Parent Research: Parents Crave Responsibility in Teens

“Jim Liebelt is a friend and co-worker at HomeWord. He is the creator of the HomeWord Culture Blog which a few years ago was awarded one of the top Culture Blogs in the world. He is a researcher and all around wonderful guy. Jim and his wife Jenny live near Boston, Massachusetts. One of the key factors in raising our children and teens is to help them become responsible. I thought this blog brought research and practical ideas together.”

A study from Pew Research indicated that the number one quality parents — regardless of their age, race, political leanings, and religion — want their kids to have is responsibility. Parents were asked to rank the importance of 12 values kids need to learn, and 93% of parents responded that responsibility is “especially important.”

Yet in our culture, instilling the value of responsibility in kids’ lives seems to be easier said than done. Teenagers are constant observers and they’ve had any number of opportunities to see public figures who claim to “take full responsibility” for their actions, but who experience few if any consequences. This sends the wrong message to teens. When people take ownership for behaviors but face no accountability for their actions, the value of responsibility becomes meaningless.

So is imparting responsibility to today’s teens a “mission impossible”? Fortunately, teaching teens responsibility is possible! By using intentional and consistent discipline, parents can see their kids grow into responsible adults.

What Parents Can Do:
• Teaching responsibility requires parents to set clear expectations and enforce consistent consequences.
• Make sure the consequences of failing to meet expectations are appropriate.
• Decide which behaviors are worth battling over, and which are not.
• Include your teenager in creating the consequences. Creating consequences are something you do with your teenagers, not to them.
• Present consequences as a choice. Choices within limits provide teenagers with opportunities to learn to make good decisions because they make the decision. (“Either come home at dinnertime or miss eating.” “Either drive the speed limit, or I will drive.” “You can either feed your dog or we will give it away.”)
• Consistently follow through if your teenager has chosen the consequences.
• Administer the consequence in a friendly, rather than hostile, punitive manner. There is no need for nagging or lecturing.
• Separate your teenager from her behavior. Focus your attention back to positive things soon after the consequences are given.
• Never use a consequence that you cannot follow through on such as, “Either change your attitude or find another place to live.”

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Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, editor, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord Culture Blog also appears on Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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