Hosted by Jodi Hildebrandt
Building on the foundation laid in episode 66, Jodi answers several questions from parents, about raising children to be responsible. Jodi gives several examples of how to allow children to have the consequences of their choices and be responsible for them, with empathy and safety, and without shame.
- What kind of expectations should I have for my child? What do I expect from them? Are my expectations appropriate?
- What do you do when children don’t like the rules or the precautions that parents set in place? How do you continue to parent while still allowing them to have autonomy? (How do you hold boundaries with children and still give them choice?)
- How do you continue to parent children who refuse to respect the boundaries you’ve put up?
- How often do you talk to your child about current and future responsibilities?
- How do I correct inappropriate behavior?
- How do I teach my child to do things that they will be expected to do as an adult? Do I direct their thoughts and goals towards adult responsibilities?
- How do I teach my child that they affect other people? Do they know how much power they have, and will have as an adult, to affect others for good or bad?
- I’m wondering how to let my child know that they’re seen and validated by me.
- How do I teach my child to be responsible about technology
- How do I direct my child to repent and make full restitution when they make poor choices? Do I hold them accountable to follow through with restitution?
PDF Version: Raising Children—Responsibility (Part 2)
Episode 67: Raising Children—Responsibility (Part 2)
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Welcome back. We are discussing responsibility and how to teach your child or how to teach children how to be responsible for themselves. It’s such an intriguing question, it’s kind of like, how many of us as adults even think about teaching a child how to be responsible? Though it such a crucial, crucial skill and necessary characteristic for a child to learn how to do, because the Truth is, is that they are responsible for themselves, and we don’t serve them if we don’t teach them that that is actually what is happening.
So, for example you’ve seen and you’ve heard people tell a child, “Don’t touch the stove, it’s hot.” And the kid inevitably goes, “Let me see if that’s hot.” And they touch the stove and they made a choice, and they are responsible now for the consequence, and they’re responsible for the choice that they made, and they’re responsible for what they’re feeling.
How many of us go, “I told you not to do that?” Instead of saying, “Wow, help me understand why you chose to do that. Help me understand what you’re feeling now. Help me understand what the consequence was for not following directions. My job is to keep you safe and I was telling you how to stay safe and you chose not to listen, so help me understand why you didn’t listen.”
And that might sound kind of strange, saying that to a kid. But it really is a reasonable question, like help me understand, kiddo, why you wouldn’t follow directions. And what you’re doing is you’re teaching them that they have the power of choice and they have the power to use their choice any way that they want. And when they use their power of choice and they create outcomes for themselves, they are responsible. Either direction—
If they make choices that give them pleasant outcomes, they’re responsible for that, too. And they’re responsible for the consequences that come with choices that create unpleasant outcomes or unpleasant feelings.
And so, responsibility is not a good or a bad thing, it’s just a thing. And we need to draw our children’s attention back to it over and over and over, because they are responsible for their feelings, for their thoughts, and their behaviors—their choices of how they’re going to act out their thoughts and their feelings. Because their thoughts are coming from the way that they perceive the world, and their emotions follow those perceptions.
So, I have a handful of questions here, I’m going to start answering.
What kinds of expectations should I have for my child? What do I expect from them? And are my expectations appropriate?
That’s kind of a general question, like what do I expect from my child? Well, depending on the age of the child, you can have all sorts of expectations. I would recommend that you get a parenting book, and read through the parenting book, and see the different developmental stages of a child, and see what it is appropriate to expect from a child at certain ages.
Some children are more advanced and mature than other children at certain ages because of life experience, or neurological issues, or the way they’ve been socialized, or if they’ve had traumas happen to them. And so, just because they’re a certain age, doesn’t mean that they all can perform at a particular level of expectation.
So, that’s what I would do. And if you’re expecting your child to show up a certain way and you know that they’re capable of showing up that way, then I would look at why they are dropping their responsibility for showing up in that manner.
