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I don't get how it's not okay for him to act responsibly

When Nicolas turned about 5 I started to give him a little responsibility for his things.


When parents talk about "giving responsibility" they generally mean they expect the child to take care of something to the parent's standards while allowing the child to suffer the "natural" consequences of their choices. The parent may set lower standards for a child but the standards are still the parent's.


True responsibility means you are able to weigh the consequences of the options open to you -- one of which is dropping the responsibility! -- and choose what works best for you.


So it's ok for him to have a responsibility to others, but not OK for him to have a responsibility to ME? This is just making me crazy!


You can make him act responsible but you can't make him feel responsible.


The point people are trying to help you see is that acting responsible -- because we don't give someone a choice -- is a sham. But that there are ways we can help our kids feel responsible.


Lots of conventional parenting -- and come to think of it school -- is all about getting them to act the way they're supposed to. We shame them and punish them and lecture them and talk to them so they'll act properly.


Most parents don't give much thought to the difference between acting moral and feeling moral. Subconsciously, I guess, we know we can't control their feelings so we have to accept that making them act moral is the best we can do and it's a crap shoot whether they will continue to act moral once they're beyond our power to control.


But we're fooling ourselves if we think that getting them to act morally until they're old enough to choose is the best way to have them become moral. If our relationship is strong and they do value us then they will adopt our values that make sense to them when they're of an age to choose. But if we damage that relationship -- often by too much pressure to (pretend to) be something they aren't -- so they don't care about us, then it's likely they'll reject our values -- even the ones that make sense to them! -- just to hurt us back the way we've been (inadvertently) hurting them.


It isn't a crap shoot. There are things we can do to make it more likely they'll take on our values than not.


One thing we can do is share our values with them. We can live our values. And we can talk about why we've taken on those values and why they're important to us.


Another thing we can do is give them the freedom to choose. We can give them a safe environment in order to explore what they value to see if it works and helps them achieve what they want.


There are real consequences to actions within a family. If we break a promise tot hem, they know how that feels. If they make a promise to us and break it, we can remind them how it felt and how it's hard to trust someone's word once they've broken it.


But some things, like wasting big money, can't be clear to them until they're older and earning their own money and making real decisions, like weighing the consequences of a late rent against a late car payment. We can make up pretend consequences for them now (like anger and disappointment and making them stick out something expensive) but they know the consequences aren't real and that it's our choice to impose the consequences or not.



Joyfully Rejoycing
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