How do we raise our kids to take responsibility for their choices and their impact on the world? Children need, like the rest of us, to feel that they matter to the world, that their lives make a positive contribution. Children need to see themselves as response-able – meaning able to respond to what needs to be done. They need this for their self-esteem, for their lives to have meaning, and also so they can learn to handle themselves responsibly in the world. Here are 5 tips you need to know for raising responsible kids.
Play with your children. Remember, as a Dad your goal is raising children who will take pleasure in contributing to and taking responsibility for their behavior and actions. Make the play fun. Give as much structure and hands-on support as you need to all your children for both boys and girls. Take time to sit with your children and help them for the first thirty times they do the task. With you as a guide, they will gain independence and confidence in the activity so that they can do it all on their own.
Give your children an opportunity to contribute to the common good. Acknowledge their contributions, even if it’s just cheering up the baby when he/she fusses. As your children get older, they need to grow into two kinds of responsibilities: their own self-care and contributing to the family community. Research indicates that kids who help around the house are more likely to offer help in other situations than kids who simply participate in their own self-care. Encourage and enable them to do things and to try new things on their own.
Actions speak louder than words. Your children learn responsibility from your role modeling. If you don’t follow through when you promise certain things, such as, to pick up that book from the library or play that game with the children on Saturday, why should your children be responsible about keeping their promises? Lead by example as a mindful, responsible and nurturing parent.
Don’t rush to bail your children out of a difficult situation. Be available for problem solving, helping the children work through feelings and fears, and to ensure that they don’t just sidestep the difficulty. Let them handle the problem on their own while you give support through each step.
Never label your children as irresponsible, even in your own mind, because the way we see our kids is always a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, teach the skills your children need to be responsible. If your children are always leaving things in the park, for example, teach him/her/them to stop playing when you are about to leave somewhere – friend’s house, pre-school, soccer practice, swim lessons, and count off everything the kids needs to take home.
As a responsible parent, it is our obligation to teach our kids that they not only have the right to be an individual; they also have an obligation to be an attentive one. Studies show that people who take responsibility in any situation are people who see themselves as willing to be different and standing out as respectful humans. That’s the kind of children we want to raise.