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Raising a Teenager to Learn the Importance of Responsibility

Updated on February 23, 2010

My challenge right now as a mother of a fourteen year old young man, is to learn how to be patient in my approach to teaching the importance of responsibility and accountability. These are such vital characteristics that I want to be sure to instill in my kids. My oldest son especially being that he's almost through with eighth grade and on his way to start high school by the end of the year.

Of course it's not only now that I've (actually we, my husband and I) begun to stress the importance of these issues. We made sure to start from when they were young enough to know right from wrong. I was a very young Mom myself when I had my first son. I was only 17 when he was born. I wasn't sure of a lot of things at that time, but I knew one thing for sure and that was the fact that I would do everything I could to instill great qualities and characteristics in my son as a solid foundation for what he'd have to go through in life.

 I'm a young mother, but that hasn't stopped me from becoming the very strict parent that I am. Maybe it's because of the things I've done in my past that helps me always be on my toes, thinking a few steps ahead. Like I always tell my son, whatever you're thinking, planning, or what not, chances are I've already been there and done that myself. LOL!

I remember being at a basketball tournament with my friends and sitting in the stands in the front row. My son, only about 2 at the time, was sitting next to me. He got up and stood around  then slowly took a few steps away, turning his head to see my reaction. I only had to look at him and barely call his name and he already knew not go any further. My friends laughed at the fact that he just knew by the look on my face that he wasn't suppose to go anywhere. That was the level of strictness I had with him at that age, and have continued to be that way until now.

I never wanted to be that parent who had to chase their child everywhere while in public, letting my 2 year old dictate what I had to do. That was not going to be me.

 The strictness in my parenting only helps me to deliver the issues of importance to my kids. My son thankfully knows that he can always be open and honest with me, in fact I'm glad when he has questions that maybe I would've hesitated asking my parents when his age. I make sure he understands that any strictness he deals with from us is because we love him and want to see him do the best for himself in life. At one point or another, life becomes difficult, a challenge at best. I'd rather be considered too strict in other people's eyes and prepare him for having to deal with consequences, than to let my son believe that "Oh no, son you don't have to worry about this or that". He's fourteen, and as I tell my son- if you want to gain more independence in life, you're gonna first have to show more responsibility. In our house, you don't just get to do what you want. Responsibilities come first, and what you're able to do on your own time is dependent upon that. 

According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary responsibilty means:

1 : the quality or state of being responsible: as a : moral, legal, or mental accountability b : reliability, trustworthiness
2 : something for which one is responsible : burden <has neglected his responsibilities>

Some may think that it's too high of an expectation to have for a fourteen year old boy to be completely responsible. I have some people tell me "just let him be a kid, he doesn't have to worry about any of that stuff". Okay, so let him be him, with no responsibilities whatsoever so that when he gets older he feels that the world is just a big playground and then later on in life wonder why he has it so hard and wonder why everything takes so much work. My view is to not only explain to him what responsibility is, but also put it into practice in our everyday life. My goal is to show him that it's not just him who should display this, but all of us. And we do so as parents by our actions.

I've always believed that actions speak louder than words. My husband and I show in every way that we can to our kids that responsibility is everywhere. It can range from small issues to something big. Picking up the toy in the middle of the hallway, instead of walking by to making sure the yardwork is done by the end of every week. Nevertheless, it should remain a constant in our lives. I also explain that not everyone is responsible, but that it's a choice you have to make in order to be a better person and ultimately make your life easier. I'm not perfect by all means. I do however try my best to be responsible for myself and my actions in all that I do. This is what I want my son to learn to do for himself. I want to know that through our examples, this message is what he'll remember. It's hard to press the importance of responsibility in him when he sees that there are people out there who don't have any and seem to be just fine. That's where my persistance comes into play. I keep our communication open about everything we observe.

For instance, we're watching a show where a lady was attacked by a polar bear at a zoo. The bear had grabbed her by the hip through the bars and was trying to pull her into his cage. Thankfully she ended up okay, but after all was said and done I just had to bring up a very important point. So I tell my son, honestly- that lady could've avoided that whole situation if she had made more responsible decisions. The lady was at a zoo looking at the polar bears who mind you, was surrounded by two...yes, TWO diffeferent barriers in front of his cage. But in attempt to get a better photo, she decided to climb those barriers in order to be as close to the cage as possible. It's situations like these I explain why it's so important to look at all situations and make responsible decisions.

I understand that kids will be kids. Yes, we all make mistakes especially when we're younger. Those mistakes are what we learn from. But it shouldn't stop us as parents to try our best to instill these qualities in our children everyday. The more positive reinforcement they hear about what they should be doing, the more chances you have of them actually contemplating and eventually acting upon them.

