Teaching responsibility in children

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Social media, television, sports and so much more…these are some of the ways our children get exposed to the idea that somehow, being responsible is not “cool”. Allow me to explain. How many actors or actresses are publicized as being entitled, throw tantrums and get the glory? What does social media highlight? How often is fast and free and easy life advertised? When was the last time you saw an ad or something on television that highlights or stressed hard work, perseverance, patience and grit? What do highly overpaid athletes do? And how many times do they get in trouble and get away with it? Who do your kids idolize? What about their friends? When they look around them, do they feel entitled? Did we get them there?

            The best way to teach is by example. And whereas we are hard workers as parents, and we strive day and night to make the lives of our children possible to the best of our abilities, there is a common theme about the parents I talk to and see in my practice that children these days do not appreciate what they have and run away from chores and responsibility like the plague. They want to have fun and they believe that if they put an effort, like studying, they DESERVE a break and to be pampered and treated exceptionally. Everything comes to them easy because of us and because of technology. It is the life of instant gratification, and what that means in the brain is a no effort kind of life. Have you ever seen your child text? How many events on social media do they run at the same time? Responding to friends, answering remarks and postings, sharing stuff and so on and so forth. All of that at the tip of their fingers so to speak. So, when we expect and ask them to be responsible, we are met with resistance. Why? Because it is hard and it demands effort. Now I am not suggesting our children are lazy, but their lives do not demand the sort of effort ours have demanded from us when we grew up. I am sure our parents said the same thing about us. But there is an epidemic of entitlement and easy living that is sweeping across, and yes, it is partly our fault. Life only gets more and more demanding for us and we try to rise to the challenge, keeping up with the demands of friends, neighbors, families and relatives is a 24 hour job. At the end of the day we get frustrated for not getting the same commitment from our children?

            So, how do we change that and teach them? It really starts with us as parents. For responsibility to be taught, there has to be rules, regulations, discipline and consequences. How much are you prepared to enforce your convictions? If you are not willing to go the distance, then do not even start. You will not succeed. But if you are, please remember that you are doing this for them in preparation for the demands of what is to be called the adult life. The first place to start with is to talk to them. Explain and be patient. Like all human beings and riles of nature, people will choose the path of least resistance. So if you toughen things up for them they are going to complain and drag their feet and be resistant and sometimes hostile. Even after explanation they may not do this so keep steadfast in your approach and maintain the pressure until they do. It is easier for us to give up now but that is what they will learn and what service would we have done them for their future?

            Another tactic that works is rewarding them. This is what happens to us usually in adult life. The harder you work the more you find, the more the opportunities and the better the recognition. So, when your kids do things and are responsible reward them with positive feedback and emotional affection and yes, some gifts or materialistic things that are small yet meaningful for them. When they are older, help them raise their own money to buy that gift they so much want. Put for them milestones to reach, bench marks and goals and make them understand that achieving that goal requires sacrifice and effort and for that they would get rewarded. After all, that is what our lives are about, in all aspects (emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, professional…).

            Try to make things fun, especially for the little ones. Do not get frustrated (easier said than done) but try to engage them and make them own their chores. Get their input on how to solve a problem and see their little minds light up.

            We were not born responsible. We had to learn it through family, education, life and work. Our children depend on us to teach them that ability. Fail them now, and you and they will suffer for it as they grow older. Be a success, and you will produce the leaders of the future.