Raising Responsible Children Starts with the Parent-Child Relationship

Raising Responsible Children Starts with the Parent-Child Relationship

Here is a great article that outlines 6 things we can do as parents to raise responsible people. Two things in the article reminded me of principles we follow in parent coaching. These are the ideas of Timeliness and Living Systems.

I suggest you read the article first, then return to my post: http://evolutionaryparenting.com/six-ways-to-allow-your-child-to-become-a-responsible-adult/

The author makes the very good point that independence cannot be forced upon a person. We must allow our children to grow into their independence. This requires parents to respect timeliness when working with kids. In other words, we cannot expect them to perform according to our agenda and what might make our lives easier. Timeliness in this area means understanding something about child development and honoring the phase they are in. 

My favorite point from the article is that to become responsible, children must practice taking responsibility. The author states: 

What does taking responsibility look like?  Well, at the basic level it’s letting your child take part in figuring out how to make amends if they’ve hurt someone, fix something they’ve done “wrong”, own up to any behaviour that hurt someone, or accept the natural consequences of their own behaviours.  It’s bringing them into the fold and having them come up with solutions with you (to help guide them, but not tell them what to do).  You should also be giving them things to be responsible for, whether it be a chore in the house, cleaning up after themselves, or being in charge of whatever toys they bring out in public.  If they don’t have ways to practice responsibility, they can never learn it.  Children as young as 2 or 3 can help come up with ideas and the more they do, the better they get at it and the more they learn to be responsible for themselves.

What the author describes here takes a living systems approach to teaching a child responsibility. As a parent coach, I understand that a family is a living system, not a mechanical one. Mechanistic models of parenting usually prioritize obedience over encouraging independent thinking and exploring. So, a parent with a mechanistic mind-set might focus more on punishments meant to “fix” the child. 

The author sums it up perfectly:

You don’t need to force them to toughen up or even force them to be independent because they’ll get there on their own.  The problem isn’t that we haven’t been “harsh” enough, the problem is that we’ve been harsh when we should be gentle, permissive when we should encourage responsibility, and driven by fear to restrict our children’s growth into independent beings.  Let’s end that.


Appreciation Practice

I’ve been noticing friends on Facebook this month posting about what they are thankful for in honor of Thanksgiving. I think this is such a nice idea, so I decided to join in. First, a word on appreciation and why it matters. When we actively look for what is working in our lives, and take time to appreciate it, we find that our resources and capabilities are far richer than we ever knew.

The PCI recognizes an important life principle that underscores the power of appreciation:

What we pay attention to grows: this principle states that when we focus on the positive, the positive shows up. The opposite is true as well. Keep your attention on what is not working, and what is not working becomes your experience. When we appreciate the good things in our lives, our experience of life shifts to a happier, more relaxed state-of-mind. In my coaching, I always ask parents to begin an appreciation practice. Here are a few things they say after just a few days of choosing to observe the positive:

“I feel happier in general” 

“There is less conflict with _________”

“It feels like a shift has occurred” 

“It’s nice to notice all the good things my spouse is actually doing”

“Now when resentment creeps up, I notice it and can pause to appreciate before I react”

Even our brains respond to our thoughts. Consider these words from Margaret Wheatley’s new book, So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World (http://www.amazon.com/So-Far-Home-Found-Brave/dp/1459647211/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384305697&sr=1-2&keywords=lost+and+found+in+our+brave+new+world, “Our brains respond to what we do and, perhaps more astonishingly, to what we think. Our thoughts and actions, if repeated even for only brief periods of time, send messages to the brain and the brain responds by creating physical changes that strengthen our capacities in these particular areas…But interestingly, brains can change without us doing any physical effort; they can change because of what we think…The brain’s response to conscious thoughts, not only to actions, is why athletes can prepare successfully for races by visualizing each part of the course in great detail”

In other words, what we do and what we think about matters.

Now it’s my turn to appreciate! I have to go back a few days and really think about this….

