Teach Your Children Responsibility Part 2
Responsible Kids Are Happy Kids
How it Works For Us
Too many children today are quick to ask for things they want you to buy them. Society is driven by greed and children learn this at an early age. In our family, we believe it is important to teach our children how to appreciate what they have and realize that there are others who are less fortunate. Recall in my previous post the strategies given for raising responsible children and the idea of not wasting what we are given. As such, part 2 continues strategies for teaching children (and teens) how to be responsible.
Encourage your children to think of others before themselves
One tradition in our family is having our children purchase a gift for less fortunate children around the holidays and wrapping their gift of choice. We then bring the gift to a homeless shelter or similar agency so they can see what it is like for others. This teaches them to be responsible for managing their needs and desires and thinking about others in need.
Give them job duties and make them work for what they want. Yes, it is possible to have young children do this and should be encouraged as early as possible. My 6 year old folds laundry, does dishes, cleans up around the house and helps with meal time preparation. She has been helping out around the house as early as 2 years old. All children should be given responsibilities so they take ownership for their messes and become part of the family unit.
Teens (and some of this applies to school aged children too)
Just as with younger children, give teens responsibilities around the house. In our family, my two teens want and have a cell phone. However, it does not come without having to contribute in some way. Each one of our teens has a job to do in our house that earns them the right to have a cell phone and also serves as payment for that bill. They may not have jobs on the outside but what we do in our house is just as important to teaching them responsibility.
Stress the importance of maintaining good grades
One of the most important ways to teach children that what they do now will develop who they become later is to stress the importance of hard work. We have always told our children that it is not as important to get an A, as it is to put forth what you are capable of. If we know they are capable of doing better we push them further. Do not tolerate mediocrity and let them get away with putting minimal effort if they are capable of so much more. When our son was younger he would write his spelling words and they would be sloppy (because he was lazy). This was not acceptable so we had him rewrite the words until it was up to his ability. Many a time this angered him but he quickly learned that it is more work when you don't try hard the first time.
Maintain a balance between parent and friend
It is perfectly okay to maintain an open line of communication with your teen and encourage them to be truthful about their activities and lives but remember that you are still the parent. Sometimes there is not a balance between the two and parents act more like a friend with their teen than a parent. It is important to establish do's and don'ts and stick by consequences if needed. A recent example occurred when our 15 year old decided to try alcohol at a football game. When we found out from a friend who was there, I called the neighbor (who was a cop) to use a scare tactic to let her know our stance on this issue. In addition, being that she was turning 16 soon after, she was not allowed to obtain her permit until trust was earned back. Sticking by your rules will teach them to be more responsible for themselves and have more self control.
Allow them to make family decisions
In our family we always discuss where we would like to vacation as a family and take a vote. Doing so gives them autonomy and ownership in the family. It also teaches them how to weigh the pros and cons of planning. We also set a budget and tell them how much money we have to spend. It teaches them how to be responsible for controlling their urge to spend on things that are not needed and how to allocate the money to things that might be more meaningful.
Although these strategies have worked with our family, I realize that every family is different and this may not apply to your situation. However, every parent has a goal to teach their children to be responsible and productive members of society, regardless of the parenting style they use. It is my hope that you obtained some useful information from my experiences as a parent of 4 children of different ages (16, 14, 6, and 1).