Raising Responsible Kids

Posted on August 4, 2011 by

As a mother of teenagers, I’ve given a lot of thought to the question of how we teach our children to be responsible adults, ready to embrace life rather than hiding out in the Neverland childhood indefinitely. I think it helps to remember that we are not raising children. We are in reality, raising future adults. These are my humble opinions on how to do it.*

First and most important is to raise our kids according to scripture. At first glance this appears to be a no- brainer but it’s much more involved than simply attending church. While that is of paramount importance, it is just the beginning. We must uphold the scriptural model for family life, not only in the lives of our kids, but also in our own relationships. We must train our sons and daughters to value family,  to be productive, and to exercise self-control. Preferably leading by example.

In our marriages, wives must model submission, not only in actions, but from the heart with gladness as unto the Lord and with a humble heart. Husbands must love wives as Christ loved the church and be willing to place the needs of their families before their own interests, personal as well as financial. Never under estimate the power of example in the lives of our kids. If they see that our faith is more than a ritualistic exercise, they will embrace it as truth rather than simply another religion.

Second, we must allow our children to suffer the consequences of their decisions while they are still under our supervision. One of the great tragedies I have witnessed among parents today is the tendency to rescue kids from the natural consequences of their behavior. Whether it’s soliciting extra credit for a child who has not been a responsible student, or paying credit card bills for irresponsible college students, we face an epidemic of people unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives and behavior. I admit that I have been guilty more than once of saving my kids from the consequences of their actions. I have recently come to this realization: While these rescue missions may well erase the discomfort of the moment, they set the stage for my children to make much bigger mistakes in the future, with the expectation that I will always be there to ensure that everything works out.

Next, learn to say no, even if you don’t have to. It is not necessary for kids to have everything they want. Just because you can afford to buy designer jeans and video games, it doesn’t mean you should. Am I suggesting that we never give good gifts to our kids? Of course not. I am suggesting, however, we learn to embrace eternal rather than material values. ‘No’ is a word our kids need to get used to now. In addition, train them to save their own money for the things they want, and let them learn to delay gratification. We must say no to ourselves as well. It’s equally important for our children to see that we deny ourselves, and are also willing to sacrifice our own desires to meet the needs of others.

Lastly, let’s remove the expectation that our children don’t have to take any responsibility for their own needs until they finish college, which for most young adults is around 22 years of age. If my children attend college, it is already understood that they will have to generate some form of income to help meet their expenses. I believe we have made a monumental mistake in that the average young person today expects their parents to assume sole responsibility for their welfare throughout their college years, even if it means their parents take on a staggering amount of personal debt. We must refuse to continue this nonsense.

I am convinced that if we, as Christian parents return to the Biblical standard of family order, personal responsibility and self denial as a matter of daily life and not just nice religious rhetoric, we will see a great change in the children we are turning out into society. And we need to get started right now.

* We have not executed this grand plan perfectly, but that doesn’t mean I’m not right, or that it isn’t a good plan, so there.

Posted in: Relationships