High School and it was my problem.

I just answered my own question. Now is the time. I need to teach them that all of their academic/life choices are THEIR problem. External influences can cause action – but it their own internal ‘dumb’ (thanks mom) that caused the problem.

Now. Now is the time…I have to make them aware of their problem.

Add it to the list of things to teach – to the list that their parents and teachers didn’t get done.

Oh wait, that’s me…making excuses and placing blame. It’s my problem now.

My problem – to teach them about THEIR problems. No more passing the buck…let’s get to work.

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