Now, I’m going to keep using that word “responsible, responsible, responsible,” and I know that it’s not a typical child-rearing word. But I hope that it becomes such, because children need to learn that they are responsible, they need to learn that. I taught my children from the very beginning that they are responsible, that they were responsible, and it was not pleasant at times to have them understand how responsible they really were, because they didn’t want to take accountability for what they had chosen or the outcomes that came along with those choices.
And now that they are raised, I would say that they are grateful for the way that they have learned the characteristics and the importance of being accountable. You’d have to talk to them directly but I think I could speak for them, that they are appreciative of learning that from such a young age.
Here’s another question. How clear am I with my children about what I expect from them?
So, am I being clear and direct? Am I sitting down with my child and saying, “Here’s what I expect you to do, I expect you, that when the buzzer rings, to get up from what you’re doing and go brush your teeth, and get yourself a drink of water, and come and say your prayers, or do your nightly routine, and get into bed and I’ll be there to read you a story in just a minute.”
Are you clear about the expectations? When we have dinner, you need to get up from the table, pick up your plate, take it into the kitchen, wipe it off into the trash can, and put it in the dishwasher.
So, how clear are you about what you expect from them? A lot of times, we as adults, we as parents just expect things from kids but we are not clear and direct or educating them on what it is that we expect, we just react to them when they don’t do “what we want.” And so, how clear are you as you invite them to show up and basically manifest your expectations for them—because it might be a matter of you just not being clear of what it is that you expect.
What do you do when children don’t like the rules or the precautions that parents set in place? How do you continue to parent while still allowing them to have autonomy and agency?
This is another question about, how do you hold boundaries with children and still give them choice?
Here’s a similar question: how do you continue to parent children who disagree with you or refuse to respect the boundaries that you’ve put up? How can you teach them that there’s a line between having them honor your boundaries and having them have agency, having them have choice?
So, what I’d say to that is going back to this principle of responsibility, is that there’s nothing inappropriate about teaching children that because you are the adult, that you are ultimately the final say. You are ultimately the one that is ultimately responsible for them. And so, it’s absolutely appropriate—and it also can create safety—if you are validating of their emotions, it’s very important that you do that. Let them know that you understand they’re upset, their disappointment, their frustration, their confusion around why they can’t such and such with so and so. And this is what you or this what your other parent feels is in their best interest. It’s absolutely appropriate to do that.
Children do get to have choice; they do get to practice their autonomy. However, because they are children and they don’t know what is really in their best interests, they need adults around them that know what’s in their best interest. And so, their authority and their power only goes so far. And they need to know that their authority only goes so far. That will help them feel safe.
And so, you being able to validate them and—there’s that word again—set some boundaries around what is safe for them. So, for example, they want to get on the internet, they want to be on Facebook, they want to play at a friend’s house. And you have information that you feel that that would not be in their best interests for whatever reason, safety wise, or time wise, or there might be some people over at the friend’s house that you don’t want your child around. And so, you get to trump their choices because you have more information.
Now, it’s very important that you don’t just use your power to dictate to them, like, “Because I said so.”
Now, there’s plenty of times when you want to say, “Because I said so.” And you can have that feeling of because I said so, and I would encourage you not to use that language, because all it does is create confusion, and it comes across to the child that you’re not being reasonable, you’re not being rational with them, it’s like a power play, and they will feel that type of control coming off of you.
And so, even though you may have that be the ultimate reason, you’re not going because I said so, I would use different language such as, “I just don’t feel like it’s in your best interests right now.” Or, “I’m sorry you disagree with my decision.” Or, “I know that you’re upset and this is something that we’re going to need to do anyways.”
That’s language that seems a little bit more reasonable for the child and it’s totally appropriate that you are holding the boundary because you just don’t want them over there, because you said so.
Another question: how often do you talk to your child about their current and future responsibilities?
As far as teaching children about their current responsibilities, I would be doing that on a daily basis. I don’t know about future responsibilities, doing it on a daily basis, but definitely current responsibilities like their homework, or their relationships with their parents, or their relationships with their siblings, or their friends, or people in their work environment. I mean, when we talk about children, we’re talking about the whole span of childhood.
