There’s no magic formula to raising children. There are, however, time test principles that help.
If you have a nine-year-old, responsible kids sounds like an oxymoron. Past generations who were forced to raise their children under the unyielding conditions of depression or war, had it easy. They had no other choice. While there is always an exception to the rule, harsh circumstances tends to forge character. Which leaves us with the first world problem of children who want for nothing. Except, perhaps the latest phone or video game.
We need to be intentional about the character development of our children. It’s easy to fall into the false assumption that all will be well simply because we are good parents. After all, we love our kids unconditionally, provide a good education, and take them to church. Oh, if it were that easy.
Scripture tells us we must train our children in righteousness in Proverbs 22:6. Responsibility falls in that category. I’ve been guilty of just expecting my kids to do what’s right. Then I become bewildered as to why they didn’t live up to my expectations of them.
It’s not hard to teach your kids to be responsible, but it does take some practice on their part, sprinkled heavily with patience and intention on yours. I’ve found that if I set the expectation that I need to teach my child something along the lines of character, my reaction to them as they are learning is much more loving and patient.
1. Give Your Child a Reason to be Responsible
We spend a lot time teaching our children to share. Which is good. It doesn’t always come naturally. However, by giving them ownership of something, they have something to care for.
This was a concept I stumbled on in the midst of raising our nine children.
Take games for instance. I discovered our “family games” had a life-span of less than three months. They loved to play them. In reality, no one gave a thought about whether or not the pieces would get lost. So they quickly moved on to the next idea and left the game out. Next thing you know, you’re digging a tiny metal boot out of your toddler’s mouth.
If it is everyone’s, in reality, it’s no one’s.
I first tested my theory with a coveted Lord of the Rings chess set. Most of my kids loved to play chess. Resisting the temptation to make it a family gift, I gave it to the eight-year-old. He had older, and younger siblings that also loved the game. It worked. He took good care of that game. It was loved by all. It actually became a family game. After all, you don’t play chess alone.
Other’s valued it, so did he. He felt responsible for making sure all of the pieces were returned to their proper place in the box. Even his older siblings had to ask permission to use it. His self-confidence and self-esteem grew.
That chess game has lived intact within our home for many years. The kids that loved it then, pull it out now to play with their own kids.
2. Teach Them the Reason For Money
When we raise responsible kids, they grow up to become responsible adults. Responsible adults understand that money has a specific purpose. It’s not to buy toys. Few things are sadder than a grown man or woman who honestly believes they have a right to indulge themselves with toys rather than providing a better life for their family.
When my children wanted a pet, we sat down to have a discussion about how he or she would provide for their pet. It’s one thing to have to remember to feed and water a pet. It’s an entire next level to be responsible for buying their food.
If you’ve ever had children beg to have a family dog, promise to take care of it, only to default on said promise after a few short weeks–remember the first tip. It bears repeating, if it belongs to everyone, it belongs to no one. This goes for family pets as well.
We have had horses, dogs, cats, goats, and chickens. The rule was always the same. In case you’re wondering, yes, we lived on a farm.
When you work for something, even if it’s a bag of dog food, you appreciate it. Kids are no different. Let your child know up front what the expectations are. Stick to it. Give them ways to fulfill their obligation, but don’t take the responsibility from them.
3. Raising Responsible Kids Means Denying Yourself Indulgence
Lets face it. It feels good to give our children gifts. No one wants to see their kids not have they want. We want to give them the world. It is satisfying to give our kids things that we didn’t have growing up. However, if we want to raise responsible children, we have to deny ourselves the indulgence of giving them everything they want.
How many times have you worried you’re not buying them enough to have a good Christmas or birthday? Have you turned every holiday into an opportunity to buy gifts? It’s so easy to do. Withholding good things from our children is not in our nature.
It’s not about withholding. It’s about giving them something of more value–Godly character. Earning what they have, and learning to take care of it, is a gift they will take into adulthood.
Don’t fall for the lie that you are being a good parent by making sure your children have the best of everything and go to school sporting all the right brands. The reality is, this type of “giving” does more for our self-esteem than it does for theirs.
4. Always Remember the Ultimate Goal is to Raise Responsible Adults
The very best parenting advice I can give in raising responsible kids is to remind you that you are raising kids to become responsible, reliable, God honoring adults. While that seems like an obvious statement, it’s easy to forget when you are telling a 9-year-old to clean his room for the umteenth time.
Our children are growing up in a sea of entitlement. Having responsible kids doesn’t just happen. As Christian parents, we have to actively fight against it, both within ourselves and in our children.
Matthew 19:21 explains it this way. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Watching your children step into adulthood as responsible, Godly men and women is more rewarding than anything you can buy them.
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