Teaching responsibility is one of the more difficult aspects of raising children in my opinion. Some parents are very proactive. For example, some children are given a set of chores around the house they are expected to complete.
But, responsibility goes further than that. Responsible children have to make choices during difficult times. Whether or not to cheat on a test or whether to lie to a parent about where they really were on Saturday night are examples.
I don’t have a one size fits all answer when it comes to responsibility because it depends on the age of the child and the temperament of the parent. What I do have is a story from this past weekend which illustrates how difficult teaching responsibility can be.
Sunday morning, I woke up to take my children home from a great weekend with my cousin and his family. After I drove 3 1/2 hours to get home, I discovered water underneath my floor boards because my refrigerator had leaked while I was away. Because this is a family blog, I’ll only say my mood was general unhappiness. I felt a lot like this man though.
My oldest child had a flag football game at 1:00pm so I rustled up the energy and off we went. He played his best overall game of the season and made me very proud. In the fourth quarter though, he missed a flag on fourth down and one. The opponent went on to score a touchdown and his team lost. Both of us knew he messed up and my heart strings just broke for him. After the game, he cried and I felt horribly. He asked if he could go home with my wife which was fine. This is when the really hard part of the story begins.
After we got home, I asked him for his mouth guard but he said he didn’t have it. It’s a requirement of the league to have a mouth guard so this was a problem. After looking in my wife’s car and around the kitchen, he was convinced he lost it.
After having such a long and emotional day, the last thing I wanted to do was make a decision on how I was going to handle the problem. But, that’s what I had to do. After a deep breath, I decided going back to the ball field with my child to try to find the mouth guard was a better idea than showing my frustration to my 7 year old child.
Unfortunately, we didn’t find the mouth guard so I had another question to answer. Who was going to pay for the $20 replacement? I decided that since my child had lost it, he should pay for it. That was a tough decision though because we had had a long day, all 7 year olds make mistakes, and his money is mainly from past birthdays. Heck, I had no desire to even drive to the sporting goods store to make the purchase. Nevertheless, we went, found the replacement, and he used his money.
By the time we returned home, I was exhausted. I remember telling my wife that I was going to take a nap. I told my child before I laid down that if he found his mouth guard, we would return the new one.
By the time I woke up, I was greeted with a surprise. My child had found his mouth guard. It was in my wife’s car he swore he had already looked through.
There are a lot of lessons to be taken from this story. The first lesson is that teaching responsibility doesn’t revolve around a parents’ convenience. We don’t get the luxury of picking and choosing when to teach these important lessons.
The second lesson is equally if not more important. Had I not placed the responsibility on my son to find the mouth guard and pay for it, he probably wouldn’t have made the extra effort to look in the car again before it was too late. Once the new package is opened, it cannot be returned.
Finally, going forward, my child was taught that dad is not going to bail him out with $20 when he doesn’t keep up with his belongings. I wonder how much money that lesson will actually save me (and him) for the foreseeable future. I guess only time will tell.
Have a terrific week and I will write to you again Friday. Don’t forget lessons like the one you read about today are in my book Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures. It can be purchased through this link. http://tinyurl.com/3fkzasp
Using the promo code tango305 at checkout will also give a 15% discount. Best wishes!