So, little children, middle aged children, teenage children, they all have responsibilities. They have responsibilities for how they feel, what they think, what they’re doing, the activities they’re engaged in. And every day, they’re engaged in the act of being responsible. And so, any time that you can consciously point that out to them, remind them, invite them to be accountable for what they’re feeling, what their choices were, helping them realize that the consequences that they are having or the outcomes they’re having are a result of their choices.
My son, when he was learning how to drive, he pulled the top of the convertible off and I’m not quite sure how he did this, but he didn’t hook the latches and so when he started washing the car, water got all through the car and he came in, he’s like, “Oh my gosh, I forgot to hook the latches on the convertible and I got water in the car.” And so, that was a responsibility of his, he got to clean it all up and it was a good life lesson.
One time, he was in a choir practice and he was spitting spit wads in mainly the girls’ hair that was down below, he was like 14 years old and he was chewing up paper and spitting them in their hair. And he got to be responsible for that too; he came home and we had a conversation about how that affected those girls and how he needed to have some empathy for them, what would it be like if someone had spit something in his hair and how gross that would feel. He got an opportunity to call each one of the girls and apologize for his behavior and ask how he could make things right with them. And he ended up making several plates of cookies for the handful of girls that he had spit spit wads in their hair, to make reparations with them.
And really, the whole goal was to have him feel empathy for them by being responsible for choices he made and outcomes of not only how it affected him but how it affected other people, because prior to him calling those girls, he had no idea how it affected them, and as he learned that they were grossed out, or they were upset, or they were confused, he felt a lot of sorrow, which was really good because it allowed him to connect and to bond with the inappropriateness of his behavior.
So, current responsibilities, very important, I would do them on a daily basis. Future responsibilities, I’d probably bring that up once a month, like, this is going to help you a be a good spouse, learning how to empathize in the future, being able to follow directions on a job that your parents give you is going to help you when you get into the workforce and be able to follow directions that a boss gives you, those kinds of things. Just kind of connect the dots for them.
How do I correct inappropriate behavior? When my child acts inappropriately, how do I correct that? When I do notice my child acting out in anger, fear, or being selfish in some way, what do I do?
So, those are some of the inappropriate behaviors. So, if my child’s acting out in anger, fear, or behaving selfishly in some way, what do I do?
The first thing you want to do when you notice that is you want to get curious. You want to go to the child and say, “Hey, let me describe to you what I’m seeing. I’m noticing that you seem really irritable with Samantha and I don’t know why you’re behaving this way or why you feel the way you do but I’d like you to help me understand.”
And try to get them to explain why they’re feeling the way that they are. And as they’re explaining how they’re feeling, you can also ask them what they’re thinking. Because remember, their emotions are being affected by their thoughts, so the perceptions that they have are creating the emotions that they feel. It’s very important you understand that.
Same thing for us as adults—what we think will create the emotions that we have. And so, you want to not only understand what they’re feeling, but you also want to understand what thoughts they’re having that are actually creating those emotions, because once you can understand their thoughts, then you can help them possibly change their thoughts, so that their emotions will change. Or help them understand their thoughts more thoroughly. Or help them appreciate that there’s nuances to things and that they might not be seeing all the nuances to what’s going on. And so, therefore, if they were to angle it from a different perspective, that they might feel a little different.
And then, once you can understand that from them, then you can help them appreciate why they’re feeling the anger, or the selfishness, or the blame, or the sadness.
And you can then help them learn that they are responsible for the fact that they are thinking the way that they are, and therefore they’re responsible for why they’re feeling the way that they are. And it’s not about pointing your finger and saying, “Ah, you’re responsible.” It’s more about just drawing their attention to the fact that they have the power to perceive anything they want. They have the power to perceive and interpret the experience in any way they want, and therefore have emotions that may not create such uncomfortable feelings.
That is so powerful. I cannot underscore that enough for you. So, helping your child understand why they’re behaving inappropriately is teaching them that they are responsible for how they’re perceiving, how they’re interpreting their experience, and that they may choose to interpret it differently.
