One of the key themes with the parents who come to see me is responsibility. I admit as a parent this is also a personal theme in my home. How do we teach our children to be responsible?
I believe we teach responsibility when we can get out of the way, stop owning our children’s problems, and allow consequences to occur in their lives. Of course this is easier said than done sometimes! My daughter went to a local shop with twenty dollars burning a hole in her pocket. As many children do, she made an impulsive purchase and by the time she reached the door reconsidered and wanted to return the item. When she went make the return approximately five seconds later, the clerk stated she could give her store credit, but she could not return the cash. There is a no refund or returns policy in the store. My daughter was devastated.
My daughter is young and unaware of refund policies. It would be easy to use this as justification to “fix” this problem for her. It is our own emotions that usually prevent us from taking advantage of these teaching moments. So how do you help your child and take advantage of these moments? It is important to comfort and validate your child’s feelings about the experience. Sit, listen and provide support. Validating does not mean you agree with anything he or she is saying! The key is to listen without judgment. The consequence does the teaching and you get to sit back and provide support.
If I rescued her from this experience she would not have learned to check out the refund policy before making a purchase. If I want her to be responsible with money then she needs to think through her purchasing decisions. If I bail her out, who is struggling with responsibility? She learns that she does not have to worry about her money decisions because I will always be there to “help.”
Do your emotions get in the way of allowing your children to take advantage of these “teaching moments?” Do you find yourself complaining about your child’s lack of responsibility and you do not know what else to do? Sometimes talking to someone else can help to identify barriers and solutions. In addition, I personally recommend the Love and Logic Series. Love and Logic is a philosophy founded in 1977 by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, M.D. I use their books regularly in my practice.
Post contributed by Bonnie Barclay, LCSW