An individual step in character training is to put responsibility on the individual. (Robert Baden-Powell)
Teaching and giving responsibility are part of the parenting process. It is changing from providing the extrinsic motivation and holding the responsibility to slowly giving your teenager responsibility and having them build their own intrinsic motivation for creating their own choices for success and accepting the consequences of their choices. It is from being the teacher to being the mentor and coach for our teenager. How is this done? It is important to understand the process.
We bring our children home from the hospital, little infants. As parents we do everything for them. We feed them, change them, and shower them with love. As they grow into the toddler phase these little children learn that amazing word “no”, and as parents we are letting them explore their autonomy from us, but as parents we still provide the guidelines and morals that we as parents value. As our children get a little older, we still do the cooking, driving and making rules for where and what our children can do, such as “Rebecca clean your room!” Most of the responsibility of the child still rests with us parents.
Our children move into the teenage years, transitions, intrinsic motivation, and the need for autonomy surface and challenge communication and relationship skills. As parents we are still setting boundaries and rules, but our children can clean up after themselves and do chores. Then before you know it they are driving and new rules and boundaries surface but also a new sense of freedom, and your teenager may have a job and a new-found sense of responsibility. As a teenager, our children are more independent and less receptive to being told what to do. Our parenting technique shifts to deliberate conversations and increased responsibility given to our teenager. This allows for our teenager to make the choice but also to benefit or not from the consequences of their choice. Some call this tough love. I call it parenting. In parenting the ultimate goal is to gradually transfer responsibility so that when our children come of age and go out on their own, they are ready to function as responsible adults. As parents we start in the disciplining mode and teaching mode. “If you hit your sister, you will go in time out. Hitting is not nice.” To teach them how to button up a shirt or tie their own shoes, after spending a huge amount of time just finding the matching shoes. We can look back now and enjoy the humor of that stage of discipline and teaching. However, in the teen and adult years parents move from this discipline, teach, and advice giving method to that of coaching. Coaching is when we stop giving advice and taking responsibility and start to give responsibility to our teenage children.
This giving of responsibility is helping to develop leaders. By increasing their level of responsibility they are gaining leadership skills. What skills you may ask? They are learning to make choices and that the choice our teenager makes has a consequence, good or bad. It is allowing them to make mistakes, to find the road back from their mistakes while still having the fall back of parents for mentoring and coaching. It is having those fierce conversations that challenge our teenager to understand their options, and the option they decide on will have consequences and can they see them. It is us as parents creating the future leaders of tomorrow. Our children will be leaders. It may be that of a huge corporation, a small start up, or being parents themselves. However, the role of leadership is developed for them; it all begins by developing their capacity to accept more responsibility, grow from this increased responsibility, and grow in the leadership ability.
That is why it is so important to give teenagers responsibility, and let them learn what the consequences are. It develops their capacity for greater responsibility and develops their critical thinking skills.