#2 Way to Create Totally Irresponsible Kids – Expect Nothing from Them

After all, they work hard in school all day and then they have sports practices and music lessons. And there’s homework almost every night. Their games are every weekend.  And, of course it’s important for them to have friends and – fun. They’re only kids for a short period of time. They’re so busy with all these activities as it is that they’re lucky if they get into bed by 9:30 – usually later. That’s the reality of life, and it’s just not fair to expect them to do anything more.

I even feel guilty when I ask them to help around the house because their schedule is so full already, and besides, they just forget. Reminding them all the time exhausts me, and we end up fighting. It’s just not worth the aggravation.

Looking back at the preceding parent concerns, we see that everything is about the children; the children’s schedules, the children’s activities, the children’s interests… While this situation may be the reality of today’s kids’ world, it is not the reality of life. If we want to teach our children how to become responsible, our job is not only teaching them how to become responsible for their words and actions, but also how to become responsible for contributing to family needs and for being a contributing part of a group. When we enable our kids to think and act only on their own needs and interests as we hover nearby, we’re teaching them to become self-centered and, in all too many cases, callous of others’ needs and interests.  Here’s a typical common child expectation:

The Soccer Uniform

Adolescent      Where’s my soccer uniform?

Mom                 Isn’t it in your closet?

Ad                       No. (angrily) You were supposed to wash it.

You knew I had a game today.

Mom                I’m sorry, Honey.  Where did you put it?

Ad                     (impatiently) I left it in my room. You could have checked!

Mom                (angrily)  And you could have put it in the laundry. (now the

stage is set for a power-struggle, and the real issue of the

uniform will be forgotten as both mother and daughter blame

each other.

Let’s alter this scenario just enough to show what might transpire when the parent  has taught the child that s/he has an age-appropriate responsibility for taking care of personal belongings and then consistently has held the child to this expectation.


 Adolescent             Where’s my soccer uniform?

Mom                         I don’t know, Honey.  I didn’t see it in the laundry.

Ad                            (running to check bedroom) Oh no, I

forgot to put it in the laundry.

Mom                      I’m sorry. What are you going to do?

(NOTE what Mom is telling her daughter

about responsibility by using the “what” question)

Adolescent            (running into her room)  Maybe my other uniform’s

clean.  If it isn’t,  I’ll have to sit on the bench and not play.

(angrily) That’s such a stupid rule.

In the second scene, the child doesn’t blame the mother but instead accepts that s/he forgot to put the uniform where the mom expects to find it.  The child recognizes s/he didn’t do her share of the job, so is more willing to accept the natural consequences even though s/he is angry and says the consequences are “stupid.”

This acceptance doesn’t happen naturally. And it doesn’t happen smoothly.  We have to teach our kids HOW to carry out their responsibilities – first, by holding expectations that they carry out age-appropriate family tasks such as feeding the dog, emptying the dishwasher, setting the table – and that they do these tasks consistently. Secondly, we teach them How to become responsible by guiding them as they practice the tasks; and thirdly, by allowing them to live with the consequences when they don’t carry through (please see the parent plan in Blog #1).

When children are taught how to engage in activities that provide a balance between their interests and needs and those of others, they’re learning to give, to share, to be part of a team – to take on the shared responsibility for being a family member, a good friend, and later a member of a community.

When everything children take part in is for themselves only, they’re learning that life revolves around them; my play date, my birthday party, my practice, my music lesson, my schedule – and when significant others – parents and teachers – support this prioritization, children actually come to see themselves as overly important and deserving – what society has been seeing as an attitude of “entitlement.”  Educational psychologist and parenting expert, Michele Borba (2018) sums up the situation even more strongly,  “While we are producing a smart and self-assured generation, today’s students are also the most self-centered, competitive, individualistic, sad and stressed on record” (p. 22).

While individual interests and needs are certainly very important, learning the give and take of working, playing, and living with others is also very important in order to live a successful and happy life.


Borba, M. (2018)   “Nine Competencies for Teaching Empathy.”  Educational Leadership. 76 (2), 22-28.




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