Outside of a relatively few sociopaths and psychopaths who are born into our world, most people know by the time they are adults what things are good and what things are bad, what is right and what is wrong.
Resilience cannot be taught, responsibility can. Resilience is what happens, how one responds, when things do not go well, when they do not go your way, or sadly when bad things happen.
Experience is the main teacher of Resilience. That whole “what does not kill us makes us stronger ” line of thought.
When children are young, most things are just not their fault. If they snatch a cookie or break a lamp then those things are their fault, but those are not the things I am speaking of.
I am referring to the bad things the adults in their lives do.
Once that child turns 18, they become responsible for their actions and the result of their actions. Members of society can feel compassion for that newly minted adults past and where appropriate temper the response to negative behaviors. In the same response that new adult must learn that they are now accountable and responsible for what they do from that day forward.
As a society we are now approaching 80 years of increasing permissiveness and tolerance of bad behavior. Justifying the softer responses by blaming actions on a poor home life and upbringing.
That has to change course, there has to be a correction in that response that highlights accountability and responsibility for the individual.
The “oh you poor thing ” response has created at least a generation and a half of people who literally refuse to be accountable for their actions, and more people too lazy to force them to take responsibility for those actions.
The easy way out (and most destructive way) is to blame things on others, the harder path is to hold them accountable and teach responsibility.
That does not mean we incarcerate every kid that makes a mistake or throw them away. It means we make the punishment and consequences real enough with that first mistake that they choose to not repeat it or anything like it.
I will give you a personal example from my own life.
At 18 my unplanned daughter was born to a woman who did not want children. She did not want an abortion, she was going to give the child up for adoption. As i mention in another post I had mentors in the Military and they formed a support network before that term was a buzz phrase.
I took sole custody of my child and raised her as a single father, with the help of my support system; people who were more family to me than my blood relatives were. I could share stories of when I was shot down in combat, both times, and how they took care of her and me. I could share how they would smack me around when I was being a dolt. I could share lots of things, but I what will share with you is a direct experience of what I mean about making the hard choice to do the right thing, instead of the easy thing and blame bad behavior on others.
In her teens my kid knew point blank that if she was ever anyplace and the people she was with did something wrong she was to leave them and call me or whomever in our family was nearest.
I was on duty one night at the base, an hour from home, when I got a call from the Police in the town we lived in. My 16 year old kid, along with five of her girl friends, had been arrested with drugs and alcohol, driving around partying. Fortunately the drugs amounted to a small bag of pot and one girl had her mothers prescription bottle of Valium on her.
I told the sergeant I was off duty in an hour and then had an hour drive there but I would be there soon. I called the parents of the other five girls and told them the same and that I would be seeing them at the station.
I then called the Duty Officer and the Chief who was my replacement on the next shift and filled them in. They both hightailed it to the base so I could leave watch early.
I raced home, having to prevent myself from speeding through the half dozen small towns between my home and the base.
When i got to the station the other parents were waiting. Three sets were outraged that the police dared to arrest their daughters. They babbled about entrapment and lawsuits for false arrest. The other two sets were bewildered, irritated and concerned about what their kids had gotten into.
The Sargent let me speak to my daughter who was crying, snot nosed, afraid and down right ashamed. I asked her what happened and as I saw the lie forming on her lips, I warned her not to lie to me, as the result would be beyond her worst expectations. She admitted what they were doing and what they had on them and where they got it.
I told her okay and that I would see her in the morning at her arraignment. She cried and howled that she wanted me to take her home and that she had learned her lesson. I told her that she had not learned it yet, but would soon. I left her in that jail cell with the others to wait out their hearing in front of the judge.
I went back out front and told the others that she admitted what they had done and would be telling the judge in the morning. As you can imagine the three sets of parents were outraged and began demanding that the Sargent call their lawyers. The other two sets and I talked and went home.
That tiny town did not use plastic zip ties back then so the girls entered the courtroom at 7 a.m. in handcuffs and shackles like every other criminal in the dock. My sweet 16 year old little girl in chains, snot on her face, hair matted, still crying and scared.
She was first up to speak to the judge. I stood beside her. The judge asked if she did what she was was charged with, and as I heard her breathe catch and beginning of a lie start to come out of her mouth. I loudly told her that either she told the truth or I would tell the judge what she had told me.
She chose the truth. After speaking the judge asked me what I though was appropriate, and I told him she deserves what the law requires, nothing more nothing less.
The judge heard the rest of the girls and the three lawyers, before he handed down sentences. The three girls that told the truth got 100 hours picking up trash with the jailees to be served on saturdays and sundays. The other three, with lawyers each got 200 hours, because the Judge did not like being lied to.
He could have sent them all to jail for three years on each of three charges and would have if they chose to fight the sentences. They all accepted, even those with lawyers.
She had to be at the jail at 6 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays to get in her prisoner orange jumpsuit and get on the bus by 7. The bus drive to the worksite for that day by 8. They worked until lunch, ate a sandwich and went back to work until four when the trip was reversed.
Dear old Dad here arranged with my command to be off every weekend until she was done. I made sure she was up at 5, ate a breakfast and was at the jail at 6 on the dot.
I, along with two of the other parents followed the bus to the days worksite. I Pulled out my folding chair, my umbrella, and my cooler and watched her work. I was there for each and every hour, making sure she worked and that she was safe. Sometimes we played cards, other times we just watched.
That was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. Every minute, every tear she shed, every snot bubble that oozed out of her nose tore me up. But I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew she cursed me and she would hurl invective my way at home about how mean and hateful I was. I would just nod my head and let her rant. Never showing how painful those words were to hear.
The epilogue to this is that in that year and the next one, the three girls whose parents tried to blame the cops for their kids bad behaviors, spiralled out of control.
All three became pregnant within six months. All three stared doing what was called meth then which is much different than today’s meth. Two of the kids were born with severe birth defects, the third was stillborn its insides on the outside of its little body.
Two of the girls started turning tricks, the other was beaten to death after she was gang raped by the druggies she hung around with. The remaining two contracted HIV and sero-converted to full blown AIDS in less than a year.
My daughter graduated from NYU with a dual Masters in Finance and Economics. The other two, one is an MD and the other works for NASA. None of them have ever had a single lick of trouble since that one episode.
We have talked about this over the years and she has more than apologized for the hateful words and understands my reasons for doing this. If she faces the same dilemma with any of her kids,she will do the same thing I did.
She was not some perfect machine after her punishment, but she never made a serious mistake like that again. She tells me it was my obvious disappointment in her actions that hurt her the most. That was what she never wanted to feel again.
I love my child and will do almost anything to help her, even when helping is letting her fall and experience the consequences of her actions.