November 1 – I appreciate that I have a supportive community of peers in the PCI. I felt very heard and affirmed in Friday’s class. 

November 2 – I appreciate that my husband and I worked together to make Saturday morning chores a fun family time.

November 3 – I appreciate that my husband took over kid duties so I could have a quiet, uninterrupted hour of coaching.

November 4 – I appreciate my sweet daughter Eleanor who left one of her Hallowe’en candies on my pillow to surprise me. 

November 5 – I appreciate that I have time to go walking almost every morning. These quiet walks with my dog have become a reflective time for me; an opportunity to go inward and get to know myself.

November 6 – I appreciate the sunshine! A sunny day always lifts my spirits.

November 7 – I appreciate the openness and willingness of the parents I coach to share their stories and feelings with me.

November 8 – My babysitter. Oh, man. Just having a regular, reliable babysitter is peace-of-mind.

November 9 – Good friends. Old friends. Staying up way too late, laughing with friends is good medicine.

November 10 – I appreciate coffee. And having a partner who, despite being just as tired and sleep-deprived as me, made every effort to cheerfully take our kids to the museum.

November 11 – I appreciate my own bed.

November 12 – I appreciate having a moment to cuddle my Annabel before she squirmed away.

November 13 – Really grateful to have a difficult experience coaching tonight. Was challenged by a new client in a way that should help me grow as a coach.

November 14 – So lucky to have a partner who supports me 100% and wants the best for me.

November 15 – I appreciate the good food we always have to eat in our house.

November 16 – I appreciate all the good volunteers who made A Day of Simple Giving an incredible event.

November 17 – I appreciate this lazy morning; still in my pjs at 9:30 a.m. Rare for me, even on weekends!

November 18 – I appreciate how hard I work to be present and play with Annabel. Her mind and imagination fascinate me, but it takes a lot of work for me to enter her world and stay awhile.

November 19 – I appreciate my growth as a coach. I spent the morning making notes for my sessions this week, and noticed how much better I’ve gotten at this job. I still have a long way to go, but I’m grateful to be at this stage.

November 20 – I am so lucky to have thoughtful siblings who send me sweet notes from time to time. We shared so many special times together growing up, and I love the grown-ups they became.

November 21 – I really appreciate having a high degree of control over my day. In many ways, I am my own boss. I decide when to work, play, exercise, and rest. Learning how to set a daily rhythm that supports and suits me best has been a tremendous gift.

November 22 – I appreciate chocolate.

November 23 – I appreciate my mom who is so willing to help my family and preserve my sanity by being a hands-on Grandma.

November 24 – I appreciate friends, new and old, that have enriched my life and made it better. Brian and I have friends all over the place, and it’s incredible to know there are so many people who love us.

November 25 – I am so very relieved and grateful that Eleanor is having a great kindergarten experience. She has blossomed this year at school and loves learning. I appreciate her caring and hard-working teacher.

November 26 – I appreciate the patience I now have for my kids less-than-stellar behavior. Sure, I loose it at times, but I know I’m better than I was when I started this mommy gig.

November 27 – I appreciate our access to good, healthy ingredients and my ability to make them into delicious food.

November 28 – I appreciate people who play with my kids! I enjoy the break and I enjoy watching them interact with other grown-ups. I always see them differently from this view and am awestruck by how amazing they are!

November 29 – I appreciate family time that is full of small, meaningful moments together. Whether playing together, cooking together, or just ‘being’ together, I appreciate that we mostly really like each other’s company.

November 30 – I appreciate my sense of humor and my sense of fun. I don’t take myself too seriously which really helps me stay sane.

Finally, I appreciate this practice. It has been good for me to keep attention on the blessings in my life. I realize that happiness is my choice; that I can actually train myself to perceive the positive and goodness in every day by being “aggressively sensitive” as Rob Brezsny puts it.

“We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.” – Carlos Castaneda