At the end of the day, most parents I know want to be able to say that they are the proud parents of a responsible, confident and independent adult. If that’s true for you, then the goal is to raise a child who wants to do the right thing, can think for himself and is ready to leave home at 18 years old equipped for the real world.
Let’s be more specific and consider a few different kinds of responsibility.
❖ Personal responsibility – taking care of yourself and becoming the best person you can be.
❖ Moral responsibility – doing what is right by friends, family and others.
❖ Community responsibility – volunteering, serving and contributing.
❖ Legal responsibility – following family rules, school rules and becoming law-abiding citizens.
❖ Financial responsibility – starting early with allowances to teach them about money management.
Exactly what does it mean to hold your child accountable? It means that you expect and require them to do what they are supposed to do at all times. Responsibility is at the foundation of lifelong success and a necessary component for being able to navigate and function in this convoluted world. To teach our kids about accountability is ongoing and doesn’t happen overnight.
Be warned, though. The exact opposite of this is raising an entitled child. It means doing things for them, allowing them to get by with wrong-doing, not requiring them to contribute to the family, managing their life for them and the list goes on…
What are some ways you can guide them down this road of responsibility?
❖ Give them choices. How are they going to practice being responsible if we don’t give them opportunities? Start early offering choices. Little kids get little choices, “do you want milk or juice” and big kids get big choices, “do you want to start your homework before or after you return from gymnastics”?
❖ Let them fail. The biggest mistake parents are making these days is not allowing their kids to experience adversity. So many parents tell me: “it just kills me to see them struggle” “but she’ll be upset” or “I just can’t stand it when she loses.” Fixing things for our children is innate within most parents, but it robs them of the opportunity to learn about responsibility and independence.
❖ Give them chores. Without a doubt, one of the best ways to begin the process of instilling responsibility is with chores. Children experience what it’s like to contribute to the greater good of the family. Doing chores with a parent builds a sense of pride. Let them be involved in the process of deciding which chores they would like to do. When they get to decide, they have ownership and the chances of compliance will be greater. This is opposed to us dictating that they clean their bathroom, wash their clothes and unload the dishwasher.
❖ Say it once, just once. I’ll bet I talk to at least one parent daily who says to me “I have to tell him over and over to go do what I asked. He just won’t listen.” My response is the very same each time. He knows he doesn’t have to. You see, his mother has a history of not holding him accountable when she asks the first time. Nothing good ever comes out of this scenario. With each request, mother gets more irritated and loud; the child gets frustrated that his mother is nagging. Most importantly, mother is not holding him accountable.
❖ Set a good example. Are you a blamer? Do you condemn your son’s baseball coach for what was your child’s error or do you criticize your daughter’s teacher for requiring that she redo her paper? Do you own your mistakes and correct them? Your attitude and behavior will be what influences your child.
So, there you have it—some ideas about how to stretch and grow your children as you guide them into adulthood. You will be equipping them with one of the attributes it takes to make it in this great big world: responsibility.
There’s Always Hope,
Need more help? Parents often jokingly ask Amy, “Will you go home with me?” While she can’t do that, Amy is available to consult with parents through her consultation services. Click Here to learn more.