How to Teach Your Child to Take Responsibility for Their Actions


Children who are forced to take responsibility for their own actions know, “Mom and Dad consider me capable of acting on my own, and they count me as a valuable individual who has the ability to stand on my own two feet and face the consequences—good and bad.”

When your child breaks the neighbor’s window with a baseball, insist that your child render an apology and help pay for the replacement of the window. Now, you may certainly go with your young child to the neigh­bor’s front door, and you may require that your child only come up with a part of the payment. But, at what­ever age the accident occurs, don’t “cover” for your child.

When your teenager has a fender-bender, insist that he or she help pay for the damages and help out with any increase in your automobile insurance that may re­sult.

When your child rips a neighbor child’s shirt in the course of playing tag, go with your child to the neighbor and discuss amends.

Saying “I’m sorry” may be retribution enough. At other times, your child may need to restore or replace the damaged item.

When you dismiss a child’s mistakes or bad behavior in the presence of a third person, you are sending the signal to your child, “I don’t think that was important.” When you cover for your child with a third party—or take the blame on yourself—you are saying, “I’ll always be there to bail you out.” Neither approach helps your child develop a sense of responsibility, and both lead to self-justifying behavior.

Punishing your child for something done against an­other person is not a sufficient response in teaching your child responsibility. A spanking may help teach your child not to play baseball in the front yard. It may help the child learn how to avoid breaking a window in the future, and thus, avoid another spanking. But, it will not mend the breech with your neighbor that your child will feel intuitively.

I recently spoke with a woman who said, “I stole a candy bar from Mr. Crabb’s store when I was nine years old. My mother found out and spanked me hard. Believe me, I never stole anything again. But, for the next twenty years I couldn’t look Mr. Crabb in the eye when I went into his store. Looking back, I wish my mother had required me to go back and apologize to Mr. Crabb and pay for the candy bar. I think I would have felt that the slate of my crime had been truly wiped clean. By his not knowing, I was never able to receive his forgiveness.”

When children takes responsibility and makes resti­tution they come out stronger by facing errors and working through them.

When children face up to the damage or problems they have created, they have the opportunity to ask and receive forgiveness from others. They may then expe­rience the emotionally healing balm of forgiveness granted.

Children who are required to own up to their mis­takes do not have to live with the guilt born of secret misdeeds.

Children with confidence can face up to sins, repent of them, and seek forgiveness. Children with high self-esteem know they have been forgiven.

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About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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