Child-raising and teaching
Itís a given.
Kids will say and do dumb things, you will have to tell them
to do the same things over and over again, even though they know
what you are telling them is good for them.
They will avoid their broccoli, use lunch money to buy a CD,
ignore obvious dangers, and become offended when you say they are
Being responsible is more than just
eating right and obeying the rules.
As humans, we also have responsibilities for things because
we are a part of society. It is in this area that we seem to be
losing our children.
Being responsible is also more than
just being about actions. It
is a state of mind. Itís
what we do when nobody is looking, when there is nobody standing
over you making sure that you do what you are supposed to do.
Itís choosing responsible action, if only because itís the right
Lumping people together into
generations to call one less responsible only serves as an excuse
for acting irresponsible. If
we label a generation as irresponsible and point to a child of that
generation, logic flows that this child will therefore become
of focusing on generations (other than as to how we should raise the
next one), we need to begin to talk about responsibility as an
Being responsible is necessary
As a society, we depend on people
to do the things that are necessary, not because of a looming threat
if those things are not done. No society can
keep a constant watch on all its participants. The
threat of force must be reserved for those few that ignore the
Taking responsibility and acting on
it is also the basis by which we develop and become better and
Employers seldom advance irresponsible people, and
responsibility is the
basis on which we all develop trust in other people.
Irresponsible people are simply not trust-worthy.
Responsibility is losing ground
We rarely hear of perpetrators ever
pleading guilty in court. When
they do, itís almost always the result of a plea-bargain and where
they would probably be convicted anyway, not out of any sense of
taking responsibility. The
honorable person accepts responsibility when he knows he is wrong.
If you examine most lawsuits, you
will find that we are suddenly no longer even responsible for what we put in our face
anymore. Lawsuits over fat-filled sandwiches and hot coffee in
the lap aren't all that uncommon. Why is corporate America now
suddenly responsible for a lack of personal common sense and
This attitude also carries over to our
children. In the
absence of any other example, children learn that shifting blame to
someone somewhere is
a preferable personal characteristic to accepting responsibility for
their own actions.
When faced with a decision to
commit an act or not, a
person raised with this understanding often bases their decision on the
likelihood of being caught and punished instead of on what is right
and wrong. Their moral
compass has given way to scale that balances potential costs against the
potential gain. Morality
becomes a mathematical equation, and that only teaches you that that the only time
you are actually wrong is if you get caught.
This makes for a very dangerous
Parents Ė bearers of the torch
Children do not develop moral
responsibility on their own. Any
innate moral instinct they may have been born with can easily be replaced in the
first few years of life by watching parents and other
ďrespectedĒ members of society act irresponsibly.
Sociologists and psychologists have
proved over and over, that if irresponsible parents raise a child,
there is almost a certainty that his/her own behavior will not be
more responsible than the parent.
If a mother is disrespectful of her
parents, itís virtually a guarantee that her child will be equally
disrespectful of her. If she is lazy, so will be the child.
she cheats others, she simply cannot make the case that she is only cheating
the large corporation or a government institution.
The child simply learns that cheating is okay, and developing
excuses is part of the process.
Children learn right and wrong by
example, not instruction. While
outsiders may influence the child's values in good or bad ways, the strongest
influence on a child is the perceived actions of the parents.
It would of course be ludicrous to
think that any parent will always do the right thing.
We are human, we will yield to temptation, and we will
sometimes do a dastardly deed.
The responsible parent hits the crossroad here and must make
the choice to go back, apologize, and take responsibility without
excuse, and without trying to lay part of the blame on someone else.
Raising a responsible child
From the above, one might assume
that the key to raising a child who is responsible and has a
well-developed moral compass would be to make sure the child only
sees the parents' responsible actions.
Thatís almost correct.
Because children have an incredible
well-developed sense of their surroundings, itís not enough to
show them responsible moral behavior and assume they will look no
responsible must happen all the time, even when the kids arenít looking
and in areas that you are certain they will never notice.
Though they seem to be otherwise
engaged, children consistently notice the smallest details
of their parentsí actions, and they compare them to what theyíve
A parent who
teaches road safety will be questioned as to why they are speeding.
A parent who teaches abstinence and fidelity will be
questioned about those adult movies they own. And a parent
that teaches honesty, but rips off their employer, fellow employees,
fakes injuries, and pulls insurance scams will be busted, if only in
the eyes of their children.
Children see things in absolute black and white with no gray in the middle.
Itís wrong or right, not just Ďokay in this particular
situation with these sets of circumstancesí.
Situational ethics are hard to understand, and are largely
understood by kids as the set of excuses.
Which side of the fence do your
kids/grandkids see you on? Do
they see you as a moral authority or do they see you as a guide
through legal landmines, an excuse maker, or someone who makes your
own rules as you go along?
The responsible environment
Can you protect kids from the
negatives of the world around them?
Certainly not. Society
and the media seem bent on giving kids a bad message no matter which
direction you turn. And
then there are those relatives and neighbors that weíd just as
soon keep the kids away from. While
protecting kids is the absolute and number one duty of a parent,
itís not a good thing to isolate them either, even if we could.
What is important is to deal with
the things they come into contact with in a proactive way, teaching
them that there are bad things in the world; but that personal
responsibility means avoiding those bad things, staying out of
circumstances that may be tempting, and even avoiding the appearance
of being wrong. Kids that hang out with problem children are
assumed by others to be of a similar nature, and they are treated
Teaching responsibility is the
surest way to protect your kids and grandkids from peer pressure and temptation.
Yes, this includes grandparents as well, if not more. If and
when parents do mess up, kids look to those grandparents to decide
if the parents are giving the right message. So, are you part of the answer or part of the problem?