And so, you could give them suggestions of how they might want to interpret that differently and have a different emotional outcome. So, responsibility is so, so, so important in every aspect of a child’s life, and also an adult’s life.
How do I teach my child to do things that they will be expected to do as an adult? Do I direct their thoughts and goals to adult responsibilities?
So, you know, for children, they’re not too concerned about being an adult. And so, what I would suggest is keep your focus on the here and now, help them understand what’s going on in the here and now, help them be responsible for the here and now, and as you do that, they will naturally grow into healthy, responsible adults. It’s like if they will practice these skills of health, and rigor, of being responsible, of being emotionally honest with themselves, When I’m being responsible and I’m being emotionally honest, I will be humble. That will come with those two components. So, being accountable means that I have to be open and teachable. And I have to be honest with myself in order to be accountable. And so, in order to be honest, in order to be accountable, I have to be humble; I have to be transparent and willing.
And so, as a child learns how to do that and they receive a lot of validation for doing that, and they are safe when they do that, like they’re vulnerable when they’re doing that, and they are given lots of praise, and guidance, and modeling for doing that, they will naturally grow into an adult that does that. You won’t need to draw their attention to adulthood and how to behave as an adult, because they will become very mature children, which will then just naturally move into mature adults.
How do I teach my child that they affect other people? Do they know how much power they have and will have as an adult to affect others for good or bad?
This is an empathy, vulnerability, validation question. Like, how do I teach my child how to understand that they affect other people and that as they grow up and they have more responsibility, that they will have greater influence to affect people?
So, again, the way you teach your children that they affect others is that you teach them that they are responsible for themselves. Here’s what this looks like. When I have a child, let’s say they’re making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and they have a friend or a sibling who is wanting a sandwich, too. But they’re not choosing to make a sandwich for them, they’re choosing to make a sandwich for themselves. And so, as they make the sandwich, their friend is standing there saying, “Can I have one? That really looks good, can I have one? Can I have half of that?”
And so, they’re being affected by the fact that their friend is being influenced or affected by their sandwich. And so, they get to choose/be responsible for lots of things. They get to choose whether they want to be responsible to make another sandwich. They get to choose to be responsible for if they want to be affected by the fact that their friend is desiring a sandwich because they’re hungry. They get to choose to be affected for the fact that they are not willing or not wanting to make another sandwich.
They’re having outcomes in lots of different ways, and if the child will allow themselves to be humble and say, “Wow, I’m affecting this person in a way that’s really uncomfortable.” That is an example of them connecting.
So if their friend is saying, “Can I have one? Can I have one? Can I have one?” And your child’s like, “No, you can’t have one.” Then, that would be concerning because what they’re telling you is that they’re not connected, they’re not connected to the emotion, they’re not connected to the other person, they’re not connected to the fact that the other person is hungry.
And so, it’s your responsibility as the parent, as the adult to teach them. If you hear your child in the kitchen saying, “No, I’m not going to make you one.” Then, you want to go in and help them understand why their friend might be saying that.
Like, “Hey, do you think that Robbie might be hungry?” And your child’s like, “No.” “Well, if he’s saying he’d like a sandwich, do you think that if someone asks for a sandwich that they might be hungry?” “Oh, yeah, I guess so.” “So, if I were making a sandwich and you were asking for one, do you want me to think that you’re hungry?”
And so, you’re teaching them to think. To think and then to feel. You’re helping them think so that they will connect to themselves and then be able to connect to another person.
So, teaching them that they have power with another, that they affect another, is teaching them how to be responsible for themselves. When they understand that they have responsibility for themselves, they will also understand that they have effects on others, that they are not a lone wolf in this world; that when they say things, they do things, they feel things, that they are always going to affect another person or another experience.
So, as you teach them to be responsible for their thoughts, their feelings, and their choices, they will naturally learn how to empathize with another person.
Now again, when you teach them those things, the assumption is, is that you’re having them act out validation, you’re having them go say they’re sorry when they’ve offended or hurt someone. You’re having them acknowledge when they make mistakes. You’re having them behave in vulnerable ways. Like, they get to show up as a human being, which means, I do things that are wrong, I affect others, I make choices that are inappropriate and I get to clean them up.
