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Tips to Raising Your Children to Have a Sense of Personal Responsibility

Posted Apr 11 2012 2:00pm

“I called her a name because she called me a name”, “I took his toy because he took mine.” Or “She hit me first!”
Does this resonate with you? Do you wish your children would understand and accept responsibility for their actions? Your answer is most likely yes as this is a common concern for parents. Assuming a sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives is at the root of all things that follow. The degree of our success, happiness and over all well-being is determined by how we perceive ourselves in conjunction with the world around us. In other words, do we see life happening to us or do we see life happening as a result of what we do? The good news is that it is never too late to introduce key elements into your children’s lives that will instill in them  a strong sense of personal responsibility.
And of course, like all things in parenting, it begins with you. How do your children see you handle personal responsibility in your life? Ask yourself the following questions…     
  • Do I openly admit when I am wrong?
  • Do I apologize to my children when I make a mistake?
  • Am I honest when I don’t have the answer they are looking for?
These are all things that model being responsible for your actions and choices.
That being said, the single most important key to raising children to have a sense of personal responsibility is to empower them with an understanding of the power they have in their lives by way of their thoughts, beliefs and choices. Once armed with this awareness they can further develop it and integrate it into their perspective and approach to life.

Begin by having a conversation with your children about their understanding of what is positive and what is negative, stressing the point that people are to respect one another and love one another. What you are doing is laying the foundation of what they understand…what they can realistically be held responsible for knowing and then increasing their awareness of the expectation that we are all held to which is to always be kind, loving and caring toward one another.
Then explain to them in very absolute terms that they are very powerful, that God (Divine, Source, or whatever term feels right for you to use) gave them this amazing power…and that this power that they have is over only them.
Often children of this age will identify with super heroes which is a great analogy to use. Share with them that they are the “super hero” of their physical body with amazing power that no one else has over their body! And what that means is that no one can MAKE them do anything that they don’t want to do. You can go through all the physical things that they can do…and how they are the ones who choose to make their legs run, their arm throw a ball, or their voice speak loudly or softly and even sing a song.
These examples will help them begin to see the power they have over their body and the actions they take. Children learn best when having fun! Play a game with them where they are to ask you to sing a song when you prefer not to sing. Encourage them to do or say anything they can think of to get you to sing a song! And of course, no matter how they ask, beg, or plead, you will not sing UNLESS YOU CHOOSE to sing. You can replace singing with lots of different things… raising your hand, closing your eyes or lifting one leg for example. You can even reverse it and ask them to do things, demonstrating that regardless of what you say to them, they have the power to choose yes or no.
Again, this will establish the power everyone has over their actions…that no one on the outside can do anything to make another do something they really don’t want to do.
When you see that they are beginning to understand this concept, translate it to their actions when someone does something they don’t like. You are working toward explaining the lack of control we have over other’s actions and the complete control and power we have over our own actions and reactions.
Once they have grasped this understanding, as time goes by and you witness situations where they act or react negatively, “walk” them back to the reality of their “super-power” over what they choose to do and choose to do in reaction, regardless of someone else’s choice of action.
And of course, when you see their mindset shifting toward taking responsibility and making positive action and reaction choices, PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE!!
When children understand that they are in control of what happens in their life by way of their choices, actions and reactions, it automatically removes the victim mentality that feeds a lack of responsibility. As they learn to make positive choices and they are reinforced with praise they will inevitably adopt the realization that they are in fact personally responsible.
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