Raising Responsible Adults Begins in Childhood
Are you raising your children to become responsible adults? This is a goal of most parents, but some may not know how to achieve success in this area. There are a variety of things parents can do, even when their children are quite young, to reach for this goal. It is vital to begin this process early and remain consistent with these practices through the years.
Because we love our children, we want to see them succeed. Sometimes parents want this so badly that they don’t allow their children to learn valuable lessons that would assist in developing a sense of responsibility. Teaching children to be responsible often necessitates that parents take a step back and even let their children experience some failures.
There are times that parents do need to be involved in order to help children succeed. For example, parents need to participate in their child’s education. But strive for balance. Parents can provide guidance without doing the work for the child.
As a teacher, I have witnessed both extremes during the recent period of distance learning. Some parents have obviously done assignments and even taken tests for their child, while others have not even helped their child look for any missing assignments. Fortunately, most have discovered a good balance. Those who haven’t have not taught their children anything about being responsible. Parents who have done too much haven’t allowed their children to learn valuable life lessons. Those who haven’t done enough have not been responsible parents, leaving their child without a good role model.
The advice I frequently give to parents is to have children do their homework independently, but to look it over when they are done. This teaches children to work independently, but the parent also holds them accountable. There is the added benefit of parents being able to help children in areas in which they are struggling.
One thing parents need to remember when raising responsible children is to not do things for them that they are able to do themselves. Teach children the skills they need in order to do tasks, praise them and then expect them to do these things for themselves. School-aged children can learn to dress themselves, pack their lunches, do their homework, and pack their backpacks the night before school. You may not mind doing these things for them, but allowing them to do things for themselves will help them grow into responsible individuals.
Children can be taught at a young age that we are all responsible for cleaning up our own messes. In my third-grade classroom, children frequently spill their water or items from their breakfasts. I don’t fuss at them. I just hand them the paper towels. They are aware that they are expected to clean up their own messes. Younger children may need help with the cleanup, but children in elementary school can clean up most of their messes independently.
Parents can also help their children learn to be responsible with money. When children break something that doesn’t belong to them, they need to learn to replace these items. If the child breaks a neighbor’s window with his baseball, he does need to be held accountable for the replacement window. One of my sons kicked through my sliding glass door when he was young. He obviously didn’t have the money to replace the expensive glass door, but he did end up paying for it. He did jobs around the house for me until the debt was repaid.
One of the most important ways parents can teach their children to be responsible is to lead by example. When you make a promise to your child, be sure to keep it. If you promise to play a game with your child after dinner, don’t make any excuses. Be sure to keep your word. If you don’t keep your promises, your child will likely grow up thinking she doesn’t need to either. Use “teachable moments” that happen every day. Explain to your child why you aren’t parking in the close parking spots marked for handicapped parking. Have discussions with your child about why we recycle and why we don’t litter.
Raising responsible children is not always easy. There will be times it would be simpler for you to do some things for your child. There will also be times that you don’t want your child to experience failure. However, children learn from challenges and disappointments. Let children learn from the natural consequences of their actions. While it can be tough for parents in the short term, the rewards are worth it.