8 Ways to Guide Your Child into Responsible Behavior
Children will be children and parents will never run short of incidences where they wish their offspring acted in a more responsible manner. While parents themselves may have good values, those values have to be communicated well to be passed on to their kids. If a child misbehaves or conducts himself in an unresponsible manner, saying nothing to the child for the sake of appearing as an unintrusive parent would serve more as accepting the child’s behaviour more than anything else. If you accept such behaviour, there is no reason why your child should change, is there? Let’s talk about it, responsibly… .
The key to teaching responsibility to kids
While it’s true that children will be running around wild without discipline, they will be just as wild if that discipline came without guidance to do what’s right. Guidance should never be confused with punishment. Punishment involves some form of disciplinary action while guidance involves showing a child the path we recommend, explaining why we think it’s the best path, and providing the child with the initiatives to stay on that path.
Unless we’re willing to fully depend on disciplinary force, influence via guidance is needed to teach children to be responsible for their actions. It would be well worth it to keep in mind that kids generally resist force, hence influence actually works better to transmit values and behavioral standards. Kids will then simply choose to do the right thing, because they want to “follow” your lead. There are many ways to guide kids into becoming more responsible. Here are some of them:
1. Setting some clear limits
In life, limits have to be set for many reasons and one of them is to serve as a mark of what can and cannot done. It is inevitable that kids will be getting away with a lot of mischief, but limits will ensure that they can still be kids without endangering themselves or others. Limits can also ensure that they do not go overboard in any way, causing harm or distress to anyone. Kids should generally know that hitting people, running in the street, or throwing their food at each other are all off limits. If any misconduct pertaining to those limits were met with harsh punishment, kids will eventually learn but not without resistance. If limits were set instead with proper understanding of their perspective, (for example, “I cannot let you hurt your sister for breaking your toy, but I can help you tell her how you feel about what she did”), your kid will be more likely to understand and agree with the limits set by you.
2. Kids need to feel connected to the ones they love
Always be certain of why your child misbehaves before meting out any disciplinary action. Remember that kids start to feel disconnected for many reasons – because they’re angry, because we’re angry at them, because we’ve been apart from them all day, and so on and so forth. They may ‘act up’ until the connection is, to them, ‘healed’. A child generally wants to please his or her parents and since you are an important person in your child’s life, he or she is predisposed to listen to your guidance. However, this would be difficult if your child is not convinced that you’re on his or her side. Punishment will only further erode the connection at this point, because in a child’s mind, you’re intentionally causing them to hurt, either physically or emotionally.
3. Empathy is not a natural inclination
Empathy is not only one of the foundations of morality but it paves the way for responsible behaviour. Parents who are empathetic are more likely to encourage the virtue of empathy in their household. A child can be taught to develop empathy for others including his siblings and friends. This will lead them to act in responsible ways because they care enough not to hurt others with their words or actions.
4. Empower them with the power of repair
Life is never without mistakes, for that is how humans learn to become better people. Every one of us has made mistakes and wise parents will give some thought into guiding their offspring in the subject of damage control. For kids to carry on acting in responsible ways, they need to know that they can and should make amends when the need arises. Instead of concentrating on harsh punishments, help a child to reflect on the misdeed and how best to repair the ‘damage’ done, for this is the real key to a deeper and more meaningful lesson.
5. Balance your own act
A kid who is ‘whipped into shape’ is not likely to turn out a responsible adult and the same goes for a kid who has never been shown what’s wrong from right. Communicate your expectations of your kids behaviour well and fortify the message by exhibiting a sense of responsibility in your own actions. What would you yourself say is right, acceptable or absolutely wrong? If you yourself are confident of your own balance of wrongs and rights, you will more likely succeed in teaching your child about responsible behaviour.
6. Coaching the emotion
When kids learn to manage their emotions, they can manage their behavior, so they’re ABLE to behave and cooperate. We only gain control of our emotions by befriending them. Start by accepting your child’s full range of emotions with as much compassion as you can muster, and lots of roughhousing play to work through feelings and anxiety. This gives your child the support needed to understand and regulate emotions, and behave in the best possible way. Above all, a kid needs to feel loved, unconditionally. That feeling of “goodness” is what helps all of us make progress toward our good intentions.
7. Be a role model for responsible behaviour
When teaching a child valuable lessons in life, talk is cheap! Yes, children are more likely to learn their values and emotional regulation from what parents do and not what they say. Anybody can talk, but can you do as you preach? Children are more intelligent than you think and if a parent says one thing but does the opposite, then expect an observant child to not take such parents seriously, or worse, follow in their footsteps!
Don’t wait till there is a problem to talk to a child about responsible behaviour, for if you do, then expect lots of problems! Children learn from experience accompanied by reflection so communicate freely about good behaviour whenever possible. It’s our job to provide the opportunities for reflection. That means lots of talking and listening with your child, daily.