Responsible Child: Use What Happens to Teach Your Child to Be Responsible

Raising Your Child to be Responsible

by Laura M. Ramirez

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 laptop computer, I realized that this was an opportunity for him to be responsible for what he'd done. Although it was an accident, he had been careless which had resulted in damage to someone else's property.

After my son finished telling me what had happened, I asked him what he thought would be the right thing to do. His answer brings a smile to my face even now, "I want to do the right thing. I'll buy him a new one, but can we buy it first? When I get the new adapter, I'll tell dad what I did."

Since my husband uses his computer rarely, I thought this would be fine. Together, we called the local Mac computer store and discovered that a new adapter cost $80. This was an expensive lesson for an eight-year old (especially for a boy who wanted to be a responsible child) so we decided to see if we could find an adapter that was more reasonably priced. After some searching, we found a used adapter on Ebay. My son gave me his maximum bid and after four days of bidding, we won the auction.

When I told the Ebay seller the story behind our purchase and that I was teaching my son to be a responsible child, this was his reply:

"Like all 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."

This man hit the nail on the head. When parents fail to teach children that there are consequences for their actions, they grow up to become adults who are unable 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 other than their parents), they will cry or make excuses for their behavior because no one ever taught them the importance of being a responsible child. Such kids are not sorry for what they did—they are sorry that they got caught.

When you raise your child in this way—when you indulge them—rather than teaching them to be accountable, you set them up to receive their hard knocks from the world. This is the way of the lazy parent. It's called "doing what's easy, rather than what's right." Like his parents before him, this man is tempted to indulge his child, rather than do the creative work required to help his child grow into a responsible adult. As parents, this is a choice we all must make. Will you choose the lazy way or do you love your child enough to prepare her to face the world with integrity?

Rather than rescuing your child from consequences, teach him how to be responsible for his actions in an environment that is loving and supportive and acknowledges that as human beings, we make mistakes. Only you can guide your child toward integrity of heart and action. As you do, your child builds character. One day, you will smile (as I have many times) when your parenting skills are acknowledged by your child's decision to "do the right thing" and take responsibility without prompting. For a complete guide to raising your children with integrity, buy my book, Keepers of the Children Raise responsible kids who know their own hearts and minds.
"Keepers of the Children" teaches parents how to raise children to fulfill their potential and lead unique and meaningful lives. There is no greater gift a parent can give a child. It's a gift that benefits both child and parent.

Note: If you are the parent of an angry or defiant child, then you need special help. If your child is not responsive to your attempts to teach him, if discipline only makes him grow more defiant, please don't look the other way. Instead check out this behavioral program for defiant kids. It contains simple strategies that you can use at home to transform your child's behavior. Many parents have recommended it to me.

Copyright © 2005 by Laura M. Ramirez. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be copied or distributed without the express written consent of the author.

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