So, that’s what teaching them how to be responsible is all about. And again, as you do that, they will learn that they have the power to affect another person.
I’m wondering how to let my child know that they’re seen and validated by me.
We were just talking about that a little bit. The way you let your child know that they are important and that they are loved… It’s interesting to watch different people try to teach their children that they love them. A lot of times, parents or adults don’t want to hold children accountable because they think that if a child gets upset with them, then they won’t feel loved by them. And it’s actually the antithesis of that. Holding a child accountable is the most loving thing that you can do for a child and an adult, is to help them understand how their choices, how their behavior has affected themselves and another person.
And so, how can my child feel seen and validated by me? Hold them accountable. Now, again, when I say hold accountable, you’re not just pointing out like don’t do that. What you’re saying is, help me understand why you did that, explain to me why you felt that you needed to put the vacuum cleaner hose into the fish tank; the fish is now dead and all the water was sucked up by the vacuum cleaner. There are consequences for that, and so you might take the vacuum cleaner apart and show them, here’s the fish, here’s where all the water went, the vacuum cleaner doesn’t work anymore, we’re going to have to have you earn some money, so that you can help purchase or completely purchase a new vacuum cleaner.
I mean, you’re giving them the consequences and having them feel the weight of their choices. You’re not screaming at them, you’re not flying off the handle, you’re not ignoring, you’re not saying, “Oh, wasn’t that funny, that you stuck the vacuum hose into the fish tank?” You’re not saying, “Oh, boys will be boys, they just do that.”
You’re taking the child and saying, “Wow, that was an interesting choice you made, help me understand why you made it.”
And then, you’re teaching them all the different consequences that came as a result of that particular choice. That’s what teaching a child to be seen, and heard, and validated is about. And you can talk to them about I can appreciate why you were curious—because they might say, “I was just curious if the vacuum would suck up the water because it sucks up the stuff on the floor, so I was wondering if it would suck up water—so you can validate that and say, “Yeah, that makes sense why you have that curiosity, and now you’ve learned that this kind of vacuum cleaner doesn’t do that and that is a consequence because of the choice of your curiosity. And that doesn’t mean your curiosity is bad; it just means that there is a weighty consequence to find out the answer to that question. Whereas, you could have asked if this vacuum cleaner would suck up water but instead you made a choice and now here’s the outcome. And so, we are going to work on helping you clean up that consequence, so that you can learn from the choice that you made.”
So, that is very validating to the child. You’re educating them and you’re also saying, “Yeah, curiosity is interesting—and your curiosity now cost you some time, and some money, and a fish.”
How do I teach my child to be responsible about technology?
That’s a great question. Technology has come on the scene over the last 20 years, it’s now more so on the scene than ever before. There’s probably few children in the world that have not been on the internet, whereas 20 years ago it didn’t exist. And so, a lot of parents have this question of what is a responsible way to manage technology and children?
There’s a whole lot, I mean, I could talk for hours on this topic. But just to quickly answer this question, and I’m sure that there will be more podcasts to come about this. What I would say as an adult who is responsible or in charge of a child, is that if you can manage the technology—and when I say manage, I don’t mean you know that it’s on and it’s in the house, I’m talking about if you can be responsible to know that that child is safe on that technology. And when I say know I really mean know, like you know that they are safe, that there’s no way to access anything that’s going to harm them spiritually, emotionally, physically. Not just I have a block on websites and I feel pretty safe about it. I’m talking about that you know for a fact that they cannot be injured on technology. That would be the only time that I would have a child be on technology.
