Young people have choices, both conscious and nonconscious. These choices are a significant factor in determining their lives. The sooner young people become aware of this, the earlier they will start to make responsible choices.

Young people also become more responsible when they learn that regardless of a situation that cannot be changed, regardless of a stimulation that causes emotions to erupt, and regardless of an urge or impulse, they always have the power and freedom to chose how they respond. The ability is referred to as choice-response thinking.

Teaching young people about choice-response thinking and that they need not be victims may be one of the most valuable thinking patterns we can give them.

Choice empowers. Choice, control, and responsibility are so woven together that one significantly affects the others. Make a choice, and control is enhanced. Fail to choose, and control is diminished. The more responsibility that is chosen, the more control follows. Deny responsibility, and control is given up.

We become more responsible by being aware of the choices we make. This realization plays an important role in how people direct their lives. As Harry Potter’s mentor, Albus Dumbledore, advised the youth, “It is not our abilities that say who we are. It is our choices.” It’s not only the circumstances in which we find ourselves, but also our choices that make us who we are. Because we always have the freedom to choose, we are therefore responsible for our own behaviors. Teaching young people that they choose their own behaviors helps them become conscious that no one else chooses their behaviors for them.

The critical difference between optimistic thinking and pessimistic thinking has to do with the perception of control which, in turn, depends upon perception of choice. The optimist believes choices are available; the pessimist doesn't.

Young people can be taught to self-talk in enabling and self-powering ways. Here are a few thinking starters that help in making responsible choices:

• My choice is....
• I made this choice because....
• The results of my choice will be....

If these thoughts were to be written, carried on a small card, and referred to each day for twenty-one (21) days, they would become a habit. No extra effort would be required. It would become a natural way of thinking.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Marvin Marshall is an American educator, writer, and lecturer. He is known for his program on discipline and learning, his landmark book Discipline Without Stress, Punishments or Rewards - How Teachers and Parents Promote Responsibility & Learning, and his presentations about his multiple-award winning book Parenting Without Stress - How to Raise Responsible Kids While Keeping a Life of Your Own.