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.

3 thoughts on “Raising Responsible Children Starts with the Parent-Child Relationship”

  1. I really like this, Julia. Guiding our kids towards independence, and conscientiously giving them opportunities to practice being independent makes complete sense to me. I like the way you’ve reframed it through Parent Coaching disco use as well.

    Years ago someone told me that you need to let kids make decisions about lots of little things (the blue shirt or the red one? brush teeth before hair or hair before teeth?) so that when they face the Big Choices (sex, drugs, rock n’ roll?) they’ll know _how_ to make a decision.

    I felt like you were in my head yesterday! I identified two things I could do to improve day-to-day interactions with my Bigger Kid and resolved to make the changes without spiraling into self-critical despair about not already having done so. Inside-My-Head Julia said this was a good thing.

  2. Hey Kaley, thanks for the comments. I’m so glad you thought of 2 things to try with E.
    Did they help? What change(s) did you notice? I’m even happier to hear that you did so without then feeling guilt/self-critical. My biggest take-away to use with my kids from the article was allowing them to say ‘No” to me from time-to-time. I do want them to feel their voice is respected and carries weight. Also, I really want them to know their boundaries and be firm about them. Obviously, I can’t always accept the answer no from them (they are 3 & 5 after all!), but I can always validate their feelings and hear them out.

  3. The changes did help, though of course I keep screwing up in small ways, as we all do. I’m really working on letting errors go without the guilty self-flagellation. Now I just need to work on increasing self-care so that I have more patience and make fewer errors. Easier said than done, even when I know how important it is.

    Acknowledge their feelings, name them, validate, and (with my kid at least) provide a logical explanation

    Helping kids know their boundaries and practice setting them is HUGE, I think. Ceasing tickling as soon as they say Stop. Not forcing them to hug and/or kiss people they don’t want to hug and/or kiss. Obliquely teaching the concept of consent. I can rant about this for quite a while, especially that second one, which is a massive pet peeve of mine.

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