Teaching responsibility to kids has been a personal parenting challenge.
Ok, it has been a nightmare until,
I had a parenting epiphany.
Early in the morning, after I’ve walked the dog, made lunches for the kids, snack for my hubs, I had to make a choice — do my sun salutations yoga routine or read quietly. Neither option thrilled me, I was feeling tired from a very busy weekend, emotionally drained from a conversation I had with my daughter and I just wanted to sit with a cup of coffee. It was only 5:15 in the morning and I was already knackered.
I’m not really the sitting type and found myself reading my current book, Inner Engineering, A Yogi’s Guide to Joy by Sadhguru. As I read I reflected on my weekend, mostly the unsettled discussion with my kid — I had this revelation surrounding the concept of responsibility.
What is “being responsible”?
I had my perception of responsibility and she had her perception of the same event. This is not an unusual parent/child situation. It happens daily. Sometimes several times a day. Why?
Why can’t my kids be responsible?
As I sat in stillness, it all came to me.
Responsibility has an interesting etymology. It comes from the word RESPOND. The definition of respond is something like this: act or behave in reaction to someone or something.
My daughter and I had reacted to the same event differently. The disconnect is that I wanted HER to react from my perception. Of course she can’t do that because she isn’t in my head.
If my kids could be in my head, parenting would be so much easier!
When we decide to have children, we agree to train them . . . (could someone please fill in the blank with the biblical verse that says it better than I can!) We teach them how we respond to the world and expect them to accept being little mini me’s. Very unconsciously, or naively we think our precious children will just know to:
Pick up their clothes.
Desire to work collaboratively.
Get good grades.
Practice hard, play fair, win.
Be gentle, loving, kind and respectful.
We try and teach them how to act . . . or behave in reaction to someone or something. I grew up with “do as I say, not as I do.” Not a recommended parenting style but this can be an undercurrent in parenting.
It is not what happens to us in this life but rather how we respond. (apparently a quote from everyone from Epictetus to Zig Ziglar, and now me!)
For my daughter and I, the same situation is the same but we are both reacting and behaving differently.
As a parent, I don’t merely want to teach my children how to act, I want them to value themselves enough to know their actions have an impact — both positive and negative, depending on the perceptions of each person. Above all, I want them to know “I love you.”, no matter what. On the hard days and easy days, love is the constant in our relationship.
I’ve worked hard to set a foundation with my kids, you can read about it here in this story.
Responding with Food (i.e. taking responsibility for my weight)
This idea got me thinking about how I respond to food. I’m overweight. I know exactly the time in my life that I gained my weight and why. I have the root cause of my fatness but that isn’t enough to change how I respond to food.
I don’t take personal responsibility for my body. (That is possibly the hardest thing I could admit.)
My size is determined by my lack of responsibility to my body. I have trained myself to behave (eat) in reaction to a horrible event. I have chosen to respond in a certain way and have not taken responsibility for my weight gain.
I need to change how I respond. I need to understand a few more things about myself and how I cope with disappointment, feeling unheard and unworthy.
This shift in mindset has been life changing. My daughter is my teacher for this life lesson. I am forever grateful for her.
Pick up your socks, PLEEEEAAAASSSE!
Now that I have this shift in mindset, I look at the times where I thought “why can’t my kids just take responsibility for their own stuff?”
Now it seems so simple. My response to the socks on the floor is so different from his. And of course when I say socks it could be ANY article of clothing!
As a parent, I don’t want to teach them how to act, I want them to value themselves enough to know their actions have an impact — both positive and negative, depending on the perceptions of each person. From that space of knowing is where I want them to make choices. (yes, you have read this sentence earlier — it deserves a second read because it is the foundation for creating kids who care.)
Clothing left all over the house may not have the same impact on them as it does for the person who is angrily picking up socks (that might be me). I want them to value their belongings and have an understanding that our home is a sacred space. Together.
It isn’t about the socks, it is about working collaboratively to make our house a beautiful place, not a laundry basket. When I explain it in such terms I find less socks. My home with 4 kids is a very creative place and will always have something out of place — I’m totally OK with that but there is a limit to the amount of stuff not in it’s place/disorganized.
How “responsible” we are is determined by how we perceive the value of a situation. Each person has their own perception.
To foster collaborative responsibility we need to be in agreement with the perceptions and reality.
Responsibility is an outcome of understanding the value or worthiness of your personhood. We chose how we will be responsible.
Get involved with the Joyful Mom Project! Share this message to other parents, send it to your kids via text or email, discuss it with co-workers and anyone that could benefit from a deeper understanding and conversation of responsibility.
Originally published at medium.com