Teaching Personal Responsibility — To Kids

The other day I received an interesting e-mail from a mom and IT professional who was inquiring about my ideas for teaching personal responsibility to kids. We felt our exchange could be worth sharing with you:

Hi Christopher,

I found your site at just the right time in my own quest for personal growth as a business analyst on my first Agile project, and I’ve been reading your blog for several months now. In addition to professional interest, I’m also in the middle of a lot of personal growth as a parent and spouse, which leads to my questions.

Do you have any favorite resources for teaching personal responsibility to children?  Any plans to develop a kid’s program for the Responsibility Process?  I have a very challenging time with one of my kids who just will not get the idea that his actions have a direct effect on the results he receives.  So, in addition to learning how to apply personal responsibility to my own life, I’d love to learn to teach and model it for my kids.  Got any suggestions?

Tallahassee, FL

I intend someday to expand my work with the Responsibility Process and Leadership Gift to include offerings for parents and children, so I was happy to respond:

Hi Shelly,

Thanks so much for your inquiry and for sharing your story. I am very interested in helping parents, teachers, and kids understand how their minds work to both avoid and take responsibility. And, I am first committed to making a dent in the business/leadership world so we’ll have the time, resources, and talented global community to focus on parents, teachers, and kids. Regarding your child: I have three primary thoughts that my wife and I have discussed frequently regarding parenting our own children:

  1. Practice responsibility yourself. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to model being a human who practices what we preach. That means catching yourself in blame, justify, shame, and obligation and correcting IN FRONT OF THEM OR REPORTING BACK ASAP (“I really blew it this morning when I yelled at you. I apologize. Here’s what I learned about myself and what I’d like to talk with you about…”). This requirement for you to practice it yourself will last until your children are making decisions for you.
  2. Don’t always save them from the natural consequences they create for themselves from which they can learn and grow by making the cause-effect connections. Parents too often save kids from experiencing consequences and then wonder why their child acts entitled. Often we parents do this out of our own anxiety (of seeing our kids make a mistake, or of worrying about what others will think of us as parents). This is often something parents have to talk about and help each other with.
  3. Look for teachable moments to teach your children about their Leadership Gift. They are never too young to hear about it, but their “intention” and “confront” (these words have specific meaning in the Leadership Gift, in case you have not run across them in this work — instead call it “motivation” and “courage”) are low, so tiny occasional doses of teaching will go farther than constant drumming.

I hope this helps.
My best,

Shelly responded:

Thanks so much for your response to my questions!  I’m at a strange point in life where my husband and I are living and working in different states and it’s a challenge to keep up with everything.  I am growing in fits and spurts, and I can’t even begin to express to you how much what I’ve learned from your website has helped me.   I can’t wait to see what you develop for kids and families in the future.

As a side note, I went to hear Dale McGowan talk about “Parenting Beyond Belief” over the weekend.  It’s interesting how some of the stuff in his materiel overlaps the Responsibility Process.  For instance, Authoritative versus Authoritarian parenting.

Authoritative parenting is full of intention, awareness, confrontation and responsibility, while you can see blame, shame, justify, etc. in the Authoritarian model.  Then, in regard to teaching kids about how to handle religious discussions with their peers (from the secular standpoint of a child who has not made a personal religious decision yet), he discussed teaching diversity of belief as a value, collaboration, constant testing/questioning, and how to handle “thoughtstoppers.”

Thanks again!

My pleasure! You can apply many of my blog posts and other materials to family relationships. After all, this stuff is about productive thinking, behavior, and relationships whether at work or at home. To me, its all personal.

What other parenting and relationship resources do you find align with the Responsibility Process? Leave a comment and let me know.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide. Build a responsible team (or family) and master your leadership skills with The Leadership Gift Program for Leaders,.

Posted in Responsibility on 07/20/2011 09:54 am
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