A recent study from Pew Research indicated that the number one quality parents -- regardless of their age, race, political leanings, and religion -- want their kids to have is responsibility. Parents were asked to rank the importance of 12 values kids need to learn, and 93% of parents responded that responsibility is "especially important."
Yet in our culture, instilling the value of responsibility in kids' lives seems to be easier said than done. Teenagers are constant observers and in recent months they've had opportunity to see any number of public figures who claim to "take full responsibility" for their actions, but who experience few if any consequences. This sends the wrong message to teens. When people take ownership for behaviors but face no accountability for their actions, the value of responsibility becomes meaningless.
So is imparting responsibility to today's teens a "mission impossible"? Fortunately, teaching teens responsibility is possible! By using intentional and consistent discipline, parents can see their kids grow into responsible adults.
- Teaching responsibility requires parents to set clear expectations and enforce consistent consequences.
- Make sure consequences are appropriate to the "crime."
- Decide which behaviors are worth battling over, and which are not.
- Include your teenager in creating the consequences. Creating consequences are something you do with your teenagers, not to them.
- Present consequences as choice. Choices within limits provide teenagers with opportunities to learn to make good decisions because they make the decision. ("Either come home at dinnertime, or miss eating." "Either drive the speed limit, or I will drive." "You can either feed your dog or we will give it away.")
- Consistently follow through if your teenager has chosen the consequences.
- Administer the consequence in a friendly, rather than hostile, punitive manner. There is no need for nagging or lecturing.
- Separate your teenager from her behavior. Focus your attention back to positive things soon after the consequences are given.
- Never use a consequence that you cannot follow through on such as, "Either change your attitude or find another place to live."