Just this past week I received a letter that read, “I want my child to have a sense of personal responsibility” wrote the mother of a 10 yr. old girl. “But it seems to be a futile effort. She doesn’t feel she is to blame for anything that goes wrong in her life. There is a constant battle going on between her and her younger brother about who is at fault, who is right and who is wrong. How can I help her take responsibility?”
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 in our lives. 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 the key elements into your children’s lives that will inspire them to develop 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 through their thoughts, beliefs and choices. Once armed with this awareness they can develop it and integrate it into their perspective and approach to life.
To provide you with an example of how you can to help your child begin to understand that he/she alone is always in control of what they do, I would like to share with you the following Q&A that was first published in my free “Invitation to ASK!” column of my weekly newsletter when Awakened Parenting began. This concept is one that I have used not only with children I have worked with but within my own family as well with astounding results.
A concerned parent ASKS:
"I have realized how important it is to encourage my children to take responsibility for their actions, I have noticed my 5 year old saying things like.”I called her a name because she called me a name", "I took his toy because he took mine." or "She hit me first!" My question is how can I help my son take responsibility when he feels justified in his actions because the negative actions began with someone else?"
Begin by having a conversation with your son about his 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 he understands...what he can realistically be held responsible for knowing and then increasing his 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 him in very absolute terms that he is very powerful, that God (Divine, Source, or whatever term feels right for you to use) gave him this amazing power...and that this power that he has is over only him.
Often children of this age will identify with super heroes which is a great analogy to use. Share with him that he is the "super hero" of his physical body with amazing power that no one else has over his body! And what that means is that no one can MAKE him do anything that he doesn't want to do. You can go through all the physical things that he can do...and how he is the one who chooses to make his legs run, his arm throw a ball, or his voice speak loudly or softly and even sing a song.
These examples will help him begin to see the power he has over his body and the actions he takes. Children learn best when having fun! Play a game with him where he is to ask you to sing a song when you prefer not to sing. Encourage him to do or say anything he can think of to get you to sing a song! And of course, no matter how he asks, begs, or pleads, 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 him to do things, demonstrating that regardless of what you say to him, he has 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 he is beginning to understand this concept, translate it to his actions when someone does something he doesn'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 he has grasped this understanding, as time goes by and you witness situations where he acts or reacts negatively, "walk" him back to the reality of his "super-power" over what he chooses to do and chooses to do in reaction, regardless of someone else's choice of action.
And of course, when you see his mindset shifting toward taking responsibility and making positive action and reaction choices, PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE!!
When a child understands that he is in control of what happens in his life by way of his choices, actions and reactions, it automatically removes the victim mentality that feeds a lack of responsibility. As he learns to make positive choices and they are reinforced with praise he will inevitably adopt the realization that he is in fact personally responsible.