Teaching Kids Responsibility by Allowing Them to Experience Life


By Bonnie Compton.

"In the end, it’s not what you do for your children…but what you’ve taught them to do for themselves." - Ann Landers

Do you like to suffer? I don’t know of anyone who really does. We especially don’t like to see our children or grandchildren suffer, right? Sometimes we’ll do just about anything in our power to prevent them from suffering. However, when we do that we rob them of learning opportunities.

When was the last time you were quick to jump in and rescue your child from life’s experiences? Perhaps they waited until the last minute to do their research project, didn’t finish it on time and then relied on you to write a note excusing their lateness. Maybe they’ve whined and refused to eat their dinner, insisting they aren’t hungry. As bedtime nears they suddenly develop a big appetite and cry, “I’m starving!” Does this sound familiar? Have you been tempted or perhaps weakened and given them a snack? Well, you’re not alone...most of us have been guilty of this! Of course we don’t enjoy watching our children experience the consequences of their choices, but how else will they learn? The best way for them to learn is by facing the consequences of a late assignment, or the slight pang of hunger (no worries Mom, your child won’t starve). When we lecture them or remind them over and over, do their learn? Not really. The real learning comes from living their own life experiences.

I believe helicopter parenting has come about because of our own fear as parents. We don’t want to see our children suffer. We also don’t want to feel our own discomfort as we watch them suffer. This fear comes from our own anxiety. When we allow our own parental anxiety to influence how we parent, we potentially rob our children of their own life experiences. We take away the opportunity for them to learn how to navigate life’s ups and downs.

When we’re quick to jump in and “save” them, we inadvertently do two things:

  1. We send a message that we don’t think they’re capable of handling the situation themselves.
  2. We take away the opportunity to teach our children how to deal with life’s challenges and how to choose their own behavior responsibly.

You can begin teaching your child responsibility by allowing them to experience life’s consequences and lessons. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Let go of your own need to control the situation.
  • Allow your child to make their own decisions.
  • Let them make their own mistakes.
  • Help them see the consequence of their action.
  • Stop yourself before trying to rescue your child!
  • Offer support and praise your child for their effort.
  • Remind them that they have a choice in choosing their own behavior.

It is our job, as parents and grandparents, to raise responsible young adults. The best way to teach responsibility, I believe, is by allowing our kids to become responsible for their own life’s choices...they’ll thank us for it.