We Need to Teach Kids to Take Responsibility

It often amazes me how many parents complain that schools aren’t doing anything to teach their child to be a responsible person. In all fairness, we see your child for anywhere from one to five hours one to five times a week. We can encourage them to be responsible for the duration of our class, but we can’t control what happens to them the two to seven hours (weekdays) that they spend out of school.

We give them assignments. We give them deadlines. We can tell them what the consequences will be in within our own class if they don’t actually meet our expectations and invoke them during our own class time. That’s really all we can do.

When a child fails, and the school promotes them anyway, the child has learned that there’s no need to be responsible, that someone will just let them do what they want. When parents fail to expect anything of their child at home and give no consequences for a child’s lack of judgment, the child’s understanding that they never have to actually do anything is reinforced.

In this day and age, taking a child and turning them into a responsible citizen is becoming more and more the responsibility of the community…except it’s always been the duty of the community. Somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that. When we were children, we knew better than to mouth off to a teacher, because we knew Mom would be getting a call, and there’d be hell to pay when we got home. When we were children, we learned very quickly not to lie about our teachers because Mom would go talk to the teacher, and again, there’d be a world of trouble if our lie was discovered.

This is a community problem, not one to be pushed off onto others.

The schools have to do what’s in the child’s best interest, even if that means keeping the star quarterback from playing in the big game because he hasn’t studied for a history test all year. He’ll miss being scouted, but he has to understand it was his decision not to take his classes seriously that cost him that opportunity.

The teachers have to do what’s in the child’s best interest. If that means constantly emailing and calling parents to let them know their student isn’t turning in homework or is doing poorly on tests, then that’s what’s necessary.

The parent has to do what’s in the student’s best interests, even if that means taking away cell phones, the internet, and the ability to go out with friends for a period of time. Who cares if the child claims to hate you? They never mean it. They’re just upset. (Seriously, I have a number of students who have told me I’m mean and that they hate me, and then come running straight to me for everything because they know I’m going to set and enforce boundaries with them.) The child has to learn what it means to actually have consequences, or they’ll act like the world owes them a living they haven’t earned.

Bringing up responsible children is a team effort, and when one part of that team doesn’t do its part, the whole effort is an uphill climb that stands a very good chance of being lost. Don’t let a child get lost like that!


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