What can we do to nurture responsibility in children?

Here is one of Mary’s insightful quotes that prompted my blog today:

‘A dependent child becomes a dependent adult’

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2PMUhAsY_0&t=18s

This quote got me reflecting about my own childhood and my role as a parent and an educator. For a female child in a culturally male dominant country me and my 2 sisters were expected to listen to my parents and to do as we were told. No question, no argument. I believed that was controlling yet oddly comforting that I didn’t have to think what I should or should not do. When I went to university here, while my family returned to Japan, it was both a shock and an exciting new beginning of living as an independent adult. I did not realise till then how dependent I was on my parents to any kind of big decision making and how it was both scary and liberating at the same time. Here I was utterly responsible for my life and what that meant to my experience of life.

As a parent I was quite controlling in that I believed my children depended on us as parents to make decisions and to tell them what to do. Unlike my background, my husband was independent from early teens, and this helped in our parenting to bring balance (I hope) to our children’s upbringing. When our daughter hit the early teens and I started practicing the SEJ Process in the way I was connecting with her, I saw how controlling and stifling my parenting was to her (and her older brother). Some of my earlier blogs refer to how the SEJ Process has profoundly transformed my relationship with my children.

As an educator I have witnessed over the years how some students cannot or will not take responsibility about their actions. Simple things such as cleaning up after their experiments have finished or turning up to classes on time, handing in coursework on time, paying attention without constantly chatting with people in class (or via mobile) are real ‘challenge’ for some students. One particular time, out of exasperation, I asked a student who walked out of a practical session leaving a trail of mess and dirty glassware whether they ever did any washing or tidying up; they replied, “No my mum does all that”, I said “but I am not your mother!”.  Simply chastising them does not help them to take responsibility for they do not know what it means in practical terms.

We often hear of ‘helicopter parenting’, I understand we want to protect and help children to stay safe and well. But we also need to give them opportunities to give it a go and allow space for them to make ‘mistakes’ or something not going the way they expected or wanted. We need to give them safe space to understand that taking responsibility is liberating and empowering for them. When I practiced the SEJ Process whether we should let our daughter (aged 15 at the time) to dye her hair bright red, we gave her the choice: you are making this decision, but you also need to understand what the consequences will be. That was probably the best experience for her as a young person about taking responsibility and also to us as parents about supporting her to make a choice and to live independently.

We as parents/carers and educators have a duty of care that is not controlling but empowering, we need to give young people a safe and secure space to learn and develop the responsible way of being. That way we can nurture and support them to grow up to become responsible adults that truly contributes to the society to make it a joyful and happy place for all to thrive in.

Dr M Howard-Kishi

Related Posts

Leave a Reply