4 Tips on Raising a Responsible Child

Larry Waldman

I believe the ultimate goal of any parent is to rear an independent, responsible child. This may seem obvious, but most of us know it takes real focus to do it.

Kids don’t magically become ready for the world when they turn 18, they need to practice behaviors leading toward independence starting early on. Is it any wonder that many college fresh intakes “go crazy”? If they’ve had little to no practice behaving independently, how can we expect them to suddenly sleep right, eat right, exercise right and make good decisions simply because they’re now at college? Here are five rules for helping your children to become self sufficient adults.

1. Reinforce independent, responsible behavior specifically and immediately

With so many distractions in our lives, we often don’t take the time to focus on what our kids are doing right but rather on what they’re doing wrong. Which means many kids get far more parental attention for negative behavior than for positive.

Reinforcing positive behavior not only rewards kids it also helps them learn what they can do in a similar situation to earn that reinforcement again. To make this reinforcement effective, praise your child with details of what his good behavior looked like: “When you took the garbage out without me asking you to, it really helped me and showed you’re being kind and considerate.” and make sure to “catch your child being good” soon after the behavior.

2. Change undesirable behaviors by reinforcing alternative desired behaviors

My response to any parenting question about punishment is always, “What would you prefer your child to do instead?” When I get the answer to that question, I suggest, “Then reinforce that.” For example, if the kids are squabbling in the backseat of the car while you are driving, you could scream at them to be quiet or, instead, distract them and say, “Let’s play a game. The first to find five yellow cards wins.”

3. State the task, allow the child to respond and follow through with the appropriate consequence

Whenever I hear a parent say, “I have to tell my child at least five times before he’ll do anything,” I always ask, “What do you think you’ve taught your child about your first request?” State your request once and allow your child to respond. Expect him to make some irresponsible choices. It’s part of the learning process, when he does, follow up with appropriate consequences and then move on.

4. Know that it’s your response to your child’s behavior that really matters

Most parents mistakenly believe they must control their child’s behavior and make him behave. But I believe an effective parent systematically provides appropriate consequences to their child’s behavior. For example, when you see good behavior reinforce it with a positive response like spending extra time with him, say, playing a board game. When your child misbehaves apply a logical consequence, like doing the chore the child was supposed to do at a time that interferes with something the child wanted you to do.

Source: workingmother

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