As a teacher and a mom of a large family, I am often asked how to teach kids to be responsible. I talk to many parents who are frustrated with their child's lack of skill in keeping track of things, remembering homework, and being accountable for their actions. I think the most important aspect to look at first is what ways are you inadvertently contributing to your child's irresponsibility. Too often we want our child to succeed and so we rescue them from learning opportunities.
For instance, you know your child forgot his school project or his football cleats and he is going to suffer the consequences from his teacher or coach. We don't want our child to get in trouble so we rescue them. We run back and forth delivering forgotten items and making sure that our child doesn't fail. We call teachers to fix grades, we call coaches and complain about lack of playing time, we complain about unfairness when our child is not choosing for a team or group.
This last week our school hosted a traveling theatre group and held auditions. I had one child get a part and one child who didn't. Whose fault was that? I heard that many parents were complaining about the unfairness of it. Who said anything in life was going to be fair.
I know for a fact that my child learned more from not getting a part than from getting one. She was probably goofing around and being silly.
How would it have benefitted her or taught her anything about if I had gone to the director or school and complained? Instead she learned that maybe she was the reason and it was her own actions that led to the consequence.
She also learned at 10 years old that life isn't fair and you don't always get what you want. It is a lot less painful at 10 than it will be at 19 when they are at college and you aren't there to rescue them or help them deal with feelings.
How are they to learn to be responsible if we constantly take the responsibility for them? How are they to learn about life if we don't let them experience it?
Parents who try to ensure their child's success by rescuing them often end up with irresponsible kids.
Responsibility has to be taught, and sometimes it is a little painful. For example, your child forgets his practice uniform or his homework and he is not allowed to play in the game that week or receives a lower grade.
Here is a significant learning opportunity for your child; you forget your stuff, you suffer the consequence.
If you bring it to them, all you have taught is that you are responsible for your child's things. It is not fun to watch your child struggle or suffer a consequence but so much better to experience consequences for actions when they pay out is relatively small.
If you raise an irresponsible child who is not accountable for his own actions, the size of the consequence increases. It is so much easier on parent and child to teach accountability when they are young.
Let your child learn about navigating friendships, school, teams, commitment and responsibility at a young age. Don't rescue them from natural consequences of their actions. Consult them on how they could have avoided suffering that consequence, but don't take away the consequence!
They learn so much from doing things themselves than they do with you stepping in a fixing things and making decisions for them. When they are teens the cost of not learning these lessons earlier goes up significantly. Now they are driving your car, dating someone else's child, making decisions about alcohol and drugs.
Ensure that they are good decision makers by giving them practice as younger children.
Let's raise responsible kids who succeed!