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:
A person who respects and considers the needs of others and the
consequences of their actions.
Ten Steps to Raising
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.
Dr. Laurie Emery - Child Psychology Boca Raton.