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Responsibility, Part IV

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 final article in the responsibility series.  It focuses on concept 12 and the importance of consequences.

12. Being Morally Autonomous. Responsible people think for themselves and do not let other people's opinions and attitudes control them. They are free moral agents, with strong reasoning skills and the freedom to choose between right and wrong.  Teens tend to lean toward conformity. They find comfort and identity in being part of a group. The reality of peer pressure makes your child's choice of friends one of the most important choices he or she can make.  Parents can counteract the effects of peer pressure by teaching their teens to make their own choices and not blindly follow the pack.

While parents should instill in their children the ability to think for themselves, they should not give up their right to govern their family.  Families are not democracies. Children have a right to be respectfully heard, but their "vote" does not carry the same weight as their parents' votes. 

Responsibility = Power

Teens want more freedom and more control over their lives. Parents must show their teens that they do have real power - the ability to choose. They can choose their attitudes, words and actions. 

Teens also want to be treated like adults.  Parents can do this, first by teaching their teens they are responsible for the consequences of their choices, and second by holding them accountable for these choices. Consequences can be both positive and negative. When your teen brings you an M-rated video game he borrowed from a friend to approve before he plays it, he has shown respect for house rules and your authority. He has made a good choice and earned your praise and trust. When your daughter lies about going to a movie with her friend so she can attend a party where alcohol is being served, she has chosen to violate your rules and has lost your trust.

You should always know what your kids are doing and with whom. You are your child's parent, not his or her friend. Ask who, what, where, when, why, and how, all the time. Tell your teens you will be checking up on them and DO IT. Give your teens an "escape clause" by telling them they can use you as an excuse for passing on an activity that makes them uncomfortable. 

Enforce consequences when necessary using the following concepts as a guide:

  • Establish clear expectations for behavior and set clear consequences for not meeting those expectations.
  • Be sure to give positive consequences for good behavior, as well as negative consequences for inappropriate behavior.
  • Be consistent when enforcing consequences. If you give a consequence (either positive or negative), follow through.
  • Connect your consequences to the behavior; they're more likely to have the desired results (e.g., taking away driving privileges for not putting gas in the car).
  • Use short-term consequences, like assigning chores, for minor infractions and long-term consequences, like losing cell phone privileges, for larger infractions.

Keep in mind the SANE acronym regarding consequences:

  • Small consequences are better.
  • Avoid punishing yourself with the restrictions you place on your child.
  • Never abuse your child with a consequence.
  • Effective consequences are consistent consequences.

Consequences are important because they reinforce the cause-effect relationship between what your teen does (choice) and what happens as a result.  Consequences help teach teens to make better choices in the future, which subsequently helps them become responsible adults who know the difference between right and wrong and try to do the right thing.