Now, with that being said, the only way I know how to make sure that you would know that a child is not going to be injured by technology is to 1) be with them while they’re on it, and 2) to have already vetted the sites that they’re going to or the movies that they’re watching, you’ve already previewed them. You know exactly where they’re going because you’ve been there and you know that it’s safe, you know what’s on there, you know that nothing is going to pop up out of somewhere. So I’m talking about TV, I’m talking about video games, I’m talking about music, I’m talking about social media sites, Twitter, Pinterest, all these different places on the internet—and video games, and romance novels. I mean, all this stuff that’s out there in the cyberspace world needs to be previewed by you as the adult, and then you need to be with your child when they are on their technology.
Now, probably some of you are sitting here listening to me going, “That’s not possible, I can’t do that.” And I say okay that’s fine, then don’t give them the technology. If you cannot be that present and know that they are going to be safe, please, please don’t hand them a piece of technology with which they can inadvertently access places that can harm them.
That’s all I’m going to say on that. I have a lot of passion around that. Trying to protect children is a very emotional and passionate experience for me, and I have a lot invested in protecting the children of this world. And we as adults, and we as parents need to be more conscientious of what we are placing our children in front of, and be more responsible for what is affecting them, and how we are part of the problem of why it is that they’re being affected by the things they’re being affected by, because of our lack of being conscientious around handing them technology.
I have one more thing to say on that: I will hear parents say, I trust my child, my child’s a good kid, I can give them technology and I trust they’re not going to go someplace they’re not supposed to. And what I say to parents is that I think that’s wonderful that you trust your child, and at the same time, there are people in the world that are wanting to affect your child in very selfish ways. They’re wanting to get them hooked on their video games, they want their attention on social media, and there are other people out there in the world that don’t have your children’s best interests at heart, and they are being targeted. Your children are being targeted. And you need to know that as an adult, as a parent, that this is not about trusting your child on technology; this is about protecting them from those people or those groups of people who would want to exploit and endanger your baby.
That is what this is about. It is not about trust. It is about keeping them protected, holding boundaries around who knows what would come at them when you’re not present.
Last question: how do I direct my child to repent and make full restitution when they make poor choices that affect themselves and others? Do I hold them accountable to follow through with restitution?
Great question. So, repentance, or cleaning up your side of the street, or making things right, however you want to call that, is an act of being responsible. And so, yes, even little tiny children that are one and two years old need to learn the act of making things right and repenting for things that they’ve done that were naughty. It teaches them that at a very young age, that they can make mistakes, that it’s okay to make a mistake because there’s a way to make it right, that people will be fair with them, that they can feel badly for what they’ve done, and then they can feel better after they do the things that are appropriate to make it right and say they’re sorry. If I took a bite out of my friend’s candy bar, then I can give them a bite of my candy bar, that’s making restitution with my friend if I’m a two-year-old.
It teaches them that I affect another and I also affect myself. And so, from a very young age, you can teach your children how to repent because from the moment they come out of the womb, they are responsible. They are responsible for the choices that they make.
Now, as a baby and as a child, they don’t know that. And so, you are teaching them through this experience called childhood. And as they grow into pre-teen, and then teenager, and then young adult, you’re teaching them, teaching them, teaching them, and they get to have more and more responsibility. And they were responsible from the day they stuck their head into the world, of their feelings, their thoughts, and their choices.
And so, yes, yes, yes, even very young children, teach them that when they make a mistake, when they choose in a way that creates an outcome that is uncomfortable for them, or they affect someone and the person feels sad or upset, that they can feel empathy for them, that they can say they’re sorry, that they can make things right, and that they can make some kind of reparations with that person and clean it up, and that they can be done with their side.
The other person may still be mad at them; Johnny may not want to eat a candy bar around me anymore because I keep taking a bite out of his candy bar, and I can make sure that I’ve done all I can on my side to make things right with Johnny.
So, repentance isn’t just for older children, it’s for all ages of us as human beings
So, I’m going to end there. It has been great talking with you. I hope that you enjoyed this new podcast on responsibility and children. If you have any other questions or have some podcast ideas you want to run by me, contact me at support@ConneXionsClassroom.com, and send your podcast ideas and I’d be more than happy to answer any of those questions in upcoming podcasts.
So, between now and next week, I would invite you to stay connected with yourself and with others. And we will talk to each other very soon. Bye bye.
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