Responsibility. That word is now known for sending chills up and down everyone’s spines instead of inspiring independence and confidence. How come? Because responsibility means being willing to own up to our mistakes as well as focus on taking charge of the things that we need to take charge of. If we are being honest, how many of us tend to actually want to take responsibility for our actions or even our own things? Very few of us if we are being completely open. Our culture nowadays does not encourage much responsibility in any of us. All we have to do is turn on the news and we end up seeing how much our culture resents responsibility. In fact, most television shows, podcasts, or even video games don’t inspire much responsibility in us or our children. In light of this overwhelming tidal wave of media influence, how do we as parents teach our children responsibility?
First, we need to practice responsibility ourselves. We show our children that we are willing to own up to our mistakes, and we take charge of things that we need to take charge of. This isn’t easy but we provide our children with a prime example of what responsibility is and how it can be truly empowering when we take care of things. Modeling and being an example to our kids also gives them less of an excuse to not follow through.
Second, we must give our children safe opportunities to be responsible. Every child at every age and stage can learn a new life skill and have a privilege that they can learn to maintain. Now that doesn’t mean that we should give our kids a cart-Blanche to do what they want. Instead we give them simple tasks that they can maintain and have a chance to do well in. This may mean that we adjust what life skill we are teaching to our child’s age and ability in order for them to be successful. We also don’t give our children a privilege that they are very clearly not ready for. If our children have a habit of throwing tantrums whenever they don’t get technology, then we don’t give our children access to their own technology. If they don’t show respect for other people’s personal property and break it, then we make it a point to have our child either pay for the damage themselves or do work to pay for the damage. It is important to keep in mind that privileges are exactly that, privileges. If our children don’t show themselves ready for the privileges then they do not need it.
Third, we require our children and ourselves as parents to admit our mistakes. This is a really hard concept to grasp, I know. And if we are being completely honest, we don’t like saying that we’ve gotten something wrong. After all, we’re independent individuals. Who can tell us when we’re wrong? What I’m suggesting is something that doesn’t come naturally, but it is completely necessary. We don’t always get things right, and that is completely okay! If we are willing to admit our mistakes, we often open ourselves up to learning new things and allowing ourselves to grow. The same can be said of our kids. If we encourage them to be willing to say that they were wrong and be willing to do what they can to fix the problem, then we teach them some essential life skills that they will need for the future. Namely, we teach them how to solve a problem and not to become completely unhinged when they make a mistake.
Fourth, we expect nothing less then the best from our children and from ourselves when it comes to tasks or life skills. Many times we tend to look for shortcuts when it comes to every day tasks or even job responsibilities, but looking for these loopholes tends to cost us in the long run and tend to produce slip shod work. When it comes to teaching our children responsibility, we must require them to do their best and do things with a quality work ethic. And we must do the same thing out of ourselves. For example, you require your child to do a chore such as sweeping the floor. You don’t accept their work unless they sweep all of the dust and dirt off of the floor. The same concept applies to each of us when we do our work.
Finally, we must be willing to accept the consequences for our actions whether good or bad. This is going to be the most controversial statement I will make in this entire blog. Everything we do, right or wrong, has a consequence. And we can’t run from them. We can temporarily delay the consequences but we can’t take them away. Often times when we delay or run from facing the consequences, it only compounds the aftermath whenever we face it. This is a concept that is a hard one to learn and an even harder one to teach. It is an essential one that we can teach our children in order to help them with being able to face difficult situations in life as well as being willing to take action when necessary. Accepting the consequences for our actions can not only teach us responsibility but also resiliency when times get difficult.
Responsibility is a difficult concept to teach our children, but it is a necessary one. We must be willing to learn what we need to own and what we don’t need to own as well as taking care of what is really ours. When we teach our kids the concept of responsibility, we empower them in ways that we never thought possible. Our job as parents is not only to teach our children right from wrong, but how to eventually take care of all themselves when they are adults. This process may be difficult, but the end result is always worth it.