The early teenage years are times that are easy to let kids slip by, and ease up on strictness. We want to give them their "space" as young adults, but I think these years are more vital than ever to be on top of what's going on in their lives. Ask about how school went when they get home, check their backpacks (90% of the time it's in desperate need of being organized which is a lot of the reason why they end up with missing assignments), ask about their day, engage in daily conversations that involve other things besides school. Don't let them stay cooped up in their rooms and only come out to eat. I made it a rule recently (part of his being grounded) that my son could only be in his room when he's sleeping or changing his clothes. Otherwise he had to be out in the living/family room or kitchen with everyone else. This has been one of the best decisions we've made. Because of this, my son's more conversive with us as parents, plays more often and gets along better with his younger sister and brother, and has closed that somewhat distant gap between us all.

As far as school goes luckily for me, I'm able to go online and check my son's grades in all his classes, homework assignments, points earned on tests, classwork turned in and missing assignments. If grades are slipping, I can sit down with him and go over why they're that way. I check homework everynight, make sure he doesn't have any questions on anything, and if he does I show him how even though I may not know the answer, I can find out myself by looking in the book. Right now he's not at a point of needing a tutor, he's showing signs of understanding and earning points needed in some areas. His grades have been pretty good till recently. After a lot of long discussions and explainings of why he's grounded and having to work his way out of that, we've at least come to the conclusion by my son's admittance, that he is just not doing some assignments and knows better.

I can exhale at that for now, knowing at least that he is showing accountability for his actions. But I have to continue to help him realize that only he can make the decision to turn things around for himself. It can be hard to stand firm on disciplinary actions such as being grounded until grades come up. Believe me, I think he thought he could wait us out on that. But I also had to learn that I can't continue to feel stressed in the whole situation. As a parent, sometimes you do all that you can do and then you have to let your child make the decision of responsibility on their own. I could possibly show up with him in school, and go to every class making sure that he does what he's suppose to do. But I wouldn't be giving him the opportunity to learn about taking responsibility for himself, I'd just be walking him through holding his hand. That can't be done in real life. I do have faith in him, and continue to encourage him. He seems to be coming around so we'll see. He's only fourteen, so we've got a long ways to go!

It can feel like a long and drawn out process having to continue to be repetitive and try different angles to which your point can be taken. But at times when you feel most frustrated, it's helped me to pause and take a step back and go over my actions and messages to my son. As a parent you feel that there's always something you can do to get results. Unfortunately when it comes to teaching responsibility in teenagers, I'm learning that you can only go so far and then let your child deal with their own consequences. I can however continue root him on, encouraging him of his potential to do great things. More importantly remind him that it's up to him and only him to make a decision and just as important, act upon it.

Here's to hoping that my experience has been one that you can relate to. I have to admit, it's kind of an outlet for me to be able to write some of this out to share. Our young ones need to learn responsibility, and it all starts with us. If we're not responsible enough ourselves to instill this quality in our youth by our own actions, then we set up these kids for failure in their future.

(Big thanks to you FastFreta for giving me the inspiration to write this hub based on my current situation. =).....)


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    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 7 years ago from California

      Thank you gmwilliams. It's tough sometimes, but I remind myself that I want my kids to be the best possible person they can be. If as parents we don't teach them consequences and responsibility and accountability, then we fail as parents. I definitely believe it needs to start when they're young! ;) And yeah, strict doesn't always mean harsh at all. It's about being strict when need be and loving all other times. :)

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      To _cheryl_: Great hub. Strict parents are the best parents. Many people do not know the meaning of strict. They think that strict parents means harsh, unloving, and authoritarian. However this is not the case. Strict parents are some of the most loving parents around and you demonsrated that! Good luck and best of wishes.

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Thanks eli, it's real nice to be reading your comment at this time. My son's 3 weeks from graduating 8th grade and it's been real trying lately. Your comment gives me that extra boost of confidence I need to keep on keepin on with him! I appreciate that.

    • eli grey profile image

      eli grey 8 years ago from Philadelphia, Pa

      It's always nice to hear that parents, especially young ones, do care about their child's upbringing. Even if he does decide to go try something you wouldn't approve of you'll have the very special and very rare mother-son bond to help put him on the right path.

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Thank you Minilady, I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. Wow, can't believe only 4 short years till my son's 18. I'm sure I'll have another hub or two to relate to those years! =)

    • Minilady profile image

      Minilady 8 years ago

      Enjoyed reading your hub.As the mother of an 18 year old I could totally relate to it.

