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Responsibility, Part I

​​Life is full of choices, and these choices have consequences, both good and bad. People of sound character are responsible. They purposefully choose their attitudes, words and actions, and accept responsibility for the consequences of these choices.

One of the most important character traits parents can teach their children is responsibility. Responsibility is a complex virtue, however. It takes a lot of time, patience and practice to acquire it. Because responsibility is such a key element in leading a happy and productive adult life, we will devote four articles to how parents can instill this virtue in their children.

There are 12 major concepts related to responsibility that parents must address when teaching their children how to be responsible individuals.  They are:

  1. Being accountable
  2. Exercising self-control
  3. Planning and setting goals
  4. Choosing positive attitudes
  5. Doing one’s duty
  6. Being self-reliant
  7. Pursuing excellence
  8. Being proactive
  9. Being persistent
  10. Being reflective
  11. Setting a good example
  12. Being morally autonomous

This first article will address the first three concepts.

  1. Being Accountable.  Responsible people accept moral responsibility for their attitudes, words and actions. This requires individuals to reflect on their choices – to think beyond immediate gratification by considering how choices today will affect life in the future – and analyze situations that result from their choices. Responsible people do not cast themselves as the victim or claim that circumstances or other people “made them do it.” They see accountability as power because they know the choices they make today have a direct bearing on their future.

    *Teens want more personal freedom, but with this freedom comes greater responsibility.

    Real-life application:  A teenage girl must decide if dressing provocatively to get immediate attention from boys is worth possible long-term damage to her reputation from being labeled “fast” or “easy.”

  2. Exercising Self-Control. Self-control is the ability to manage powerful emotions and appetites in honor of reason and duty. Feelings in and of themselves are not good or bad; they are natural and can be very powerful at times. How we respond to our feelings determines if we possess self-control or not, if we are responsible individuals or reckless. 

    As parents, we must teach our teens to recognize the source of emotions and give them tools to handle these often powerful feelings in order to prevent physical or emotional harm to themselves or others. 

    *Taking charge of one’s life begins with the ability to deal with emotions and moods in constructive ways through the exercise of reasoning and free will – the power to choose.

    Real-life application:  A hot-headed star athlete can choose to keep his cool during a game when his opponents are trying to goad him into losing his temper and fouling out of the game. He sees that by ignoring their tactics, he gains control not only of his emotions but also the game because he does not let someone else yank his chain.

  3. Planning and Setting Goals.  Teens often resist planning. But making a plan exhibits responsibility.  People who live their lives more purposefully, instead of just “going with the flow,” are more likely to eventually get what they want. 

    Parents need to teach their teens the importance of short-term planning (putting gas in the car so they won’t get stranded) and long-term planning (taking the right classes to graduate on time). Sho​rt-term planning teaches teens to make a mental checklist of what needs to be done for an upcoming event.  Long-term planning involves setting goals to achieve an ultimate reward. 

In Responsibility, Part II, we will focus on the next five concepts of teaching this important virtue. 

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