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Responsibility, Part III

​​​The virtue of responsibility makes for a happy and productive adult life. That’s why it’s one of the most important virtues a parent can foster in a child.  Responsible people purposefully choose their attitudes, words and actions, and accept responsibility for the consequences of these choices.

Responsibility does not come easily. Becoming a responsible adult requires conscious effort and practice. Because responsibility is so important, we have devoted four articles on 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 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 is the third of the four articles.  It focuses on concepts 9 through 11.

  1. Being Persistent. Responsible people finish what they start. They know that most things worth achieving require hard work and that success does not always come from a first attempt. Parents must help their children by reinforcing that they can succeed (and success is important to teens) at anything if they work hard enough. Parents need to be prepared for complaining and excuse making when tasks become difficult, providing encouragement instead of giving in to complaints. 

    Parents should NOT force their children to stick with an activity the parents choose for their own personal reasons.

    Real-life application: A naturally athletic girl tries out for a new sport and finds herself in the new position of being one of the least-talented players on the team.  Instead of giving up because she can’t be one of the best, she spends extra time practicing the fundamentals of the sport until she can play with proficiency.

  2. Being Reflective. Being reflective means using one’s head to make rational decisions. It requires thinking ahead and reflecting on the consequences of our choices even during emotional times. Teens often consider only the here and now or immediate future; long-range planning is not their strong suit. Parents need to remind teens that today’s choices will aff​ect future plans, not only for themselves but also for others. It is important that teens learn to reflect on the ramifications of these choices before acting on them. 

    Real-life application: Parents can help their teens become more reflective by asking leading, non-confrontational questions. If a teen breaks curfew, her parent can ask, “When you decided to ignore your curfew, what did you think would happen when you came home?”

  3. Setting a Good Example. Responsible people understand their behavior often influences the behavior of others, so they conduct themselves morally and ethically. Simply put, they set a good example and they lead by example. When the opportunity to do something good presents itself, they do it, even if it is as simple as opening the door for someone.  They serve as role models. Children pay more attention to what their parents do than what they say.

    Real-life application: The cashier at the grocery store mistakenly gives you more change than you deserve.  You correct her mistake and give her back the extra money instead of pocketing it and thinking, “This is my lucky day.” Your children are watching you. They have learned from your example that honesty is the best policy.

In Responsibility, Part IV​, we will focus on the last concept of teaching responsibility and the importance of consequences.

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