Following rules is important, but is doing as you're told enough?
To become strong, upstanding, and successful adults, possessing a personal desire to be responsible is also significant. Accountability is more than following rules. It means you're responsible for knowing why you follow the rules and when it may be beneficial to change the rules.
Give young people the chance to do their best-sometimes without assistance.
There are four keys to instilling responsibility in young people, according to authors Don Dinkmeyer and Gary McKay. In their book, Raising a Responsible Child, they list the following keys to teaching responsibility: 1. Let the young person do it him or herself; 2. Expect it to take time; 3. Ask, don't demand; and 4. Use natural and logical consequences.
In your home: Create a chart of family chores, listing everyone's responsibilities, even yours.
In your neighborhood: When you make a commitment to a neighborhood or community group, follow through. Don't minimize the responsibility simply because you're a volunteer.
In your school or youth program: When a young person won't take responsibility for her or his actions, help him or her understand the consequences. For example, if a homework assignment isn't completed on time, let the student experience the natural outcome of receiving a zero. If he or she asks for an opportunity to bring the grade up, great! If the student doesn't seek that opportunity, avoid offering it. It will be a great lesson for the student to see how that zero affects his or her overall grade.
Young people are more likely to succeed if they accept and take personal responsibility for their actions. Take time to model and teach young people how to take care of themselves, follow through with commitments, and learn from mistakes.
Ian Eastman coordinates Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth on behalf of Family Services. This article was adapted from Instant Assets, published by Search Institute.