You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. (Jim Rohn)
Teaching and giving responsibility are part of the parenting process. Our children are our most important creation. This creation begins with teaching and owning all the consequences for their infant lives, an awesome responsibility as a parent. The teaching and responsibility shifts as our children grow and mature. It is changing from providing extrinsic motivation and holding your teenager responsible and accountable with an intense amount of oversight, to slowly giving your teenager responsibility and having them build their own intrinsic motivation for creating their own choices and success. It is also allowing your teenager to accept the consequences of their choices. This is a big part of learning responsibility and being accountable for their actions. For the parent it is transitioning from being the teacher to mentor and finally the coach for our teenager. How is this done? It is important to understand the process. The timeline for the process is based on each individual teenager and cannot be compared to a sibling or any other teenager.
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 children learn that amazing word “no”, and as parents we encourage them to explore their autonomy from us. But as parents we still provide the guidelines and morals that we as parents value, we are still shouldering the largest responsibility and are accountable to ourselves, society, and our children to make appropriate decisions. 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. The parent provides the extrinsic motivation to complete tasks and creates the consequences for ensuring accountability. However, we are slowly moving away from the constant teaching and providing mentoring as well.
As 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. Your teenager may have a job and a new-found sense of responsibility. Teenagers 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 choices and benefit, or not, from their choice. Some call this tough love. I call it parenting. In parenting the ultimate goal is to gradually transfer responsibility to our children so when our children come of age and go out on their own, they are ready to function as responsible adults. We have encouraged and helped to develop critical thinking skills, taught them that failure is part of life and that it means there is another route to accomplish the goal they want to achieve. In the teen and adult years parents move from the 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 safety of parents for mentoring and coaching, and stepping in at a critical time before the consequence becomes overwhelming. It is having fierce conversations that challenge our teenager to understand their options, and the option they decide on will have consequences, and do they see and understand all the consequences and outcomes? As parents we are creating the future leaders of tomorrow. Our children will be leaders. It may be of a huge corporation, a small start up, or being parents themselves. However, we as parents are the first in a series of people that will challenge our children to grow and be a leader in their environment. It all begins by developing their capacity to accept more responsibility, learn, and grow from this increased responsibility, which builds self-confidence and encourages our children to be leaders.
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.
Further reading, How Full is Your Bucket by T. Rath & D.O. Clifton
Desiree Panlilio, BSN, MA Counseling; Life Coaching,
Writer of Encouraging Teens Blog Posts
Owner Encouraging Teens LLC