You’ve probably noticed by now that being responsible doesn’t come naturally with most kids. It’s a skill that is developed in them through training. It’s learned. As parents this is one of the most crucial tasks that we must focus on in raising our children. What you do now during their formative in creating that sense of personal responsibility will have a far-reaching impact in determining what kind of adults they become and what they accomplish in life.
Attitude Traps to Avoid:
- Expecting responsible behavior.It is not in their nature. It must be learned through consistent training.
- Taking failure personally. Don’t assume that they hurt or disappointed you on purpose. (“If you really love us, you will be responsible.”) Don’t focus on motives, only behavior. If you ask ‘Why?’ you’ll get an ‘I don’t know’ response. Pushing harder for a better answer only results in a power struggle. A better approach would be, “I know you would like to be more responsible. Can you think of anything that might help you in the future?” Wait and listen at this point then follow up with “Is there anything that I can do to help you?” Avoid telling old war stories (“When I was your age…”)
- Expecting perfection. This doesn’t mean that we’ll accept mediocrity. We need to acknowledge their effort but push for higher levels of responsibility. Perfectionism only leads to “you always” or “you never” responses by the parent. Give credit when it is due. Reinforce responsible behavior.
- Devaluing their efforts. Don’t refuse to see the full value of what they have done.
- Expressing Spite. “If they don’t demonstrate responsibility, then they shouldn’t expect it from me.” (If they treat me poorly, I’ll treat them poorly.)
Steps for Developing Responsibility:
- Establish clear standards. State them clearly. Don’t assume they have the same standards as you. If you want a task done in a specific way, then make it clear. Make the standard attainable (age-appropriate) Show (model) rather than tell them how to do the task. (Even if you could do it better and faster)
- Specify selected rules. Carefully select and specify your rules. Be concrete. Don’t set more rules than you are able or prepared to enforce. Rules should not be made to be broken. The law must be applied before grace is appreciated.
- Set pre-determined consequences. Do it for consistency sake. During a conflict emotions can affect good judgment.
- Use logical consequences. This method puts the choice for right or wrong on the child. To choose unwisely results in negative consequences. The converse is also true. Kids are helped to see that their behavior is directly tied the events that follow. Let the punishment be logically tied to the misbehavior.
- Give positive reinforcement. Catch them doing what is right and reinforce it. Too often as parents our eyes are trained to find what is wrong. Keep in mind what may be positive for you may not be positive for them.
- Internalize standards. Rather than tell him how to be responsible in a particular area, ask him what standard he would like to meet. “How would you like your room to look like when company comes?” “What do you think would be a reasonable time to get in at night?” Ask the teen to consider what he wants for himself.
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