How to Teach Your Child Responsibility
Parents are tasked with the responsibility of helping their children become responsible, useful citizens. It takes a lifetime of investment of time dedicated to educating a child. Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
What is education? Noah Webster defines education as, “The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations.”
How do you teach children responsibility? We model correct behavior. Remember the saying: What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say. (R. W. Emerson) We teach by showing how to live and by teaching a child how to establish good habits. As a parent with grown children, I can attest to the fact that we mentor children through all their stages of life . . . parenting has no retirement age!
Here are some ideas I’ve put together for you to think about:
Help Around the House
Children should never consider that life owes them anything. As soon as toddlers are able to help around the house, they should be responsible to put their dirty clothes in the hamper, pick up toys as they finish with them, help to set and clear dinner the table, etc. There are many little projects that they can be involved in to maintain their active participation, not as a slave, but as a contributing member of the family. As children grow they should be given more responsibilities to help around the house, always with the condition that if it is not done well, it will be done again! How will they learn to do the wash, cook, clean, mow the grass, or take out the trash unless they can learn these common sense skills at home? There are only a few short years when children can actually be a big help to the maintaining of a home. All too soon, they are grown enough that others capitalize on their abilities and you’re training while those now useful children work for others. At some point, let them get a job outside the home, where they will learn to report on time, do the work, work hard, and get the pay. Make them stick to the commitment for the job, even if it is tough or they don’t like the boss.
Many of the children I know have money. Some parents set up chores for which there is an allowance, some families give out allowances that include making the children responsible for all their purchases – lunches, snacks, field-study costs, and so much more. They get birthday money, babysitting money, treats from a grandparent, etc. Once they have money, teach them to learn to manage it in three pockets – tithe, save and spend. This will accomplish several things. By tithing, they learn that God gets our first fruits. By saving they learn to delay gratification and learn the satisfaction of paying with cash for something they really want. The third pocket of spending is never a problem! This three-pocket money management is only really effective if they hear their parents talking about giving and saving; of buying with cash; of paying off all credit card debt as soon as the bill comes in; in other words seeing their most important teachers “live like no one else so that they can give like no one else!” (Dave Ramsey)
Setting Aside Time For Togetherness—Meal Times
Be deliberate about spending time at the evening meal together. This is how parents find out the best and worst part of their children’s day. Children learn to hear others’ opinions and to express opinions in a safe environment. Meal time can include every family member helping to plan family events and see love in action. We often had Bible reading at the table, with many stories becoming favorites to be read over and over. We also noted that our children were very able to express themselves in logical reasoning and with complete thoughts. Plus, we had a lot of fun at our meals.
If children have interest in sports or clubs or choirs or music lessons, help children understand commitment. They sign on for a season; they stay at it for that entire time. They go to or do the practice, go to games (sometimes cheering from the bench), attend rehearsals and follow through with whatever is involved. This can be evaluated at the end of the term or season or year, but don’t allow them to drop out. Demonstrate this with your own time commitments to organizations or church committees. Let the children talk about problems at the dinner table and help them to come up with solutions that make sense. As appropriate, be free with discussing your own challenges. Sometimes gems do come from the mouth of babes! There is no corner on advice; it can come from any person of any age.
Dealing with Failure
Teach children how to deal with failure. It is a mistake to run to the teachers for bad grades or loss of recess or extra writing assignments. Don’t encourage participation awards that encourage entitlement. Help them to honor those who do well at events and teach them to pray for those who seek to harm them, physically or emotionally. Think of the learning in your own life that was based on, “Boy, I’ll never do that again!” Statistically, as children grow they will not benefit from our interference with natural consequences. Just as we watched them fall repeatedly as they learned to walk, we must also allow failures to be teaching events. It is not easy to watch children suffer, but in the long run, backing up their decisions, letting them cry, and/or listening to them vent builds positive relationships.
Monitor Social Media and Device Usage
Parents have the right to monitor social media. Statistics show that peer contact is on the rise, but parents need to decide if all the electronics are necessary even if, “everyone else has one!” A parent has the authority to decide when devices are to be used. As a parent, it is your house, your rules. Texting has become the norm for interaction for the youth and that eliminates a lot of input that could be coming from worthy sources – aunts and uncles, grandparents, older friends, neighbors, AND parents! Too much of something relatively harmless is still too much! If it is dinner time, no one answers the phone or texts for a window of time. No devices in church and limited time in the car. Remember growing up and counting cows, identifying license plates, and playing the alphabet game or “I spy?” Those were great memories we made and are not too dorky for today!
Discipline children appropriately, lovingly, and never abusively. If one is not disciplined, one is not loved. In Hebrews 12: 11 we read, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward, there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” There is no one way that works for all children, so each must be treated as an individual. But calling a child on the error of their ways is what makes them stronger and they can feel your love – even if it takes a while for them to realize it. In the same train of thought, always take time to praise. “Two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way – or always to have it.” (Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden)
Refer to Scripture
Teach children how to deal with daily situations by referring to Scripture. Get your own walk with God serious! How are you going to teach what you don’t know? The guide to living is God’s Word. Spend time with God and learn what He has for you and for your family. Don’t use Scripture as a club, but as the loving instruction that God has for each of us. In addition, be committed and devoted to each other as parents as Scripture teaches thereby creating a model for marriage. Family stability is integral to growing a healthy child.
Be a Godly Model
So, start each day with a good breakfast and communicate love to the whole child – emotionally, spiritually, physically – by being a Godly model. Plan for what you want your child to become by teaching them today to “enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations.”(Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language) “You shall teach them [God’s ways] to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19) Do not weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9) Your role is to complete your child’s education – especially in learning responsibility.
Dayspring Christian Academy educates children from preschool through 12th grade. Dayspring is different from other Lancaster Christian schools in that its rich and elevated classical curriculum trains the hearts and minds of our students to understand and apply truth. Our mission is to assist parents in providing a wholly Christian education for their children. If you would like to learn more, please schedule a tour or contact Karol Hasting at 717-285-2000.