Responsibility has two aspects; actions and attitudes. Teaching children to be responsible for their actions, like taking care of their things, can be a little challenging. But as a whole, it doesn’t take long for them to learn if you use a “If you don’t take care of ‘X’ you can’t do ‘Y'” strategy. Kind of a “dinner before desert” mindset.
Teaching kids that they are responsible for their attitudes, on the other hand, can be very challenging. It takes an enormous amount of discipline on the part of the parent. Why? Because kids, especially kids under the age of eight, live in a world where they don’t necessarily understand cause and effect like adults do. They don’t know why they get angry or upset sometimes. They think it’s a force outside themselves that causes them to be that way. Parents must have the daily discipline to reinforce the idea with their kids that their attitude is their responsibility.
You can overcome this hurdle by having them remember a recent time when they were angry or upset. Find out why it made them that way. Then re-frame the scenario to help them see that what happened didn’t upset them, but how they reacted to what happened that upset them. The final part is to just ask the simple question, “When you get angry or upset, who is responsible? And when you are happy who is responsible?” It’s the second question that really turns the light on for them.
A child’s perspective of the world is fostered by what they see and hear from their parents. Parents have to let their children know that we all get caught off-guard and can get upset sometimes, but how long we stay upset is our choice…our responsibility.