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Pinke: Teaching accountability to kids

WISHEK, N.D. - A small town in northern Minnesota raised the bar recently when the Thief River Falls, Minn., high school superintendent suspended the junior varsity and varsity hockey teams for a week for inappropriate behavior, which was indepen...

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WISHEK, N.D. - A small town in northern Minnesota raised the bar recently when the Thief River Falls, Minn., high school superintendent suspended the junior varsity and varsity hockey teams for a week for inappropriate behavior, which was independently investigated. It was also reported that all players will participate in mandatory counseling.

All kids need accountability and consistency.

My parents instilled accountability when I needed it most, particularly during my junior and senior years of high school and into my college years. I remember being so angry with them, embarrassed too, but through it all, they walked beside me and never wavered from their accountability. While it wasn't mandatory from my school, my parents forced me to receive counseling. I kept going through hard times and earned a college scholarship in track and field and a higher grade point average in college as an athlete and single mom than I did in high school.

My parents weren't my buddy, but they loved me unconditionally and cared about my future more than my present messes. I wouldn't admit it then, but I learned some of life's important lessons during those years.

I don't see consistent accountability and discipline as often as I did growing up. My husband and I want to instill the same accountability in our kids. We also expect to see it in our schools and from our kids' administrators, teachers and coaches.

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Teaching accountability takes focus, presence and teamwork, while leaning on our faith and the foundation our parents, teachers, coaches administrators and mentors gave to us when we were growing up. It indeed takes a village to raise as child - a deep network that consistently enforces boundaries and teaches accountability. For us, that started in our kids' daycare environment and should continue throughout their school, church and extracurricular activities.

The comments made by Thief River Falls' superintendent Bradley Bergstrom struck a chord: "We're not singling out players. The action is to show that a team rises and falls together as a team. They [hockey players] are my kids. All of the 2,072 kids in this district are my kids. But if they're not doing what they're supposed to do, we will hold them accountable.''

Bergstrom raised the bar for all schools, administrators, teachers, coaches and parents who must make difficult decisions with consequences. I don't know any students, teachers or parents in Thief River Falls, but I know hockey is like a religion in northern Minnesota, making the consequences all the more impactful. Parents put their kids on skates as soon as they can walk, and before kids are school age they are often playing competitive hockey. As a mom who once lived across the border in Grand Forks, N.D., I did the same for my young son.

As the Thief River Falls superintendent said, teams rise and fall together. Missing a few games will forever be etched in this team's memory. The reaction of parents will determine the magnitude of the decision on their children. Parents who brush it off and try to be their child's buddy, instead of a disciplinarian, will only continue to be ineffective with their kids. The parents who hold the hard line with their kids to teach them to respect the authority of the administration and school, and enforce consequences when kids don't do what they're supposed to do, will be more successful in building leaders who can learn from their mistakes.

There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to discipline, enforcing rules, setting boundaries or teaching accountability. But it starts at home and continues in our schools.

Reading about a small-town Minnesota school superintendent and school doing their part to hold a team accountable was encouraging. We're not alone in this journey of raising a next generation of kids. We're all in it together.

Editor's note: Pinke is the Agweek publisher and general manager. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com .

Related Topics: THIEF RIVER FALLSHOCKEY
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