Character Chats


What is responsibility?

Here at True Balance Karate in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social-emotional learning program called true character.

And this month, we’re talking about responsibility.

I am Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. I have two master’s degrees in education, having taken 15 years of classroom teaching and applying it here to help our students become their best selves. Our youngest is 3 and our oldest is 83.

Defining responsibility

And this month, we are talking about responsibility.

Now, for our younger kids, we talk about it as being the person who gets the job done. For our older kids, it’s helping them recognize that they’re doing what’s required, what’s expected, what’s needed of them, both of which are very important for them to understand.

When we talk about responsibility, we talk about someone being reliable. We talk about someone being accountable. We talk about someone being dependable.

What does that mean?

And so we describe what that all means.

When you’re reliable, when you say you’re going to do something, you follow through and you do it.

When you’re accountable, you own up to mistakes, and you follow through with what you said you were going to do.

And when you’re dependable, you have said you will be there at a certain time, so that’s the time you show up. You have promised to bring snacks or a pencil or a book to some place that you’re going, people can depend on you to do those things.

Keeping your promises is another way of showing responsibility.

It’s something that our younger kids can really understand, in terms of keeping your promises.

Adult responsibilities

For our adult students, we all know about responsibilities. We have a lot of responsibilities.

Some of us are raising kids, going to work, own our own companies, or run small teams of people, bills to pay, day to day things that need to be taken care of, all of which add up to our responsibilities.

And when we talk about that for our adult students, we talk about efficient use of our time, making sure that we take care of what has to be done, so that we have time for things that we enjoy, for things that we’re passionate about, for things that we like to do.

And so as we talk about this, we try to make sure that we have bridged the gap between work and play.


Another thing that we talk about when we talk about responsibilities is what would happen if we didn’t do our responsibilities, if we didn’t take out the trash, if we didn’t cook any food, if we didn’t wash our clothes.

And last month, we talked about teamwork, and I feel like responsibility goes right in line for that.

And as I’m sitting here, I’m thinking about a time that my own two kids, they were 12 and 9, roughly, 11 and 8, something like that. They weren’t being really great team players at home. And my husband and I, we went on strike for three weeks, because they needed to get the message that there are a lot of responsibilities that we all have, as being part of the team at our home. And they were still supervised, absolutely. But we didn’t fix them breakfast. We didn’t make sure their lunch was packed. We didn’t make dinner. We didn’t wash their clothes. We didn’t wash any dishes. We supervised. We absolutely did supervise. So there’s pictures of me standing there in the kitchen, watching them cooking a meal and them going, “Why won’t you help?”

Taking care of each other

And me saying, “These are all of our responsibilities. We all take care of each other. We all do what needs to be done, so that we can continue to work as a team. And when one of us doesn’t follow through, that leaves more work for the other person.” And it took them a couple weeks to get the message.

However, at the end of it, the message that they really understood is that if you’re part of a team, you’re also taking care of each other.

You’re also relying on each other. You’re also depending on each other, and you’re doing the things that need to be done, so you can have more fun later.

So now, when we cook dinner, they’re willing to pitch in, and they’re willing to cut up some vegetables and things like that. They’re 17 and 14, at this stage of the game.

Being independent

When I ask them to do smaller things, clean their room, they understand more of the idea of what responsibility is.

So as we continue through this process, thinking about what can our kids handle?

When they’re little, their responsibilities are really small, like picking up their toys. As they get older, maybe there’s less things we have to do for them as parents, because we want them to become independent, responsible, positive members of society.

So I would challenge all of you to take a look around and see what are your responsibilities, see what responsibilities can be given to somebody else, and empower someone around you to help out with those things.

And we will continue to talk about being the person who gets the job done.

Thanks, and we’ll see you on the mat.


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here.