As a first-time parent, I feel like I have spent the last five years playing a big game of trial and error on meals, products, education, activities, rewards, punishment etc. for my only son Omer. I am still in the learning process and know that I still have a lot to learn.
At least now I know that tickle games are not to be played right after dinner, or that crayons are only to be held when there’s an endless paper supply, as it could either make or break you. 😊
Now that Omer is five years old, my newest lesson learned, in addition to what I have already learned, is that he remembers! I now have to keep myself from telling him about buying a toy or ice cream if he behaved well in class or another setup, because, yes, he remembers!
Just like how he remembers making his bed, fixing his toys, and putting his shoes on the right place. He learns to do new things pretty fast and remembers them very well. I thought that the pressure increases in training him to be more responsible with his things and accountable with his actions.
Which I think is the parenting department that I would flunk, seriously. My tendency is to “baby” my baby boy too much, as he is the only one I’ve got. I wanted him to experience nice things and just be a kid for at least until he stays a kid. But I know that that is wrong and that I should change. I feel glad to have a husband who keeps me on track and balances my most-of-the-time-imbalanced mothering tendencies.
When I researched more about how we could teach responsibility and accountability to our children, incorporating them to my experiences with Omer, I found four tips that may be helpful to you who like me are struggling on this parenting department:
1. Start giving him small assignments at home and follow through.
We should not hesitate to give small (or big) assignments to our kids regularly and appreciate them when they respond.
Just last night, without expecting for a positive response, I asked Omer to clean the dining table after our dinner. He gladly did it and even went the extra mile and wiped the stove as well. Doing house chores could be a very good training ground for children to learn responsibility.
When giving assignments, following through is also important. This will let our children feel that what they are doing is important, and that we are dependent on them to finish the task.
If a child does not complete a task, the wise parent will not take over the responsibility, but will insist in a calm, firm, and supportive manner that the child complete, what he has started. When a child knows that unless he does his job, it won’t get done, he will generally assume responsibility for it.
Here comes my struggle. Most of the time, in my desire to finish everything up in a clean and timely manner, I just take over the responsibility and appreciate Omer for his job well done. I learned that it is not enough. Reading the quote just above helped me to realize that I must learn to let go of the assignment because that’s how I could completely train Omer to become completely responsible. By giving him full responsibility on every assignment, we are showing that we are dependent on him to finish that task.
2. Let him decide for himself and let him know the consequences of bad decisions.
As parents, we prepare our kids for adulthood by giving them opportunities to learn to decide for themselves and be accountable for those choices that they make. When they make a good decision, sincerely praise them and appreciate their good work.
Though it is hard for many parents, letting children suffer the consequences of their own mistakes will help them become strong. Excusing children from responsibility for perhaps well-meaning reasons, will only confuse their understanding of reality. Letting them suffer the consequences will teach them that they are responsible for their choices and will be held accountable for them. It is a clear message of trust and respect.
I find it really hard to punish my son for bad choices but now I feel the need to. Yuli and I have recently gave Omer a break from all gadgets (TV and Tablet) because of a bad throwing tantrum that resulted to his friend’s tablet being broken. I could really see that it could get worse if we continue to allow him to do things his way.
I think helping our kids see the consequences of bad choices and actions is a crucial parental responsibility. However, I think that it is also crucial that we do it with love and trust. Finding the perfect balance between love and discipline will help our kids mature, and become accountable in all that they say and do.
3. Include him in family goal setting and listen to what he has to say.
During weekly family counseling where we talk about our goals and schedule of activities for the week, we make sure to include Omer and give him a time to discuss his feelings and thoughts. He also has a one-on-one talk with his dad every first Sunday nights. I learned that making time for some serious talk with the kids help them build self-confidence and self-worth, while also cultivating an environment of transparency and trust in the home. I think this activity also keeps Omer grounded in that he develops a sense of reality early on.
4. Teach him the value of money and saving.
I think that saying no to Omer when it comes to buying things he doesn’t need is a thing that I’m good at (thrifty mama here!) 😊 I recently brought him to the bank to open his own kiddie savings account. I let him talk to the bank teller and count his money in front of her. Teaching our kids the value of money is one good way of teaching them the value of hard work and sacrifice.
Once when Omer’s grandparents visited us, they offered to give him some pennies. Before they did, I asked them to do that in exchange of something from Omer. A little work for a little reward is what I wanted to teach him at that time. Omer ended up shining the shoes of his grannies in exchange for five-peso coins which he immediately put inside his coin bank.
It all starts with us.
I really believe that our best teaching method for anything related to parenting is our example and attitude. We carry the ball on developing a sense of responsibility and accountability for our kids even early on. I admit that I find it hard, and I am not being good and consistent at times, but I am working on it! This can help us prevent much complicated issues with our kids down the road.
Teaching children to accept responsibilities in the family and enjoy work takes days, weeks, months, and years of vigilance and affection. But our children need to be held accountable in an atmosphere of love and trust. They need to see us work, work beside us, and learn to work alone. Preparing children for responsible adulthood is an important parental responsibility.
How did you develop a culture of discipline in your homes, and what parenting styles worked best for you? Tell me about it!