How to Raise Responsible Kids: teens, tweens & toddlers


workThe ultimate goal of parenting is to raise children who grow into adults that are capable of handling their own lives. In order to accomplish this, it’s important to instill a sense of responsibility in kids when they’re young, creating an attitude that will carry over into their teenage and adult years.

Responsible kids become successful adults, but that behavior is learned. Helping your kids to learn the importance of taking personal responsibility and ultimately grow into self-reliant, capable adults isn’t always easy, but it is an essential part of parenting.

There are a variety of ways that parents can go about instilling and encouraging a sense of responsibility, most of which can be adapted somewhat to fit your personal parenting style.

Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Give Them Things to Be Responsible For – In order to learn how to become responsible, kids must have some things that they alone are responsible for. Whether you give into those pleas for a small pet under strict conditions that your child will be tasked with everything related to the animals care, or provide them with a list of chores that must be completed before leisure activities can be pursued, it’s important to make sure that your child has a few responsibilities that are solely his own. Taking the time to figure out which methods of providing your kids with a few items they must attend to allows you to find something that works for every member of the family.
  • Model Responsible Behavior – Regardless of how much you stress the importance of taking responsibility and managing tasks to your children, they will ultimately learn many of their habits by simply observing the loved, trusted and admired adults in their lives. That’s why it’s so important for parents and caregivers to model responsible behavior, and to accept responsibility when something goes wrong. In the end, your own methods and behavior will shape so much of how your child learns that it’s imperative for you to exhibit the traits you wish for them to have. Older kids are also more likely to rebel against the idea of being forced into responsibility by an authority figure that they actively observe irresponsible behavior from, making it even more difficult to get through to tweens and teens that are already testing boundaries and learning how to assert their own independence.
  • Let Them Make (and Learn from) Their Own Mistakes – As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your child from any disappointments or hurts. Still, shielding them from everything that could hurt their feelings or experience disappointment doesn’t allow them to make any mistakes of their own. While mistakes can be great sources of regret, they’re also among the most powerful and effective learning experiences. Though you certainly shouldn’t allow your child to take dangerous risks or make reckless mistakes that could cause them harm, you should also keep in mind that a child who’s prevented from experiencing the full range of human emotions during their youth can find themselves bewildered and unsure of how to proceed when these very real parts of the human experience present themselves during adulthood.
  • Set Boundaries, and Don’t Back Down – Kids need boundaries in order to learn about responsible and socially acceptable behavior, and they need for those boundaries to be enforced consistently. Putting boundaries in place and ultimately conceding in the face of complaints, cajoling or temper tantrums only sends kids the message that they can avoid tasks they wish to shirk by protesting them enough. Rather than allowing children to talk their way out of being responsible for their choices and behavior, it’s best to set boundaries and consistently hold them accountable for those choices.
  • Reward Responsible Behavior – Acknowledging responsible choices that your child makes independently and rewarding him for a job well done helps him to see that there are rewards for making the right choices, even if those rewards aren’t always immediately possible. On the other side of the token, allowing them to experience the consequences of irresponsible choices will reinforce the importance of doing the right thing naturally, a method that’s usually far more effective than making threats, nagging or losing your temper.

Raising responsible children is definitely challenging, but it should also be one of your highest priorities.

Learning to be reasonably self-sufficient at an early age will help your children to strike out on their own with confidence and be strong, independent adults when the time comes.

Thanks to Sandra McAubre


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