Raising Responsible Children

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When I was growing up, it was a given that we would help our mom. Even so, I suffered when I saw my son and daughter-in-law asking my granddaughter to wash the evening dishes. I thought she was too young. So how do you teach responsibility to children in our world?

OFirst of all, you need an attitude adjustment. If your kids feel entitled, it is probably your fault; perhaps you don’t want to abuse them, you don’t want them to hate you, you can do it better, faster and prefer not to have a confrontation, and other reasons. Yet the more you doubt your ability to raise good, responsible children, the more likely your kids are to turn into selfish, bored monsters that no one likes or wants to be around.

Forget about being a helicopter mom who hovers anxiously over Precious. The truth is, kids need to learn early to take risks such as climbing a tree or they will take more dangerous ones in their teens.

Lawnmower or snow plough parents desperately move all obstacles from their child’s path. Susie Q forgot her lunch; Mom rushes it to her, interrupting the class. Jamie got a bad grade; Mom or Dad berates the teacher, and so it goes. Instead, children need to learn that actions have consequences and you can’t always bail them out.

Outsource parents lack the confidence or the will to raise their own kids. They believe that they need a maternity nurse for a year, behavior and etiquette consultants and tutoring. Fact: if they’re raised by others, you and your child will probably not know each other and be unable to bond. Parents need to be the ones to set boundaries for their children. Otherwise, the kids feel insecure and unloved.

Tiger parents are authoritarians who control the child’s rigid, grueling schedule. Some children may do as the parents wish, but others rebel. Fact: kids need down time, when they can follow their own instincts and interests.

What works? Parents of “dream” children make it seem so effortless. It isn’t. Raising responsible children means dedication. Here are a few guidelines that will help you raise your own dream child without the sense of desperation that some parents may have.

First of all, start with your toddler. There are many chores that a toddler can do: hang up their towel after their bath, say hello and thank you to everyone in their orbit, carry their plate to the kitchen counter, and put toys away when finished. Sing or chant, “Clean up, clean up; everybody clean up, everybody do their share.”

Let the kids help, even if it takes longer. My granddaughter tried to manage the large, regular broom. Then one day she had her own child-sized broom. To this day, she loves to sweep the floors, as she recently proved at my house by sweeping my dining room and kitchen without being asked.

Show them how. Put laundry bins in their room and say it is their responsibility to place their dirty clothes in the hamper.

Lead by example. Let them bake cookies, but cleaning up is part of the experience. Most kids love to help Dad wash and vacuum the car. They can take pride in a clean car. Compliment them for a job well done. Examples are “Thank you for emptying the recycle bin.” “I really appreciate your help with dinner.”

Curb your expectations. When your seven-year-old makes his bed, it will probably be a little messy. With practice, it will become better. Avoid rewards. Finishing everyday chores should be expected but not rewarded. Use a special reward only when something really unexpected is done.

Provide an orderly routine for your children. They can finish the tasks in any order that works for them, but no TV or devices until all chores, including homework, are completed.

Finally, teach them the consequences of not following the rules. My granddaughter has learned the hard way that it is up to her whether she gets her devices or not. Devices such as an iPhone, iPad, iPod, Play Station 3 and 4, Apple TV and Roku are all subject to having their internet connection cut off or being confiscated if homework and other chores are not done on time. Devices must be put away when it’s time for bed.

Our childhood and our parents affect how we parent. You either accept the parenting style of your parents, or if you hated the way you were raised, you try to do it differently. Parenting is easy; it’s the 24/7 grind combined with all our other obligations that gets us down. Still, most parents stay the course and are grateful when their kids turn out to be responsible, productive adults. ■

Sources: afineparent.com, care.com and express.co.uk.