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How to Raise Responsible Kids: Six Tips for Every Mom

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Every parent wants to raise confident, responsible kids. Follow these six expert tips to teach your child good habits from an early start.

Teaching Responsibility
by Rick D. Niece, Ph.D.
 
During difficult times, we often look for others to take the blame. The recent economic mess is a good example. Credit cards maxed out. People consumed by debt. Families losing homes. We try to convince ourselves it is not our fault, that someone else caused the financial crisis in our lives.
 
We are responsible for our actions. Finger pointing and blaming others solve nothing. We also have to understand that current actions affect more than present situations. Our actions today have consequences for tomorrow.
 
As a university President, I receive a variety of communications from students’ parents. I am surprised when parents seek me out on behalf of their sons and daughters. I expect college students to speak for themselves. I believe responsible students grow up to be responsible adults, and this world needs more responsible adults to influence and lead.
 
Teaching responsibility begins and ends with adults. I offer six positive recommendations for instilling a sense of responsibility in children.
 
1.      Build Work Ethic
I was nine-years old when I began delivering newspapers, and I kept the route until I entered college. I was proud to be a miniature entrepreneur. My 72 customers waited anxiously for me to deliver their daily newspaper, and they depended upon me. If I let them down, I let myself down. That newspaper route helped me grow into being a responsible adult with a strong work ethic.
 
2.      Assign Household Chores
Responsibility can be learned at an early age. Assign children routine tasks to complete around the house. The following chores involve nothing unreasonable or barbaric: make the bed; tidy the bedroom; carry out the trash; empty the dishwasher; mow the yard; rake leaves; dust, sweep, and mop (not mope).
 
3.      Encourage Saving Money
When children earn money, insist they save some of it. The savings can be for short-term purchases like video games and clothing, or toward long-term goals like summer camp and college. When children use their own money, the spending has special meaning.
 
4.      Adopt a Pet
When something depends upon us, we become responsible. Pets—from goldfish to golden retrievers, from turtles to tabbies—require regular and reliable maintenance. Lessons of responsibility are not learned, however, if Mom and Dad end up taking care of a neglected pet.
 
5.      Foster Reflective Thinking
The power of reflective thinking dates back to Socrates. The concept is a simple one: the more we think, the better we learn. Children make good decisions and bad decisions. As adults, we can help them think about why they did what they did, and how their actions affect them and others.
 
6.      Model Values
We are children’s role models. We are models of honesty and truthfulness, of ethical behavior and integrity. We are the superheroes of everyday life, and our heroics are as powerful as our fictional counterparts. We teach that dishonesty and deception have unpleasant consequences. We explain that unacceptable behavior is unacceptable. But, we cannot be worthy examples if we do not model and live the values that we, ourselves, espouse.
 
Be diligent. Children are watching. The next generation is learning from us.
 
Rick D. Niece, Ph.D., author of The Side-Yard Superhero, currently serves as the President for the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Ark. He, along with his wife Sherée, work to provide intellectual and cultural enrichment for the 675 students of the University, preparing them for graduate school and professional employment success as well as establishing lifelong values. For more information, please visit www.RickNiece.com.

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