Encouraging our children to be responsible

One of the challenges of living with social distancing is that we need everyone to take responsibility for their own behaviour. Below are some tips on encouraging our children to become responsible from the Center for Parenting Education. This article was posted before our current Covid19 lockdown but many of the ideas are very useful.

If you have young people who are struggling to see why they should stay at home here is a great video from Foróige Bundoran/Ballyshannon Youth and Family Support Programme where young people tell us who they are staying home for

The impact of words

One of the more subtle ways to promote responsibility in your children is through the language you use. By communicating your expectations that your children will act responsibly, you can create an environment that encourages them to be accountable for their behaviors.

Be alert to “trigger words”

To avoid taking responsibility, children sometimes use phrases such as:

  • “It wasn’t my fault.”
  • “He made me do it.”
  • “I forgot.”
  • “It was an accident.”

When you do not accept these comments as an explanation for behavior, your children learn to take responsibility for their actions. For example:

“I forgot to feed the dog.”

Instead of saying “Okay, don’t let it happen again,” say “The dog is hungry. You need to feed him now.”

“It wasn’t my fault that Thomas’s papers fell. He left them too close to the edge of the table.”

Instead of saying “I’m glad you didn’t do it on purpose. Be more careful next time,” say “I know you didn’t do it on purpose, but you are responsible for what your body does. You need to pick up the papers.”

Give information positively

thumbs up language of responsibility

By noticing improvements and progress rather than commenting on failures, your language can communicate a sense of growth and hopefulness. You are giving the message that you believe that your child is capable of and willing to learn.

Rather than saying “When will you remember what you have to do to set the table?” you can say, “I’m glad that you put the dishes and napkins on the table. Soon you will put the cutlery there too. That is part of learning to set the table.”

“Catch your children being good” by praising positive behavior. Children want to be noticed and appreciated. If they are not recognized for behavior that is responsible, they may try to gain attention through behaviour that is not acceptable.

Use the language of “supportive care”

Instead of rushing in to help your children when they are having a problem, ask them if they want help or if they want to handle the situation themselves. If they want help, you can ask them what kind of help they would like.

Because this type of offering gives them the chance to solve their own problems or to decide in what areas they could use assistance, it encourages children to take more responsibility for their own care.

For example, instead of immediately offering to assist your child on a writing assignment, you can ask whether they want to do it themselves or whether they want help.

If they want your involvement, do they want to brainstorm ideas with you, want help organizing their thoughts, or want you to proof-read their paper?

Use Negotiable Rules

There are certain rules that parents will maintain as non-negotiable; these are often related to safety issues and there is no wiggle-room. But as children get older, more mature and as their judgment improves, certain rules can be shifted into the negotiable category.

By engaging your children in a process of negotiation, you are handing over to them some of the responsibility for following the rule. The result is that your children will more readily internalize the rules and gain self-discipline.

For example, as children get older, bedtime on weekend nights is an issue that might be open for discussion. Having had input into the decision and agreed upon the bedtime during the negotiation, your children are more likely to responsibly abide by the decision.

Employ Humor

The benefits of humor:

  • reduces tension,
  • helps children to see a situation from a different perspective,
  • increases cooperation,
  • builds stronger relationships between people.

In Summary

If you can picture your children as being responsible and treat them as if they already are, you will enhance their movement in that direction. Having a clear picture of how you want your children to be and believing they are capable of becoming that way, will increase the likelihood that they will rise to meet your vision and expectations.

You can get more articles, tips and resources at  https://centerforparentingeducation.org/

Dealing with misbehaviour

More than a few parents have expressed their feelings about their child by saying “I wish I knew what to do about my child’s behaviour.”

It would be nice to have a simple solution—like a magic wand—for parents to use when they feel frustrated by their child’s misbehaviour. Unfortunately, the reasons why children misbehave are too complicated for a simple solution.

We become aware of this complexity when we try to change the way a parent and child interact. For example, most of us can appreciate how hard it is sometimes for a parent to control his or her temper after a child has misbehaved. Even a simple analysis of such a negative interaction between parent and child would have to consider the characteristics of the parent, the child, and the specific situation in which the interaction occurred. To make matters more complicated, each of these characteristics change from year to year, from week to week, and even from one time of day to another.

It is also important to bear in mind that:
(1) What works for one parent in disciplining a child may not work for another parent with the same child.
(2) What proves to be an effective discipline strategy with one child may be ineffective or inappropriate for another child in the same family.
(3) An approach that has worked well in one situation may not bring about the same desired result with the same child in a different situation.

It helps parents to feel better about their children’s misbehaviour when they remember that it is normal for young children to misbehave occasionally. It is also normal for parents to make mistakes and to lose their temper from time to time. If you are thinking that you must be the only parent who can’t handle misbehaviour, then it is time to relax and realize you are not alone.

Don’t be too hard on yourself— try to take a good look at the situation. If you feel an extreme sense of “aloneness” in dealing with your child’s misbehaviour problems, you might consider joining a parent support group or parent education class in your area. Sharing concerns with a good friend or listening to the problems other parents are having can help remove that sense of aloneness.
There is more than one approach to dealing with discipline problems, and your local library can help you find books and articles that discuss various methods.

By becoming familiar with a variety of strategies for dealing with misbehaviour, parents will be able to choose the approach best suited to the child, the parent, and the specific situation in which the misbehaviour occurred.


Dealing with misbehaviour – using the ‘when/then’ rule

Most parents would agree that they get tired of saying “no” to their children. Some days it seems like all they say is “no.” Sometimes it seems like children know that if they keep asking, eventually
parents will get tired of saying “no” and change to “Oh, I suppose so,” just to end the confrontation.
Here’s an alternative, and you can use it as a rule. If you’ve been trying to get your child to pick up his toys, and he wants to watch a video instead, for example, the rule works like this: “When you’ve
picked up your toys, then you can watch the video.” Here’s another example: “When you’ve picked up your clothes, then you can go play with Jim.”

Be sure to keep the sequence in the right order because younger children may misunderstand if the statement is backwards. Children can understand how ‘when/then’ statements work, and this kind of training helps them learn to take responsibility for their own actions. And parents can avoid repeating the word “no.”

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Parenting programmes in Donegal

If you would like to develop your positive parenting skills sign up for a Parents Plus parenting course with Parent Hub Donegal. Early Years is for parents of 1-5 year olds, Children’s programme is for parents of 6-11 year olds and Adolescent programme is for parents of 11 – 16 year olds. If you have split from your partner but would like to cooperate on how you parent your children you could consider the Parenting When Separated programme. Just click the link https://forms.gle/RghfGcZ3QmD2R7raA  and sign up today and we will be in touch when there is a suitable programme in your area.