Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lessons in Life

Have you ever encountered someone who is unable to admit when they are wrong? To me, it's one of the most frustrating experiences; when someone refuses to take responsibility for their actions.

My 13-year-old stepdaughter is absolutely unable to admit she's made a mistake or error. She refuses to say the words "I am wrong" or "I made a mistake" or "It was my fault". Even when all the evidence points directly to her, she still is unwilling to step up and take the responsibility.

Case in point: last night at dinner, I noticed she was wearing a pair of my sock. Not a big deal, but I said "hey - you have my socks on". Her response was, "Well they were in my drawer". To which I replied, "Well your dad and I did not put them in your drawer, you are in charge of putting your own clothes away". Her rebuttal was "They were in the back of my drawer, so they must have been there a long time".

Not once did she say "I'm sorry, I must have grabbed them by mistake". Or "I probably put them in there a while ago, I'm sorry".

After we established they were mine, and she became very defensive, I said to her, "Is there anything you'd like to tell me?", prompting her for the appropriate phrase. Her response was a very angry/defensive/snotty/huffy, "I'm sorry I took your socks, ok?!?". Definitely not a sincere apology/admission of responsibility.

I admit, her taking my socks is not a big deal. It's completely inconsequential (except, of course, that roughly 50% of her socks end up "mate-less" after she wears them). I was not upset they were on her feet, just pointing out that she was wearing my socks and therefore should not place that pair in her drawer after the next time they were washed.

However, as she listed excuses for why they were on her feet - an attempt to not take responsibility - I got frustrated and disappointed. Her dad stepped in and tried to explain to her that taking responsibility for your errors in life, and admitting you're wrong, will only result in others respecting and liking you. The more you are able to admit you're wrong, the more people will view you as honest, human, and likeable.

Yet she sat at the dinner table for over an hour debating the issue and continuing to blame her drawer for having held my socks. She could not understand that there was a difference between saying "I'm sorry, I must have grabbed them by mistake" and "Well they were in my drawer". To her, those two statements are one in the same.

What a frustrating conversation... to help her learn this lesson and see the difference between making excuses and taking responsibility/admitting error.

She still hasn't understood the message. I admire her tenacity and how she is willing to stick to her guns even after an hour of discussion. However, if she doesn't learn this lesson now, it will become increasingly difficult to learn as she gets older.

This isn't the first time she has shifted blame to others, or even to inanimate objects. It's a pattern we've seen in her for quite a while. In fact, not only is she unable to admit her mistakes, she also has double-standards for how she treats others vs. how they should treat her.

But... one lesson at a time. Either we'll get through to her and she'll be more successful in college/career, OR she will continue failing and will remain the victim in all situations where things don't exactly go her way.

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