Ingrain responsibility in children
In the last couple of months, I have been working with teen mums in the Korogocho, Kariobangi area. These are young girls who got pregnant and are now faced with a new reality of motherhood while still children themselves. Interacting with these young girls has proven to be a real eye-opener. Almost all of them admit to engaging in underage sexual activities for money, for affection and because it appears to be the norm in their environment.
Speaking with these girls and sharing life skills with them has made it clear to me that these children have no understanding of what personal responsibility means, what is going to happen now that they are becoming mothers and what is going to be expected of them. So many of the issues we tackle with these girls come as information they are hearing for the first time; their parents haven’t taught them neither has society modelled responsible living to them.
Yet in defining responsibility, we capture virtues that one would expect any parent to want to impart on their growing child. Looking closer at its meaning, responsibility is the act of being morally accountable for one’s actions and capable of rational conduct. It represents being the kind of person who is of good repute and is indeed an important pillar in character formation.
In parenting, teaching your child responsible behaviour and then stepping aside to let them act responsibly is one of the key childhood learning. In so doing, the parent offers lessons, habits, and virtues that enable that child to grow up into a fully functional adult. To do this effectively, there is considered a first step in teaching your child responsibility and that is; exhibiting responsible behaviour yourself. Become your child’s role model and provide a behavioural template from which they can emulate and live by.
Next is to help your child understand that life is not a bill of rights rather a bill of responsibilities where everyone is expected to pull their weight. The best way to begin driving this message home is involving and assigning household chores to your children depending on their age and then holding them accountable for how these chores are done. It can be something as small as requiring your three-year- old to take his/her cup to the kitchen or wipe the table.
The other requirement in responsibility training is to ‘expect’ that your child is going to be responsible. It makes no sense to assign a task to your child and then hover around them as they perform the task. Just make sure that the child understands what is expected of them, what the acceptable time frame of having the task done is, what the consequences of failing to do the task are and then back off. When time comes to check on how the task was performed, give praise or punishment if required and if the child has made some mistakes, let him/her face the consequences without rushing in to ‘rescue’ or ‘help’ the child.
Ultimately, a parent should endeavour to help their child understand that by being or acting responsibly, they are not doing their parents or anyone else a favour, that in the end, the result of this behaviour is for their own good. When this lesson is learnt the child will begin to understand that while their acts of delinquency and or truancy may hurt or cause displeasure to their parents, ultimately, these types of behaviour cause the greatest harm to the quality of their lives; not that of their parents.