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      I really appreciate hearing that! Thank you Neil. =)

    • Neil Ashworth profile image

      George Poe 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      I like this hub. Good info and well put together.

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Hi Missi, thanks! I really appreciate your comment. I was so frustrated around this time. So I had to reflect on things and just get my thoughts written out. I'm happy that you enjoyed it! =)

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 8 years ago from Southern California

      Oh cheryl this is excellent! Sounds to me like you are a wonderful parent! 14 is a tough age for you and him. I love your parenting style and your writing.

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Hi Neil, thank you!

    • Neil Ashworth profile image

      George Poe 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Good hub.

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Hello De Greek, thank you for reading and commenting. I will definitely take your advice and make sure to enjoy my kids during their young age. I know what you mean by beginning to lose them, my son's pretty much at that stage where he appreciates any affection to be on the down low lol! Thanks for the advice. =)

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 8 years ago from UK

      Hi again Cheryl. All we can do as parents is to try and study about raising children, learning form the experience of others who have gone before and using our own logic.

      One mistake a lot of us make is that while when we acquire a TV, we sit down and read the instructions on how to operate it, when we have children we automatically assume that we should know how to raise children solely though our own experience. All too often that is not enough.

      One thing I can tell you though from my own experience: Enjoy your children while they are still young. After they become 14 or 15 you begin to loose them, as they acquire their own independence and will come to you only when they need something :-))

      Gone will be the daily hugs and kisses. In will be the advice they will give you about everything they pick up on the Internet .. :-))

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Hi martycraigs, yes...difficult is where it is right now. Unfortunately there are other- let's just say, "not so great" influences in his life that I can't avoid. But, kids will have those influences around regardless so it's all just part of the equation. You make a great point "as much as need be, of course, but not too much so as to sacrifice their youth". As you've mentioned, sometimes it's difficult but there in lies the power of positive thinking! =) Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Thank you JenDobson27 for reading. I didn't make it easy for my parents either! Just want to be sure that he becomes a man who can hold his own and take care of himself as well as his family in the future. Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it.

    • martycraigs profile image

      martycraigs 8 years ago

      Teaching kids to have responsibility is certainly very important, but can also be difficult depending on the situations, parents, and kids involved. Teaching kids to have responsibility early on is a good step (as much as need be, of course, but not too much so as to sacrifice their youth).

      Thanks for writing on this important topic.

    • JenDobson27 profile image

      JenDobson27 8 years ago

      Great hub _cheryl_! It certainly can be difficult to raise children especially during the teenage years. I know I didn't make it very easy on my parents when I was that age :) It sounds like you have a good hold on things though. Keep up the good work!

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Thanks so much theawwwbutmum- I hear ya, it does seem like I'm casting down a military lifestyle myself! It's important to be able to balance out the strictness with some down to earth good laughs =) I appreciate you taking the time for reading this, it's nice to hear from other parents like you who can relate.

    • profile image

      theawwwbutmum 8 years ago

      Hi Cheryl - there is just so much to agree with in this hub! I too take my parenting role seriously - my sense of humor saves my kids from a military lifestyle!! Thanks for sharing and for the great tips. I'll be back :)

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      Thank you very much GojiJuiceGoodness, I really do appreciate your comment. I was raised the same way, and didn't understand why back then. I know now, if it was'nt for the strictness and like you said- expectation of being respectful and more, I wouldn't be who I am today. I'm glad you enjoyed reading my thoughts on this matter! =)

    • GojiJuiceGoodness profile image

      GojiJuiceGoodness 8 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      Wow, I'm impressed with your parenting! Few parents realize the importance of NOT chasing their kids around or letting them dictate how life's gonna be. I think you're doing great. My parents raised my 5 brothers & I similarly and I'm so thankful they were strict, expecting us to obey, be respectful, kind to others, know what I mean.

      You said so many good things in your hub, especially at the end about the parents needing to set a good example. Wonderful quote by Booker T. Washington, too!

    • _cheryl_ profile image

      _cheryl_ 8 years ago from California

      I really appreciate your comment freta. As I mentioned, it's reading words like yours that helped bring encouragement for me in my situation. I will definitely read your recommended hub, thanks again!

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 8 years ago from Southern California

      Good girl cheryl. You seem to have your hand on the pulse of the matter. These are the hardest years of our lives, sometimes if we could just look back and remember how we felt when we were that age, we can better understand what our young ones are going through. So I applaud you for your persistence. You and your son might benefit from another hub that I wrote entitled "I Know What You Are Going Through." Please go over and read that one and see if that adds your already excellent training. See you soon.


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