It can be frustrating when your kids seem oblivious to the concept of personal responsibility. For some kids, this character trait comes more naturally than in others; it doesn't mean something is wrong with a child who doesn't grasp this concept easily. It simply means you need to teach him or her. But how?
First of all, it's worth mentioning that parental expectations regarding their kids' sense of responsibility need to be age-appropriate. While the ability to take responsibility varies among children, it's generally considered unrealistic to expect young children, such as toddlers, to take full responsibility for what they've done.
So when does a sense of personal responsibility present itself in a child? Even the experts can't settle the score on this one, as evidenced by the legal controversy that ensues when children under the age of 18 commit crimes. The courts may or may not try that particular "juvenile" as an adult.
All that to say, don't be too hard on yourself if you're not sure if your child is ready to grasp the concept! The important thing is to weave the lesson of personal responsibility into your everyday interactions with your kids. Here are some ideas on how to teach this important concept.
Perhaps the most effective way to teach a child to take responsibility for his actions is to enact consequences. This is not the same as punishment; in fact, many experts view consequences as more effective and true to life than simple punishment.
Consider this real-life scenario: if your boss catches you stealing money from the company, she's not going to hit you until you stop doing it! Rather, you'll suffer a consequence: the loss of your job and possible jail time. So consequences have a tendency to speak louder than punishments.
Consequences need to be consistent to be effective, experts say. They should also fit the "crime." Appropriate consequences might include taking away privileges (this also helps kids to understand that pleasures such as TV time are not rights) and/or toys.
Sometimes, teaching responsibility means a parent has to watch his or her child become upset, angry, or frustrated. This can be hard to witness, and sometimes a parent just wants to make everything better and the child happy. But happiness is not the only feeling that is valid! Humans feel all kinds of emotions in their lives, and it's unrealistic to expect happiness all the time.
Parents have to remind themselves of this sometimes when a consequence causes upset, whether it's the removal of a toy for a young child or not giving your child more money because she irresponsibly spent the money you did give her. Being firm with the consequences and getting through the negative feelings tend to make it easier the next time, because your child is learning to take responsibility for his actions.