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Responsibility, Part II

​One of the most important character traits a parent can instill in his or her child is responsibility. 

Responsibility is marked by how well we make choices in life and how we deal with the results.  Responsible people purposefully choose their attitudes, words and actions, and accept responsibility for the consequences of these choices.

Responsibility is a complex virtue, requiring much time, patience and practice to acquire.  Because responsibility is such a key element in leading a happy and productive adult life, we have devoted four articles on how parents can instill this virtue in their children. 

There are 12 major concepts related to responsibility that parents must address when teaching their children to be responsible individuals.  They are:

  1. Being accountable
  2. Exercising self-control
  3. Planning and setting goals
  4. Choosing positive attitudes
  5. Doing one's duty
  6. Being self-reliant
  7. Pursuing excellence
  8. Being proactive
  9. Being persistent
  10. Being reflective
  11. Setting a good example
  12. Being morally autonomous

This is the second of the four articles. It focuses on the concepts 4 through 8.

  1. Choosing Positive Attitudes. Responsible people accept control over their own emotions, and thus, their happiness. They choose positive attitudes like cheerfulness, enthusiasm and generosity. This is a difficult attribute to cultivate in teens because teenage insecurities often translate into sarcasm and anger, and because teens equate cynicism with maturity, often think they are right because they feel so strongly about things and tend to have a very narrow view of matters.


    Parents may need to enlist the help of another adult their teen admires or trusts to deliver the message that everyone has the power to choose between positive and negative attitudes and to make positive and negative choices.  The message can include these points:

    • Attitudes often are products of feelings.  Always acting on feelings alone is unhealthy and unwise.
    • While initial emotional responses of anger, sadness and hopelessness may occur spontaneously, a person can change his or her perspective though reflection and willpower.
    • How we react to an incident is determined by how we perceive facts and intentions. But our perceptions can often be based on erroneous assumptions produced by negative attitudes.
    • Accept what you cannot change.
    • Selfishness is self-destructive.
    • Bad things do happen, but the happiest and most successful people in life learn to put tragedies, failures and hurt feelings behind them.
  2. Doing One's Duty. Responsible people follow through on their commitments. They keep their promises, even when it is not convenient or easy.


  3. Being Self-Reliant.  Responsible people manage their lives so they are not a burden to others. Parents should teach teens not to ask for assistance with tasks they (teens) are able to perform themselves.


  4. Pursing Excellence. Responsible people strive for excellence, giving 100 percent of themselves to the task at hand. Responsible people also do the best they can with the resources at their disposal. A job well done boosts self-confidence and self-esteem. A parent's role in a child's pursuit of excellence is to praise worthy efforts and successes a​nd to provide encouragement when things are not going well.


  5. Being Proactive.  Being proactive means taking the initiative to achieve self and community improvement.  Responsible people try to change situations that need to be changed and to resolve social problems.  Proactive people don't just react to life; they seek to effect change in areas they can control.  Parents must help teens identify their sphere of influence and teach them how to improve their own situation instead of expecting others to do it for them.


In Responsibility, Part III​, we will focus on concepts 9 and 10 of teaching responsibility.