Accepting responsibility for own actions is something that has to be taught at a young age. And the best place to be taught about responsibility and values is home. In particular, teaching children how to deal with the consequences of their actions helps them understand what responsibility is, and prepares them to enter the real adult world and be a successful part of the society. As parents, you need to be able to guide your children using positive approaches to teach them, but you also need to set reasonable limits.
In most of the cases there are natural consequences. For instance, if your son throws your favorite sweater in the laundry in the wrong program, the natural consequence is that the sweater will be ruined. And of course, you have to explain to him that what he did was wrong not only because this was your favorite sweater that had an emotional value for you, but also because it was also expensive and your family cannot afford to buy new sweaters for no reason. If your daughter has promised to feed the dog every day and she doesn’t, is not like the dog is going to starve, but she has to understand that she is responsible for this animal and she has to do the job she has undertaken. So, even if there are no natural consequences, make sure to explain to your children that they have to do what they are responsible for because as they grow older and they become members of the society, there will be no excuses when they skip a task. In other words, for every action there is a reaction and it’d better be a positive one.
Natural consequences are a very eloquent way to put punishment. Children react to punishment and direct confrontation because they have an overdeveloped ego that doesn’t let them understand the limit between right and wrong. If you punish your son for not having done his homework, he is more likely to skip homework again and again and again, only because he wants to piss you off and test your patience. On the contrary, if you don’t call the unpleasant decision of actually punishing him a punishment, you will convince him that by doing his homework, he will be able to do better at school, be liked by other children, be considered a smart kid and so on. As a parent, you need to implement smart techniques where you actually deny that the consequence of not doing the homework is a punishment, while in effect it is, in the aim of constructively teaching your child the acceptable behavior.
Although natural consequences should not seem like punishment, they may include restrictions. Forbidding your daughter to use the phone or watching TV for a week may seem like the end of the world to her (although with computers kids can do anything today!), but she will understand that she should eat breakfast every morning. No matter what kind of restriction you choose make sure it is reasonable. If you forbid your son to go for basketball for a certain period of time because he misbehaved at school, it seems like a reasonable restriction so that he learns to assume responsibility and realize the consequences of his action. However, if you restrict him one week in his room because he didn’t feed the dog is totally unreasonable. Therefore, consequences, whether natural or seemingly natural, have to be reasonable to bring the required result.
In conclusion, discipline and responsibility are taught at home. Before even going to school, children are taught personal values at home and the way they behave socially reflects what you have been teaching them in private. So, the next time your daughter fails to do the dishes or your son fails at his homework, think of your responsibility first, and then try to explain to your children why they should undertake responsibility for their own actions. This will eliminate the consequences and will improve your children’s behavior, even in the long run.