Parenting Teenagers And The Dilemmas of Teaching Them Responsibility

When it comes to parenting one of the most difficult tasks is that of teaching responsibility and this is especially difficult when it comes to parenting teenagers. Invariably you find yourself faced with the dilemma of instilling habits into your teenagers that will lead to appropriate behavior while at the same time not stifling the need for them to be able to make individual choices.

Being ‘responsible’ for something means simply being the agent for some action that produces an effect which can be either good or bad. Teaching responsibility is therefore very much a case of getting your child to understand that every action has consequences and that these consequences may affect not only their own lives but the lives of others.
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If you can teach your child to make the connection between his or her actions and their natural consequences then you will be a long way down the road towards teaching responsibility. This approach is also far better than following the time honored, but frequently totally unproductive, route of simply resorting to telling you teenagers that they must or must not do something ‘because I say so’.

This is all well and good but, in practice, it’s often easier said than done. Take, for example, the teenager who is tempted to start, or has indeed started, experimenting with drugs. The obvious consequences of this action are that he is quite likely to move from ‘soft’ to ‘hard’ drugs, will become addicted and probably start lying and stealing, or worse, to feed his habit. His school work will begin to suffer, as will his health, and eventually he’ll fall foul of the law and probably end up in jail. But you try explaining this to a sixteen year old who feels that he’s totally in control of his life and more than capable of ensuring that this doesn’t happen to him.