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I didn't mean to do it: I wish I never had

To encourage children to take responsibility for their actions.

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To encourage children to take responsibility for their actions.

Preparation and materials

  • Display some cartoon pictures depicting common ‘pranks’ or tricks played on people.
  • This assembly is particularly relevant following the kind of incident that happens from time to time in all schools – shoe down the toilet; hidden coat; defaced work; blocked washbasin, to mention but a few!
  • The possible consequences of bullying could also be linked to this assembly and all children be charged with a measure of responsibility to help prevent it.  


  1. ‘He/she told me to do it.’

    How many times have you heard someone make that excuse when they have been caught out doing something silly or naughty?

    You may have heard an adult respond with the words, ‘Would you put your hand in the fire if someone asked you to?’

    The adult is trying to show you that you would have enough sense not to do something if you thought you would be hurt by it, so you should show the same good sense not to do something that may harm someone else.
  2. We have to learn to take responsibility for what we do. If we are caught out doing something we shouldn’t be doing, then we have to accept that we have no one else to blame, and we should accept the consequences of our actions.

    Today we are going to hear about some young people who wished they had thought before they acted. What had seemed like harmless pranks had serious consequences for which they were responsible. The stories are not made up: they really happened.

    –  One boy thought it would be good fun to tease a girl in his class, so he pulled the chair away from behind her just as she was about to sit down. He thought it was a good laugh – until he realized she couldn’t get up again. She never was able to get up again because she had damaged her spine. She spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair. He didn’t think it was funny then and spent the rest of his life regretting what he had done. He couldn’t blame anyone else, and he certainly hadn’t intended to injure her, but that’s what happened.

    –  A teenage boy stood at the gate watching a girl riding a horse around the field. She seemed to be a good rider, but he wondered how good she would be if the horse started to gallop. The next time she came past him he threw a stone at the back of the horse, hoping it would be startled into a gallop. Instead of galloping, it reared up on to its hind legs and the girl fell backwards off the horse and lay motionless on the field. The boy was horrified when he found that she remained motionless even after the paramedics had attended to her. She was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. He was charged with her death and never forgot how his thoughtless action had taken the life of another person.

    –  The 12-year-old girl was crying inconsolably. She was walking through the shop accompanied by a man in a dark suit. ‘You won’t have to tell my mother, will you?’ she pleaded. ‘Please don’t call the police,’ she begged. ‘I won’t do it again,’ she promised. But it was all to no avail. She had been caught shoplifting and was to end up with a criminal record. She felt so ashamed when her mother attended the police interview with her, so embarrassed when her friends found out about it, so regretful when her teachers were told. But it was too late – she had only done it as a ‘dare’ and thought it would be exciting, but it wasn’t; it was simply the most horrible and frightening experience of her life.

    –  A gang of boys thought it would be fun to set fire to some grass alongside a motorway. It blazed and the fire spread quickly. For a time they enjoyed watching the smoke and flames leap into the air. But they didn’t feel so pleased with themselves when they realized that the smoke had drifted on to the motorway and limited the visibility along that stretch of road. They would never forget the sound of screeching brakes and tearing metal of a motorway pile-up that caused the death of a child and injured many people. They hadn’t meant it to happen – but it did.
  3. None of the children in these examples intended any serious harm to come to anyone, but they were responsible for what happened. They could not blame anyone else, and saying they didn’t mean it to happen was no excuse – because it did.

    In school, let us all try to think of the possible consequences of any actions we might do ‘just for a bit of fun’ or just to annoy someone. Let us think before we act so that we don’t come to regret our actions.

Time for reflection

We all do things that we regret, sometimes through carelessness and sometimes through stupidity, but it is best to admit our errors and accept the consequences rather than allow others to get the blame, or simply ‘lie low’ in the hope that we will never be found out.

The hopeful thing is that failure doesn’t have to be the last word. Christians believe that God forgives us the wrong and careless things we do when we are truly sorry. They believe that he helps us to change our ways. We can make up for the things we do wrong by becoming better people.

After Jesus was taken prisoner, Peter, who was one of Jesus’ best friends, swore that he didn’t know Jesus. Later, he was ashamed of his denial of Jesus. He accepted his failure and cried to Jesus for help. He was restored and became a leader of the early church.

St Paul persecuted Christians and had them thrown into prison. But he became the greatest Christian missionary.

Forgive us, Father,
when we do not think about the consequences of our actions.
Sometimes we hurt or upset other people by being thoughtless or unkind.
Sometimes we may even get pleasure by hurting or upsetting others.
We know that this is not how you would want us to be
and it is not how we would want to be treated.
Help us to try to follow the example of Jesus.


‘The King of love my shepherd is’ (Come and Praise, 54)

Publication date: February 2013   (Vol.15 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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