Raising Kids to Be Responsible and Reliable

Raising Kids to be Responsible

by Laura M. Ramirez

Raising kids to be responsible means that parents must focus on the lesson in every experience. For instance, two weeks ago, when my eight-year old son came to me and admitted that he had broken the power cord to my husband's notebook computer, rather than punish him as some parents would have, I saw that this was an opportunity for him to learn to take responsibility for his actions. Although it was an accident, he had been careless with someone else's property.

After my son finished telling me how the cord got broken, I asked him what he thought would be the right thing to do. Notice I did not tell him, I asked him. His answer brings a smile to my face even now, "I want to do the right thing. I'll buy dad a new cord, but can we buy it before we tell him? After I've bought the new adapter, I'll tell him all about it.

Since my husband rarely uses his notebook, I thought this seemed okay. We got out the Yellow Pages and called the Mac computer store and found out that a new power cord cost $80—an expensive lesson for an eight-year old. This led to another oppportunity—to teach my son to be cost-conscious. Instead of plunking down that much money, I taught my son how to search the Ebay auctions. We decided on a maximum price and after four days of bidding, we won an auction for a slightly-used power adapter that was half the price.

Raising kids to be responsible means making the most of teachable moments.

When I wrote the Ebay seller to thank him and mentioned the story that had led to our purchase, he commended me for raising my son to be responsible for his actions. In fact, this is what he had to say:

"Like a lot of us, I have had a tough time owning up to my responsibilities because my parents were more lax with me than they should have been. I'm trying not to make the same mistake with my toddler daughter, but it's hard not to indulge her, even when I know better. Anyway, good for you that you're teaching your son the right thing to do."

When parents fail to teach children that their actions have consequences, they grow up to be adults who are unwilling to take responsibility for their behavior. Such children grow up with faulty expectations of the world. When they are finally held accountable (usually by authorities at school or in the justice system), they will cry or make excuses for their behavior because no one ever taught them the value of being responsible. Such people are never sorry for what they've done—they are only sorry they got caught.

When parents enable children's irresponsibility, rather than raising kids to be accountable for their actions, they set them up to receive their hard knocks from the world. Instead of getting the chance to lovingly guide their children in the right direction and create deeper bonds in the process, they turn their heads and look the other way. This is the way of lazy parents—those who do what's easy, rather than what's right. It's no surprise that their kids grow up to do the same.

Like his parents before him, the guy from Ebay is tempted to indulge and enable his child, rather than do the creative and caring work required to help his daughter grow into a responsible, mature adult. As a parent, this is a choice we each must make. Will you choose the lazy way or do you love your child enough to prepare her to live her life with integrity?

Raising kids to be responsible requires that you teach them that we all make mistakes that we must make right. Only you can guide your child toward integrity of heart, mind and action. As you do, your child builds character. One day, you will smile (as I did) when the foundation you've built is acknowledged by your child's decision to "do the right thing" and take responsibility without your prompting.

For a complete guide to raising kids to act from strength and integrity, consider reading my parenting book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting.

About the author: Laura Ramirez has been writing parenting articles and making them available for people like you for the past nine years.

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