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Teaching responsibility to children means holding them accountable

A recent survey of American college freshman revealed results that should concern every parent. The survey, which studied more than 9 million kids, confirmed that college students are more likely to call themselves superior and gifted—even though their test scores don’t reflect this subjective rating. In fact, their test scores actually show the opposite. Their time spent studying has decreased, their handwriting has become worse, and although they rate their drive to be successful as high, it was actually much lower. The survey shows that today’s kids expect more from doing less.

Of course, we all look for someone or something to blame for these results. Is it caused by the reality TV shows that highlight how wealthy, good-looking families can break every rule, act immature and live the good life? Is social media to blame? Since some kids spend up to 80 percent of their waking hours in a virtual world—whether it is playing games or commenting on other people’s Facebook pages—it is easy to see how kids begin believing they are celebrities in their own life.

It also could be the grade inflation that our generation has created in our schools, or the “every kid must play” policy, which means that whether you are capable or not, you get the chance to play.
Have we all focused so much on building our kids up that we built them up for a big fall later in life?

This article provides suggestions for parents who sense their child is behaving as an entitled guest in the family--rather than a responsible child.


Do mentor responsibility

Don’t make the mistake of believing that if you talk to your child and explain responsibility, he or she will automatically understand and be successful in life. The problem is that you have to actually mentor the act of being responsible. You can talk until you are blue in the face, but if you continue giving in to kids, letting them off the hook, saving them from their natural consequences and doing the chores they were assigned to do--just to keep peace in your home--you are enabling their entitled behavior.

Do limit technology

Limit FaceBook, computer games and phones. If your children spend two hours on the internet, make sure they are spending three with the family. The virtual world is more influential—if the family world is less engaged.

Do support your child’s teacher

If your child fails a class or receives a bad grade, offer to go with your child to talk to the teacher. Be sure to support your child’s teacher and try to work with the teacher to help your child succeed.

Do allow children to experience defeat

Never do for your children what they can do for themselves. This is a golden rule. Kids who grow up with supportive parents--who believe children need to learn how to cope with defeat--do much better than children who grow up believing the world will cater to them because of the magnificent people they are.


Do not neglect to follow through with consequences

Assign your children chores and follow through with consequences if your children do not complete them. They don’t have to like doing them or like you, but they do have to complete their chores and respect you.

Do not give in

When kids are unhappy, they will usually let you know. As a parent, we all feel a twinge of guilt, but we must follow through with consequences. Entitled kids have parents who do not follow through and constantly give in. They want their kids to be happy, but they forget that unhappiness is what helps kids learn. Kids learn from their mistakes—but only if parents let them.

Do not underestimate the power of a job

During the summers of your children’s college years, insist they get a job. For example, they can work for a professor, at a coffee shop or do dishes at home. The job type is not as important as the concept of working for someone. Volunteer work is also an excellent idea, but ensure your child is accountable for his or her hours.

Jumping cartoon

Many parents search for answers on how to help their kids get their lives on track. The answer is that parents must actually change the way they raise their kids. This involves actions, not words. Making changes is not always easy, but it is never too late. If you have an entitled child, the time has never been better to say, “enough.” Teaching responsibility means acting responsibly. As a parent, do the responsible thing—and hold your child accountable.

More expert advice about Being a Better Parent

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Mary Jo Rapini LPCLicensed Professional Counselor

Mary Jo Rapini is a licensed certified intimacy/sex relationship psychotherapist in private practice. Mary Jo serves as an intimacy/sex therapist for hospitals and clinics and evaluates patients for bariatric surgery in the Houston area. She wa...

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