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Raising Independent and Responsible Children

By Dr. Laurie Emery



In order to become productive and happy adults, children need to learn how to take responsibility for their actions and follow through on commitments. The home is one of the best places for teaching responsibility and preparing children for the future.

A Responsible Child becomes a Child who:

  • Stays in school

  • Dreams, plans and prepares for the future

  • Makes wise choices- mostly

  • Does not harm self or others

  • Builds a value system for becoming a productive, involved citizen

  • Treats others kindly

  • Thinks for him/herself- yet still requires guidance

Why is Raising a Responsible Child Important: A responsible CHILD learns self control, develops a love of learning, becomes empathetic, and develops social values.

A responsible Teen is likely to become an adult who:

  • Can support him/herself

  • Can enter into and maintain a life-long relationship with another adult

  • Becomes a responsible parent

  • Serves in the community

Responsible means: A person who respects and considers the needs of others and the consequences of their actions.

Ten Steps to Raising Responsible Children

Step 1: Start Early

The earlier you start the easier it will be to ingrain this in your child. And as they get older it will be a habit. Even young children can help sweep or clean even if they don't do it perfectly. They learn they can be helpful and part of the team. Begin with small chores and graduate responsibilities as they grow.

Step 2: Show Your Child - Affection, Acceptance & Attention

Affection - every child needs to know they are loved; loved not for his attitude or accomplishments but for his unique self. This love must be demonstrated, MODELED, CHILD FOCUSED, & STRONG. Strong enough to allow appropriate autonomy when it is scary and strong enough to set limits even when it would be easier not to.

Acceptance - Every child is different and born with genetically predetermined personality and traits that parents cannot change. But they can ACCEPT and work with, not against the trait. It is important to not make a child wrong for their personality that triggers you or you are in judgment of.

Attention - Give your child some FOCUSED attention every day. Focused attention means you are on his level, both figuratively and literally. If your child is on the floor then so are you. You are doing something your child wants to do. And, you don't have to be doing something- you can just be laying on the grass watching the clouds together.

Step 3: Model Responsible Behavior

Children do what you do not what you say. They watch you and learn. This includes being emotionally responsible....meaning- being in integrity and not being impulsive with your emotions.

Step 4: Create Systems Using Rewards, Earning, and Choices

Rewards not bribes. Bribes are "I'll give you this if you do your chores". It teaches them to get something in order to complete a task.

Rewards can be natural rewards in the environment i.e.- Clear the table and take your shower and then you can earn TV time.

Rewards can be extrinsic or intrinsic. You want to move your child from external to internal as soon as you can by linking the external reward with the internal reward i.e.-"Aren't you proud of yourself?"

Step 5: Allow Natural Consequences

If they lose their glove or their homework, for example, let them go through the steps to figure it out for themselves. Don't bail them out.

Some key questions you could ask your child are:

  • How do you want to handle it?

  • What is the result you want?

  • What are 5 possibilities to create that result?

  • How do you want to handle it?

Step 6: Believe in Your Child

Coach your child's greatness. See them for their possibilities not their failures. Empower them and trust they can come up with solutions. If you believe they are responsible so will they.

Step 7: Teach Your Child Compassion

Take them with you when you are being compassionate. Go to a nursing home and visit elderly or see a sick family member and explain.

Give them a job that is compassionate....i.e.- pick up trash in the playground and explain it could be mistaken as food by the squirrels.

Explain some kids are not as fortunate and go through life without Birthday and Christmas presents so have your child pick a toy or book of his own and donate it to less fortunate kids.

Ask the child to think of a way they can help someone in need. Let your child choose the recipient and project.

Get your child's input if you are buying a card or preparing a meal for someone and have them help you pick or prepare.

Step 8: Work with Other Responsible Adults

We can't always see ourselves clearly and having feedback from others who will be honest is valuable.

Talking to others will keep you balanced and on track. The more you are open to learning and the more personal development you do the better parent you will be. Nothing will be more effective then you growing yourself in order to be the most effective parent.

Step 9: Meet Your Child's Needs in Moderation

Meet your child's needs without granting every wish. This just teaches children that the world does not revolve around them. Let them work for things they want. Teach them to work extra chores to earn money. It gives them a sense of power and value.

Step 10: Teach Your Child to be Empathetic

What is Empathy? It is the ability to stand in someone else's shoes and imagine what they might feel.

Teach your child to recognize emotions in others. When watching TV or in a park, observe others emotions and ask your child to identify what others are feeling.

Encourage your child to think about how a situation he is involved in might make others feel. I.e.- If he takes a toy, ask how it makes him feel when someone takes a toy from him.

Not only identify feelings when watching television but also identify the cause and effect. "What do you think he is feeling?" and "What do you think made him so mad?" "Do you think he had a reason to be mad?"

Discuss feeling openly when disciplining or disagreeing with your child. Use "I" statements to let the child know how a situation is making you feel. I.E.- "When you don't do your homework I get worried and concerned" or "How do you feel when I nag you?"

Raising responsible children has all the benefits. Although it takes time, energy, and focus, the rewards in the long run are endless.



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Dr. Laurie Emery - Child Psychology Boca Raton.



Child Development

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