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Raising Responsible Kids

March 26, 2007

Scott & I had dinner with  friends the other night.  He is a youth pastor, so naturally our conversation leaned towards teenagers since we have some.  He expressed a growing frustration of parents coming to him asking for advice on how to handle their teenagers. He and his wife don’t even have kids yet!  He explained to us that parent after parent in his church would show up at his office looking for quick fix ideas to stop their children’s rebellious behavior that were breaking up the family.  He wants to help these parents, but he said that most of the time the parents are the problem.  The teenager is just reacting to what he has been taught by his parents own behaviour.  That really got me thinking about my own kids.  When did Scott & I start training them to be responsible people?  When did we decide that certain behaviour would just not be tolerated in our family?  When did we start teaching them right from wrong?


These parents most likely didn’t do much discipline or training with their children and then the kids grew up and the parents didn’t like them anymore.  Or they thought that the little attitudes were just a part of the stage they were in and it would pass.  You can’t wait until your children are 13, 14 or 15 to start teaching them to be responsible adults. If you don’t like the behavior you see in your kids now, it won’t pass, it will only grow bigger as they grow.  You start teaching them when they are young.  It starts in the beginning of their life.  If you wait, it just makes it harder.

In Webster’s 1828 Dictionary the definition of responsible is “the state of being accountable or answerable”.  In
Robin Sampson’s book, What Your Child Needs to Know When, her definition is “Governed by reason; being under the influence of reason; thinking, speaking, or acting rationally or according to the dictates of reason.”  So what does that mean in a nut shell?  Basically, we teach our children to think before they act and then when they act it is in a way that honors and pleases God. 
~~Simple things you can do everyday!~~

  1. Hug your child everyday and tell them why you love them.  “Jeff, I love you because you have the best smile I’ve ever seen!”  My thirteen year old son still hugs me everyday.  And even when he stinks, I try to hug him for at least 30 seconds (that is as long as I can hold my breath).  This builds relationship.
  2. Pray for your child and with your child.  Praying with your children is also  powerful in building a relationship with them.  I pray with my youngest boys every night before they go to bed and it is our favorite time of day.  The older children & I have prayer time in the mornings before they really dig into their school work.  This is when I hear about friends they are concerned about or things they read in scripture or heard the preacher say that they are wondering about.  I pray for my baby while he is nursing and for my 2 year old little girl as I lay her down for naps and bedtime.
  3. Give them special duties or jobs.  Each of my kids have a job or chore they have to do everyday.  I am totally amazed at the kids who live in our neighborhood who don’t have to do anything at home.  Their mom does everything for them I guess. How is that preparing them for life away from mom? My most favorite bit of advice that I ever received was, “Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves.”  The other was “Mom doesn’t bend down”, meaning if I drop something they can pick it up for me.  This is especially great when I am pregnant & haven’t seen my feet in months. Train them in their jobs, don’t just tell them to do them.  Show them and do it with them until they understand what is expected of them.  And them explain to them that now it is their job and you don’t do it anymore.  If they get lazy about it there will be consequences.  My 2 year old Gracie doesn’t have an “assigned” job, but she helps all of us do things.  She is learning already how to unload the dishwasher, fold clothes, pick up toys and feed the cat.  Start early!!!
  4. Teach manners.  Yes m’am, no sir and thank you go a long way to an adult who is not used to hearing it.  Teach your boys to open the doors for girls.  Teach your girls to act like young ladies rather than one of the boys.  It shows a level of respect that is hard to find these days.  Respect, I think, is viewed by todays world as wimpy and passive.  I don’t care, I just know that when a young person shows respect to an undeserving adult they are left speechless.  Teach your kids to respect all adults by the way they look at them, talk to them and sit by them.  I am so blessed everytime someone compliments me on my children and the mature way they spoke with them. 
  5. Teach them to take responsibility for their actions.  This is really big one for me!  There is a kid on our street that cries and whines everyday, “She made me do it.”  Oh, it makes me so mad because he has this whole “I am the victim” attitude.  He causes more trouble than anyone, yet it is everyone elses fault.  Teach your kids to beable to say, “Yes, I did it and I’m sorry.”  That is responsible, that is wisdom, that is an attitude that reflects the ways of Christ. 

There is a secret to this.  Your children will learn all of this a lot easier and faster if they see it in you.  This makes it really hard, because it means we have to have godly attitudes and show others respect and take pride in a job well done without complaining.  I am the first to say that I am not a good example for my kids to follow, but because I know that they catch more than they are taught it helps keep me on my toes.  Romans 14:12 says “So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God.”  They are watching us. Not always a good feeling, but it is the truth. We are not just accountable to our children, but more impotantly we are accountable to God.  When we are watching God, our spiritual father, he guides us and keeps us on the straight and narrow so that we can guide our kids.

Proverbs 2:6, “For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth comes

 knowledge and understanding.”

Keep up the good work!!!

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