Welcome to the Beyond Discipline: 10 Building Blocks for Positive Parenting Series.
This is the 5th post in a series of 10 on the Building Blocks for positive parenting.
Building Block #5
Last week we talked about the importance that freedom plays in child’s life. Along with freedom, another important building block for positive parenting is giving children a chance to develop and experience responsibility.
Many parents believe that children are simply too young to do things for themselves. Other’s believe that children only learn responsibility when they are punished or experience consequences when they have done something wrong because punishments and consequences “teach a lesson”. The problem is sitting on the sidelines while mom and dad take care of everything, nor punishment and consequences are ways that children can learn, understand and experience the true meaning of responsibility.
So what is responsibility?
Responsibility is about having the ability to be accountable for ones actions and feeling capable to respond accordingly.
When we are responsible, we feel capable to contribute to the well being of ourselves and others.
Responsibility is about having the mindfulness to solve problems in a way that reflects our inner values of goodness, peace and kindness.
In positive parenting, the aim of our parenting practices is for children to create values that last a lifetime and responsibility can be fostered and encouraged in every day interactions. When we talk about instilling responsibility in children, the idea is to encourage them to feel capable, let them explore, give things a try and experience successes AND failures. By having a range of experiences, children develop an inner ability to respond and react accordingly and that is what responsibility is all about!
In the practical sense it’s when a two year has no need to fret or become anxious that she spilled water because she can simply take a rag and mop it up. She does it not out of fear, not because she was commanded to do so, threatened, conditioned or bribed but because she feels capable, she sees what happened and she knows how to RESPOND and feels ABLE to do so = she feels responsible!
The same is for the six year old that readily and genuinely offers part of his allowance to pay for something he mistakenly broke, and for the twelve year old that apologizes for being late because he misjudged his time management, the child that wishes to help the lost cat and so on…
As parents we can guide our children to be responsible by:
-Understanding each age and stage of development and setting our expectations accordingly.
-Setting our children up for success when they are very young – for example, child-proofing the home so they don’t mistakenly pull down the antique vase that is teetering on the edge of the book shelf right next to their beloved stuffed kitty.
-Guiding older children to set themselves up for success – for example encouraging them to develop a routine so they don’t forget important items at home, don’t forget to finish homework assignments, have a plan how they will keep their belongings organized and so on…
-Involving children in appropriate daily house activities so they have a sense of belonging, capability and appreciation for effort.
-Supporting and guiding children to make amends when appropriate.
-Focusing our discipline on solutions and learning opportunities instead of punitive measures.
-Listen to our children’s ideas for solutions, reparations and amends.
-Allowing children to express a range of emotions and feelings freely without fear of shame, guilt, punishment or ridicule.
-Modeling responsibility by being caring, kind, moral citizens ourselves.
-Understanding that like any other milestone, learning and feeling responsible is a process.
Responsibility is not something we can demand or insist upon from our children. It is something that is learned, by trial and error, by observation and by receiving ample chances to do things over again when needed. The process of learning responsibility can come with great pride and sometimes it involves experiencing failure and disappointment. Either way, as parents we can be there to support and guide the way in a way with kindness, compassion, peace and acceptance.
Peace & Be Well,
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Questions for reflection:
-Do you inadvertently take away chances for your child to experience responsibility out of fear that they will feel failure, not handle it well or make a mistake?
-Do you ever expect too much from your child and expect them to feel responsible for something when they haven’t quite understood what they are supposed to be feeling?
-How can you foster activities at home that model and encourage developing responsibility?