The Buck Stops Here

Amy Weisberg, M.E.

I think a lot about what I can do to help this troubled world from my small place on this planet; the perspective is so different from inside the Topanga bubble.

Here in Topanga, many are enlightened, educated and forward thinking. They have cultural literacy, and many have a multinational perspective that brings tolerance to our microcosm of society.  

I work with young children who view the world through the innocent lenses of childhood. Children are naive and so logical when it comes to social relationships. They don’t spend time comparing color and they can logically explain why sometimes boys want to marry boys and girls want to marry girls. They come to school in superhero shirts; princess dresses and animal-print leggings and think they are beautiful and invincible.

I wonder what I can do to help these small, animated humans grow into responsible, aware young adults. I’ve watched them bring their creative ideas and reflections of our society to the classroom and realize that the one area I can help the children with is the area of acceptance, not only of each other, but also of their own shortcomings and mistakes.  

Using the Conscious Discipline ( program in my classroom has enabled me to improve myself and how I react to situations. It has equally helped me to teach the children proactive ways to deal with uncomfortable situations and how to reclaim their own power. One of my favorite quotations from the program is “Mistakes are an opportunity to learn.” It gives us permission to make mistakes without the fear of shame and humiliation because mistakes are a natural part of the learning process; most importantly, it encourages them to take responsibility for our mistakes.

Often, we are encouraged to blame others for our mistakes in order to find a reason why the mistake happened and, most importantly, why the mistake is not our fault. Conscious Discipline encourages allowing the mistake to be our fault and to learn from it.

The buck does have to stop somewhere. If we constantly blame others for our role in making a bad decision, an impulsive act, a sudden burst of temper, or for an injury that occurred, it can become a habit that is not sustainable. In life, there comes a time when we must be accountable for our actions, whether success or failure.

How can we help children learn accountability? We are the role models, the living examples, who can recount where our actions have led to mistakes, hurt feelings and poor choices. By putting the focus on ourselves, our children can see that it doesn’t always have to be a huge, embarrassing situation. We can acknowledge our mistake, talk about it, apologize and then, when all are comfortable, move forward.

Another way we can teach our children about accountability is to use examples we see in the world around us and ask them what they would have done in the same situation. If they come home with stories from school or with situations that happened with their friends, we can have honest discussions that allow them to reflect and decide on alternative ways to respond to the situation.  

Giving children the words they need to facilitate discussions with their friends and family members, teaches them the power of words and empowers them to handle some of their own problems and uncomfortable social situations. Some examples of language to use are:

“Stop it. I don’t like it when you_______.”

“Listen to what I am saying.”

“No means no.”

“My feelings are hurt because _________.”

“I am sad because _____________.”

Teaching children empathy begins with them recognizing what their feelings are and what these feelings look like when others are feeling them. We can teach them what it looks like to be angry, sad, frustrated, scared, happy and excited.

In school, we do this as empathy training using a program called Second Step ( At home, parents can talk about their feelings to show children what they look like, either with a mirror, or by demonstrating facial expressions and saying, “You look angry. Your face is scrunched up and your arms are crossed.” When children have their feelings acknowledged, they can relax and explain what happened that made them feel upset. They also can gain awareness of the feelings of others, thus developing empathy.

As parents, teachers and adults we can model how we take responsibility for our own behavior and acknowledge the behavior and mistakes of our children without blame or denial, but by accepting, discussing and helping our children learn and grow into responsible, empathetic, expressive adults who are willing to acknowledge that the “buck” stops at our own feet, where we must find a way to deal with it.


Amy Weisberg

Amy Weisberg M.Ed., LAUSD Teacher of the Year 2019 and LACOE Teacher of the Year 2019- 2020—A mother with three grown daughters and a teacher with 40 years’ experience, consults with teachers and parents, as well as provides support for students. For more information:;

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