In Control: Teaching Your Child or Teen to Be Responsible for Their Actions


When you were young, “responsibility” was a 4-letter word. You wanted freedom. That’s what mattered.

Now that you have kids, you understand their plight, as well as your parent’s. You want your child to be responsible for their actions, but teaching them is difficult. Here’s how to get the job done so that your teen still respects you while owning their actions.

Set Expectations

Parents often forget what it’s like to be a teen. You need to set expectations with them. Once your teen knows what is expected of them, they’re more apt to follow rules. This is especially true if you lead by example and you do not contradict yourself. If you’re consistent, they’re more likely to be, too. Of course, there are no guarantees, but demonstrating integrity is always better than not.

Make your expectations reasonable for their age. Impossible expectations will just frustrate them and make them give up. For example, if you set expectations that they are to be responsible for car insurance, car payments, and maintenance without you teaching them anything about these things, or if they don’t have a job that supports a vehicle’s cost, you’re setting them up for failure.

According to Sansone & Lauber, a law firm in St Louis, you also want to think about the possibility of an accident. Those are real costs that impact the cost of ownership of a vehicle. And, they can drive insurance rates up — especially for teens. This is because teenagers are statistically at a higher risk of getting into a car accident.

Make A Chore List

Most parents understand the necessity of chores. If there’s one thing your teen hates, however, it’s a lecture. So, make the list beforehand, negotiate on what your teen will and will not do, and then hold them to their promises. The chore list should be transparent, and there should be small, but important, rewards for completing chores on time and according to set standards.

For example, if you assign laundry duty to your teen, you might only do it once per month. But, the reward for a job well done may be an extra hour of free time on the weekends, where your teen does not have to do chores at all. This chore duty-freedom cycle can teach your child the importance of following through on tasks.

But, you should also implement natural positive reinforcement so that rewards do not come from you as an authority. This teaches your teen natural consequences. For example, when laundry isn’t done, they have no clothes to wear. When it is done, they have fresh, clean, clothes. It’s simple, but something teens don’t really think about if they’ve never had to do laundry before.

Give Your Teen Choices

Make sure that you always give your teen choices within set boundaries. Choice gives them a sense of freedom, while still giving you ultimate authority over their lives in a way that protects them instead of punishes them.

For example, you might ask for your child’s input on a new appliance you’re considering purchasing. Ultimately, you will make the financial decision, but your child will feel like they are part of the decision-making process. Not only does this respect the child’s individuality, it also gives you the opportunity to teach them how to make better choices.

Courtney Parkin has two teenage kids, a daughter who is 15 and a son aged 19. A single parent, Courtney hopes she is raising these young-adults the right way. She often blogs about parenting, family life and finances.