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Teaching Our Children Responsibility

by Sima Gordon- Supervisor, Community Mentoring Program

When it comes to teaching responsibility, is the modeling method sufficient or could there be more that is required?

As we all know, parenting is largely about modelling. The old adage “Do as I say and not as I do” was probably coined precisely because it is not through what we teach with our words but rather through our actions and interactions that our children will learn how to become adults.

When it comes to teaching responsibility, is the modeling method sufficient or could there be more that is required?  Because responsible parents take care of their children who are unable to care for themselves, there are times that those same children have not had the opportunity to learn to be responsible for themselves!  So how do we help our children develop a sense of responsibility?

Living in an era in which quick results are the expected norm, the process of learning responsibility and long term consequences of our actions becomes a challenge.  This makes the art of responsibility all the more essential! Obviously different levels of responsibility will be appropriate for individual children at different ages.  The key is to determine what your child can SUCCESSFULLY do for himself. This includes chores and responsibilities that may at first require your instruction and assistance.  Initially, this may take more of your time but is an essential investment which will eventually help your child grow into a responsible and independent adult.

It is important to make it clear to your child what is expected of him or her.  For example, you might tell nine year old Yaakov that he will now be responsible to put away his own clean laundry and then show him how and where to do that.  If there are special circumstances when you do put the laundry away for him, make mention of this exception and why this was done.  For example, you might say “I put your laundry away for you today because I needed the space for your sister’s project.”

Generally natural consequences will ensure a real learning process is taking place.  If a parent always cleans up after his child, that will be the child’s expectation and he will have no reason to clean up after himself.   Parents and children often look at this as evidence of the parents’ love for the child, when actually the opposite is true.  Good parenting and love including making sure your children do what they can for themselves, which will give them confidence in themselves and help them grow into responsible adults.

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