I know personally that some kids are harder to raise than others. Some are naturally more compliant, healthy, self assured, or whatever. Others have bigger quirks, more trouble learning things, testy personalities, and other challenges. Regardless of these factors, we parents all have a moral obligation to do a few things for our kids. Clothe, feed, bathe, shelter, and love them — those are the most obvious things.
Perhaps one of the next biggest obligations is teaching our kids to accept personal responsibility. This includes responsibility for their beliefs, their actions, their intentions, their feelings, and everything else. Accepting responsibility is not the same thing as accepting blame.
Of course, no child would be to blame for a learning disability like dyslexia. No child would be to blame for some sort of developmental disorder that make it hard for them to learn. And no one should ever blame a child for going through trauma like abuse or a tragic accident. But even children who have gone through those types of problems can still learn responsibility. They can take credit for the good things they do all by themselves, and they can understand how they have made a mistake.
Teaching Kids Personal Responsibility
Teaching kids personal responsibility takes effort and a long hard look at yourself. That’s right, I said you needed to look at yourself. If you harp on your kids for not picking up after themselves, you won’t be taken seriously if your stuff is all over the place, too. Same thing goes for yelling, swearing, making excuses, blaming other people for your problems, and so on.
If your kids see you doing something that’s completely opposite of what they are expected, you need to be ready to face it. Your teen isn’t allowed to drink even though you have a glass of wine every Friday night in a safe manner — acceptable and reasonable. Your teen isn’t allowed to drink even though you sneak drinks daily and drive when they know you are drunk — much harder to justify and teach responsibility.
The fallout of not teaching personal responsibility can be huge and long-lasting. Parents only have about two decades or less to have a strong influence on their child. After adulthood sets in, parents are often just spectators. Any patterns of blaming others, making excuses, or fabrication to get out of things will likely continue as the years pass.
This person’s lack of responsibility can create agitation and frustration everywhere they go. Everyone else is responsible for making things right for them, thinking nothing of treating others badly in the process. If they are made to accept fault for a mistake or error in judgment, they’ll find ten reasons why they did nothing wrong and how others are setting them up for failure. They may even lie and fabricate things to support their deflection of responsibility. All this makes for a really unpleasant person to be around. And if they have children of their own, guess what they will learn about all this? Deny and deflect.
Helping Someone With Poor Personal Responsibility
You may know a family at church like this, maybe at your school, or even in your family. If you can keep your distance from a family like this, that’s probably best. If this is someone in your family circle, you may not have that choice. Self-help methods can make a difference, but counseling will provide better accountability. An adult with responsibility problems has been making these choices for a long time. There’s no quick and easy solution.
While you may not have that much influence on an adult with this problem, you can be sure you raise your kids to understand the importance of personal accountability. You are there to help and support, but the buck stops with them as they mature and become more capable. When you have this high but healthy expectation of them, you raise kids well equipped for a responsible adult life.
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Last reviewed: 24 Feb 2010