Children and responsibility.

It is becoming more and more common to hear parents today complaining about their children’s lack of responsibility. But what exactly is an irresponsible child? Who makes him irresponsible? Maybe he was born irresponsible? And what is this irresponsibility thing anyway? Right, let’s try and get to the bottom of this. There are people – indeed, the majority – who are able to take responsibility for their own actions, without putting the blame on others. This relates in particular to poor behaviour and to misfortunes. Misfortunes are, however, actually good behaviour: an individual tried to do something good, but it didn’t work out. But that’s just life.

On the other hand, there are also people who tend, in all cases of misfortune, to blame everyone apart from themselves. They seem to find it extremely hard to accept that they were the ones who “messed up”. It is clear to see that people who can rely on themselves in each and every matter are better equipped to deal with life. Indeed, these are the people that we refer to as responsible. In contrast to them are those people who are not able to rely on themselves, and we refer to these people as irresponsible. But when, and under what conditions, does irresponsibility emerge? It has been established that irresponsible people are made, not born. So who plays the main role in helping children to grow up and become responsible people? It is of course their families who help them to do this – or indeed prevent them from doing it. So how do they go about bringing up a responsible child?

Firstly, by learning to trust the child. Secondly, by teaching the child to do a lot of things independently. Thirdly, by getting the child involved in helping around the house, and demanding that he or she does this. And if the family does not do all of these things, will the child grow up to be independent? The answer is a clear NO! One of the problems of modern pedagogy and psychology is parents’ tendency to give their children excessive care. These are the kind of children who are led around by the hand when they are teenagers (i.e. at the age of 12, 13 or even 15). It is as though their parents consider them still small, weak and not particularly bright. In this way parents stifle and sometimes even destroy teenagers’ desire for freedom, without which a normal human personality cannot develop. Gypsies of all people know the importance of freedom in human life! That kind of excessive care is especially dangerous for boys, because they are expected to grow up to become fully-fledged men! What kind of man can be expected to grow out of a teenager who has been cared for at every step of the way, out of the best possible motives, by women: mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, etc. This teenager is likely to lose the will to achieve something on its own, or to take responsibility for something. That is one of the causes of irresponsibility.

It is important not to confuse the rejection of excessive care with the utter refusal to care for and supervise the child at all. We all know that in Russia, more and more children are simply thrown out of their homes by their parents, like a pet that they no longer find interesting. We are not saying that “anything goes”. Good parents do not allow their eight year-olds to smoke or their twelve year-olds to drink beer “like an adult”. And of course they must sound the alarm with all their might if their teenager suddenly takes to drugs. Indeed, for good parents, it is essential to keep a healthy degree of control over their not-yet grown up children. Petty pampering is, however, superfluous.

We have just taken a brief look at this subject. Naturally, there are other problems in life that affect how responsibly children act. It is not possible to say everything that needs to be said. But there is little doubt that thoughtful, wise and trusting upbringing of children by parents is the main prerequisite for the development of an independent child.

Here are a few helpful recommendations:

1. Trust your child unconditionally and at all times: but nobody is saying you have to give up your control of him.

2. Always think about what work is under no circumstances worth doing for your child.

3. When your child has behaved badly and is blaming other children for this, do not try and change his mind. However, ask him to identify what he personally did that was wrong or bad, e.g.: “They did something wrong, by skipping lessons, but why did you do it as well?”

4. Help the child to explain his behaviour. Do not be satisfied with answers like “I don’t know”.

5. Learn also to trust other people who, by the nature of their work, are involved in the lives of your children: for example, teachers. Trust them in the same way as you would like them to trust you!

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