Responsible behavior doesn’t come naturally; it is a learned trait. It is important for parents to teach their children responsible behavior at an early age; a healthy respect for the feelings of others, and a strong sense of right and wrong.
Combined with setting a good example and involvement in a young child’s development of social skills, spend quality time with your child and instruct them about proper, responsible behavior. It can go a long way in helping to correct behavior problems that could lead to serious consequences down the road.
Everyday experiences are a parent’s best tool when it comes to teaching responsible behavior. Because this type behavior is a learned trait, it can become habit through repetitiveness.
Parents can effectively teach children with both words and deeds. Parents can always tell a child to respect others, and they may or may not comply in any given situation. But, when a parent consistently shows respect for other’s opinions, feelings, and possessions, they teach their children to do the same.
Actions + Words = Effective Training Methods
Our daily actions, attitudes, and social skills speak louder and much more effectively than words. As children watch what we do and ask questions, a golden opportunity is presented to teach valuable “life-lessons.”
“Mommy, why did you let that old lady skip in front of us?”
“Because she had only a few things to buy and we have a full cartload. I didn’t want her to have to stand in line for a long time.”
“Do you know her?”
I’ve never met her before.”
“Then how do you know she didn’t want to wait in line.”
“Because she looked uncomfortable, and seemed to be in a hurry.”
By exhibiting responsible, considerate behavior toward others, children learn from our actions. As we encourage questions and answer in ways that explain why we did something, children better understand and become more conscientious of other people’s needs instead of just their own.
Story Time…A Golden Opportunity to Teach Responsibility
Another good method for teaching children responsible behavior is with the use of stories. Most children are enthusiastic when it comes to having someone read them a story. Select books that teach life-lessons, and then discuss what was read.
Encourage the child to ask questions, seeking the opportunity to emphasize good character traits, and the awareness that all actions – good or bad – will have consequences.
Every Day Presents Opportunities of Its Own
Consistency and application are keys when teaching small children about responsible behavior. Spend time with your child regularly. Encourage them to tell you about their day and things that happened; what they thought or felt, what they saw or heard, what they did or wanted to do. Use every opportunity to stimulate thoughts of awareness.
Put emphasis on positive feelings, emotions, and qualities such as bravery, thoughtfulness, compassion, honesty, kindness, etc. Help your children identify these traits in persons they know, characters they see on television, or people they read about. Help them to identify and cultivate these qualities in themselves.
At the end of each day, ask, “How were you honest today?” or “Tell me two ways you were considerate to someone else today.”
Show Children How to Handle Negative Feelings Responsibly
Also help children explore acceptable ways to effectively deal with negative feelings such as anger, hurt, resentment, loneliness, etc. If a child expresses feelings of anger toward someone, avoid the urge to say that anger is wrong; instead, explore their feelings of anger with them.
Ask why they were angry, or ask them to tell you how angry they were. Help them understand that while it is natural to feel angry at times, how we express that anger is very important. There are acceptable ways to express anger, as well as unacceptable ways.
Tell them a story or cite an example of someone who experienced a particular negative feeling, then ask your child questions like, “What should Becky have done when she got angry?” or, “Why do you think Eric was lonely? What could he have done about it?”
Helping a child to understand the feelings of others as well as their own, and appropriate ways to express those feelings, are big strides toward learning responsible behavior.
By spending time with your child on a regular basis and teaching through example and discussion, you equip your child with good socialization skills, and cultivate responsible behaviors sure to benefit them and others around them for a lifetime.
©2006 Lori S. Anton
Savvy Baby Gear Editor
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