Controlling All Outcomes
Robs Children of Opportunities
As I said before, good parents begin with the end in view and ask pertinent questions about where the parenting process is going. What do you want your kids to be like? What qualities do they need to have? One obvious answer to those questions is “responsible.” We want our kids to be responsible people.
Well, “responsible” is a rather broad description. It doesn’t give us too much detail so I’ve included the following ideas to break it down a bit.
- A responsible person doesn’t allow feelings to control their actions.
They do what they should do even when they don’t feel like it, at least most of the time.
- A responsible person can be trusted to make only the commitments they can reliably fulfill and to keep those commitments once made.
In the words of Jesus, “let your yes’s be yes and your no’s be no.” (Matt. 5:37)
Children need to understand that a commitment is not really made until it is kept.
- A responsible person understands that the reward of responsible living is counterbalanced by consequence.
“Material reward” is not the only motivation. “Consequence” is a second and equally important issue.
There is no guarantee you will always be rewarded appropriately for being responsible but it is absolutely certain you will suffer consequences if you aren’t. And we all occasionally suffer the consequences of failing to perform.
A person who isn’t sensitized to both the positives and negatives – rewards and consequences – doesn’t really understand what it means to accept responsibility.
Allowing children to face the consequences of their actions, instead of insulating them, conditions them to be reliable rather than flippant. They learn to derive pleasure from a job well done, as much by avoiding the consequence as they do from receiving the reward.
- A responsible person is pragmatic. They are focused on the result and don’t get hung up on methods.
Notable achievements are often accomplished through collaboration but it is rare that each collaborator agrees on how things should be done. There are many acceptable ways to accomplish the same task. One method may be better than another but as long as the goal is reached and nothing immoral is done, fine.
A responsible person is willing to hear other ideas and is more attached to the outcome than the methods used to reach it. We call that working smart and not just hard.
- A responsible person is reliable and supportive.
They are reliable in the sense that whatever part they play in the overall scheme of things they personally own and diligently execute.
You don’t have to tell them to do something or constantly remind them to do it. They embrace their chores and once chores are done, they will gladly assist others.
Children must learn to find things to do without being told.
Finally, to accomplish this result, to see children develop into responsible individuals, the parent must learn to back off a bit. Controlling all the outcomes rob the child of chances to learn.
A child is responsible when he or she demonstrates these qualities. Parents are responsible when they allow it to happen.
Next: Rewards, Part 1