How Do Kids Really Learn Responsibility?


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Hi All! This is an article by Foster and I. Each week as the videos are posted, I'll add the text about the new E. Enjoy! Lisa

<b>How Do Kids <i>Really</i> Learn Responsibility? The Five Essential E's! </b>
by Foster Cline, MD and Lisa C. Greene

How do children really learn responsibility? Love and Logic teaches us to use five easily understood, practical, and effective skill sets. We call them the Five Essential E's: Example, Experience, Empathy, Expectations, and Encouragement.

Some parents make the mistake of believing that children learn responsibility by lectures, reminders, ranting, raving or rescuing. However, the Five Essential E's will always work better both in parenting and in leadership situations.

Parenting is really about leadership. And when times are tough, good and bad leadership skills rise to the surface. Leaders cannot force those who follow to accept their values and beliefs. The same holds true for parents of an adolescent. Forcing an issue does not work because both followers and children must choose to accept the belief of those who lead. So the Five E's are offered, not demanded.

Let's take a brief look at each of the Essential E's by using a metaphor of learning how to play a musical instrument.

<b>The First Essential E: Example</b>

The first step in learning how to play it is to have someone teach you by example. In order to learn how to play the piano, you'll need someone to model how it's done and, hopefully, to teach you the right way to do it. Everyone plays an instrument after at least watching, if not being inspired by another.

What happens if one is taught a bad technique in the beginning of a musical career? Once formed, it is difficult to break a bad habit. If we expect our children to be basically respectful, responsible and cope well with problems, then that's the example we must show. We must occasionally ask ourselves, "Am I being the way I want my children to be?"

In setting the example, it is essential that we take good care of ourselves. We can even use this as a teaching opportunity by occasionally muttering about ourselves in front of the kids: "Gees, I think I'm watching too much TV so I'd better turn it off," or "You know, I really want that chocolate cake, but it's just not good for me, so I guess I'm going to pass on it." Now we are modeling taking good care of ourselves.

Along with taking good care of ourselves, we insist our children treat us with respect when they are around us. Our message is: "Sweetheart, I love you but I won't allow you to treat me badly." Then, our children, modeling after us, won't treat themselves badly, will have a high self-image, and will learn self-respect and how to set boundaries because they learned it from us.

Here's an example of a loving parent taking good care of herself: A teen is fussing, whining and complaining about checking her blood glucose levels. The parent explores the situation, keeping in mind that all children have a right to protest with compliance until it slides into downright obnoxiousness.

Often a little empathy will be enough to stop the whining or using an enforceable statement like: "I'm happy to listen when you can talk nicely with me about it." But let's say it escalates. Now a fed-up parent might say, "Just stop it!" - like that's going to do it with a strong-willed kid.

It's so much more effective to set the example and take good care of yourself by lovingly saying something like: "Honey, I'm not feeling very good about the way you are behaving right now. And I can understand your frustration. But your whining about checking your glucose level is draining my energy and hassling my ear drums. Where would you like to go, sweetheart, so I won't hear it?"

The child learns a few things: Mom cares but won't put up with obnoxious behavior. Mom is very loving and firm. And, Mom is setting a great example!

<b>The Second Essential E: Experience</b>

Back to the piano metaphor: what is the second step to learning how to play a piano? Trial and error. Practice and experience!! The road to wisdom is paved with lots of mistakes. When a mistake is made on the piano, we get discord and it generally sounds pretty bad. Life's mistakes are also like that. And, Love and Logic teaches us that the mistakes made early in life are far more affordable than mistakes made later in life.

Unfortunately, wisdom only comes with trial and error if the error is accompanied by negative consequences. Although it may be unpopular to say in today's world, the truth of the matter is that: "People have to suffer the consequences of their errors and poor choices in order to learn from them." This means that when our children make a mistake, we respond by loving them, talking it over with them, and providing ideas about how they might get themselves out of a bad situation but we don't rescue them unless it is absolutely essential for life and health.

Parents who raise children without wisdom usually do it by making two common mistakes. First, they try to make sure their child doesn't make mistakes. Secondly, when their children do make mistakes, the parents try to fix it. They do something outside the child's skin to make it better.

Wise parents who raise wisdom- filled children respond to the situation by putting their energy into what's going on inside their child's skin rather than outside.

For many of us, , this is a difficult concept because we parents of special needs kids are normally over-protective. We must be overly protective with a sick child in the early years. But as the child grows older, it is essential for the us to back off, put less energy into making sure the environment responds correctly to our child, and spend more energy on helping our child cope with all environments.

In other words, we must spend less energy into fixing things outside the skin and more energy into growing a child with the wisdom to handle what the environment throws at him or her.

So, the next time you are tempted to rescue your child from their (non-life or limb threatening) bad decision, think twice. Instead of answers, give them empathy and remember that wisdom only grows through experience.

<b>The Third Essential E: Empathy</b>

What would happen if our little concert pianist was struggling with learning to play the piano, making lots of mistakes and we became angry and frustrated with him or lectured or nagged? Wouldn't our child want to quit or be upset with us and feel unsupported? Or feel like a failure?

What would happen if we reacted to mistakes with empathy instead? Would our child be encouraged, more likely to continue and try harder? Would he or she learn from the mistakes, feel supported and like us more?

Responding with empathy is the key to building and maintaining a good relationship with our children. And our spouses, too, by the way. But it's not easy. People have the hardest time with this one because it may not be natural!

It's easy to show our kids empathy when someone other than us has caused our children unhappiness. But when they are unhappy about the consequences that we've imposed or that occur naturally because of their misbehavior, many parents often have trouble expressing empathy.

Instead, we might show a combination of frustration and anger when we give the consequences:

. "You didn't do your breathing treatment this morning, so you are not going out until it's done!"
. "You broke curfew last Saturday, so you're staying home for the next two weekends!"

It generally brings more harmony to show our children empathy over the consequences that we impose. An example might be: "Gosh, Nancy. I bet you're going to be really upset when you can't go out next weekend. I would be too! I hope you have as good a time as possible here at home, honey."

It is wise for us to show empathy before delivering consequences. Real empathy. When we show empathy, rather then anger and frustration following our children's mistakes, they feel encouraged, supported, and learn from their errors. Our child's poor choice becomes the "bad guy," not us parents! Empathy provides love and respect even as it locks in the learning experience.