Responsibility is one of the traits that a vast majority of parents want to instill in their children. It is also a trait that is good to have as an adult, as we all need to meet our commitments and be responsible for our behaviors and mistakes.
However, children are different from parents and they still do not fully understand how the world works. They are in a process of continuous development, where their traits and personality are polished, and when healthy behaviors and ways of thinking are learned. Children learn from the people closest to them, from their parents and family members.
Most parents confuse obedience with responsibility and think that they are the same. All parents want their children to listen to them and do what they are told to do, without question. Responsibility is more than this. It is about acknowledging your mistakes, bearing the consequences of your deeds, being dependable, keeping your word, and meeting your commitments.
But how can you, as a parent, instill children responsibility for their actions?
1. Do Not Overreact
Taking responsibility for your own actions is not something you learn in a day. A child needs to be constantly encouraged to do this. However, most children will try to hide their mistakes because they think they will not be discovered, and thus they will not be unloved.
At the same time, a child might hide its mistakes simply because admitting that you have done something wrong is a difficult thing to do. And we know that even some adults do this for the same reason.
One of the mistakes most parents make is to overreact. They urge their children to take responsibility for their behaviors immediately and force them to apologize. If you do this, you will send the wrong message to your children.
Yes, he has to bear the consequences, but overreacting will make him think that you will love him less. This is not the case, and children need to know that you are supportive and besides them. But they also need to learn to take responsibility for their behaviors.
Instead of overreacting, give time to calm down. It is best to talk with him when you are calm; they better learn and understand if you choose an assertive way of communication. What’s most, it is highly improbable for your children to come out and admit their mistakes if you are screaming and overreacting.
2. Create a Trusting Environment
If you approach the situation calmly, your children will feel more encouraged to discuss responsibility and mistakes. However, the fear of not being loved by your parents is a strong one and most children feel it at some point. This makes them hiding their mistakes and not taking accountability for their actions or bearing the consequences.
Tell your children that everyone makes mistakes and they are natural. Admitting that you have mistaken is difficult, but an honorable thing to do.
Thank them for being honest and let them know that you will love them unconditionally. Be empathetic and relate to their struggle to be vulnerable and create an environment where they can trust you.
3. Discuss the Lessons Your Children Have Learned
One of the most important things children need to learn is that one way to learn something is by making mistakes. Not only children but some adults too, think that mistakes are wrong and you should avoid them.
But you need to change your kid’s perspective on this. The mistakes we make give us the most important lessons and we all should see them as opportunities to learn.
Whenever your children take responsibility for their actions and behaviors, you should not discuss their flaws, but the lessons they have learned.
For example, your child might forget to do his school assignments, which can lead to bad grades. Discuss with him the consequences of his actions and help him find ways to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
Mistakes always teach us important lessons, so be sure your children understand them. This will help them avoid making the same mistakes and they will take responsibility for his actions.
4. Be a Role Model
Children learn their habits and behaviors from parents, as they are the closest to them. But being a parent can sometimes be stressful and difficult, especially because you need to work, to cook and take care of the family.
Children spend most of their time with parents and even though they might sometimes seem careless, they pay attention to your behaviors, and they quickly learn them. The most problematic thing is that children learn unhealthy behaviors from their parents, so you need to be a role model for your children.
You cannot expect them to take responsibility for what they said or done if you never do this. The easiest way to teach a child something is by letting him see that you do it too.
For example, you might have difficult moments when you feel everything is going wrong. And when your child does something wrong, you lose your temper and you direct your anger to him. It is important to give yourself some moments to calm down and take responsibility for your words.
Let him know that there are work issues that are disturbing and upsetting. Apologize for overreacting. This does not mean that what your children did is not wrong. It means that you acknowledged that you reacted in an unhealthy way.
Allow your children to see you doing this with your spouse or friends. The more they see you taking responsibility for your behaviors and words, the more they will learn that this is a healthy habit they need to adopt.
5. Slowly Increase Their Responsibilities
As children grow up, they will be able to take more responsibilities. However, the best thing you can do is to slowly increase their responsibilities and do not expect to do all their chores from the start.
They need to understand the importance of tidying their room, cleaning the dishes they have used, or putting away laundry. Some tasks need to be done not because we love doing them, but because they need to be done.
Explain to your children that it is important to put away laundry or wipe down the table because they need to be done. Point to the consequences of not doing these, such as getting to the point where he has no clean clothes. Do not force your children to take too many chores and slowly increase their responsibilities. Find an appropriate balance.
Children have their personalities and perspective of the world. However, they need to learn to take responsibility for their actions and bear the consequences, and parents play an important role.
To teach your children to do this, you need to lead by example and show them how it’s done. You need to adopt a healthy way of reacting when they hide their mistakes. You need to create a trusting environment, where you support and love them unconditionally.
Parents should discuss the consequences and lessons children learned from their mistakes. Find a balance and let them bear the consequences.
Author Bio: Tobias Foster is a journalist and editor with more than 5 years’ work experience and big ambitions. Parenting, the development, and children psychology are his passion, and he offers dissertation help on these topics. Tobias has two boys and says that being a parent is a challenging, but rewarding and beautiful job.