We all want to raise responsible children. And we all want to live in a world where others have been raised to be responsible, a world where adults don’t shrug off their responsibilities as citizens. As my son said, surveying the littered park when he was three, “Don’t grownups know they have to clean up their own messes?”
So how do we raise our kids to take responsibility for their choices and their impact on the world?
You begin by seeing responsibility as something joyful for your child, instead of a burden. All children want to see themselves as response-able — powerful and able to respond to what needs to be done. They need this for their self-esteem, and for their lives to have meaning. Children don’t want just to be doted on. They need, like the rest of us, to feel like they matter to the world, like their lives make a positive contribution.
So, you don’t really need to teach them to handle themselves responsibly in the world; you just need to teach them that they have the power to contribute positively, and to relate to them so that they want to do so.
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