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Teaching Children to Accept Responsibility For Their Actions

Teen GroupAll of my students have a specific language learning disability. I have noticed through the years, that many of them try to use their learning problems as an excuse for poor behavior. Parents and teachers have to make sure that children learn to accept responsibility for their own actions. This can be in a situation where their actions were not acceptable (misbehavior) as well as when their actions are acceptable (studying for a test). They need to be able to connect their actions to the end result. (I misbehaved and got in trouble. I studied and did well on my test.)

I sometimes hear students say, "Mrs. Johnson got me in trouble," when what they really mean is they did something wrong, got caught by their teacher, and got in trouble. It is important to help children see the difference and take responsibility for their own actions. What they should say is, "I got in trouble with Mrs. Johnson because...." As parents, you can help them to do this by starting the sentence for them and having them finish it.

Other expressions that are cause for concern are, "Armando made me do it," and "All my friends were doing it," or "Sally was talking, too!" These reveal that the child does not realize that his actions are his own choice. Parents often respond, "If Armando told you to jump off of a cliff, would you do that, too?" But, this does not help the child connect his actions to the consequences of those actions. Parents should emphasize that it does not matter what everyone else is doing. A person can only be responsible for what he chooses to do, and what others do is beside the point.

In these situations parents should remember that their role is to teach their child to behave responsibly. Parents can use these situations to teach their child about the link between the choices they make and the consequences of their choices. Dr. Robert Brooks and Dr. Sam Goldstein in "Can Do Kids" say, ‘The true meaning of the word discipline is "to teach." The ultimate goal is to nurture self-discipline so that your children will act responsibly even when you aren’t around.’

And, remember that this is the very same concept that will help them to improve in school. They will connect the actions they take to learn to the improvement they make in school.

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