One of the most important questions a parent should be occupied with is, how do I learn my child what responsibility is and how do I learn my child to be it’s own directive principle. It starts of with your own starting point of self honesty, there is no way your child is going to learn how to take responsibility when you do not walk that what you talk. That’s why you as a parent or care taker are the living example for your child. So it always starts with your self honesty and your application within reality.
As a mom of two kids of 11 and 14, I bring self-honesty on a daily basis into practice, which does not implies that I’m always successful within this. The beauty of living and interacting with kids is the fact that they respond immediately and reflect your points of dishonesty and points you still have to work on. There are also moments in which I have moved on, though my kids follow still my living example of my past, even though I moved on and changed myself in the best interest of all. In that case I do need to show my kids that they need to reprogram their behavior since it will lead to nothing constructive and is merely hanging into a loop I created for them to join me. So it’s my responsibility to cut the cycle/loop and show them how they should approach the new situation without emotions/feelings in common sense. To get some what practical I will illustrate this by an example of an event with my kids. I will outline the situation first, before starting of with sharing the event.
My relationship with my in-laws deteriorated over the years, first when the kids were small I was able to not interfere within the relationship of my kids and their grandparents. At a certain point when the kids became older I could not hide my stance towards my in-laws and they picked up that something was going on. Though still they went to stay with their grandparents in the summer holidays. I got in a situation where my in-laws got quite nasty, which I didn’t corrected at that time due to fears and needs. The kids started noticing the difference in the behavior of their grandparents and didn’t want to spend time with their grandparents anymore. We ended up in a situation where we didn’t see each other, but my in-laws kept communicating through e-mail and every time more nasty. The kids were confused to hear what their grandparents said about their parents and even about them. At that time I hadn’t yet directed myself fully.
So all this had happend and then my daughter A. had her 14th birthday and she got a parcel by mail from her grandparents and also my son J. received a gift. When I gave the parcels to them after the mailman had left, they weren’t thrilled. They took it like there was a bomb inside and had all kind of comments that showed how my living example had accumulated over time within their thinking patterns. First they were looking very unapprovingly at the gifts and indeed the gifts didn’t match what the kids were involved with in their life’s. When one does lose track of one another it’s not easy to find the perfect fitting gift. After a while they looked again and A. could already see how and for what she could use her gifts. J. was still upset that he got a book that his grandparents had been looking for since ages end finally they had found it and send it to him. He said, they know I do not like reading that much and I wasn’t looking for this book anyway.
That evening I asked them to send their grandparents an e-mail to confirm that the parcels had arrived. They protested against my request and the resistance was big, so I left it there and picked it up the next day. I asked them again if they would write an e-mail to tell their grandparents their parcels had arrived. This time they said, why should we send an e-mail we didn’t ask for the stuff they send. I explained that it wasn’t specific about the stuff it was just common sense to let others know that their parcels had arrived, nothing more and nothing less. I reminded them of the time we had send a parcel and the receiver hadn’t communicated that our parcel had arrived. We asked it ourselves, but it would have been nice if they had let us know. Simple communication and participation. Now the kids understood what I wanted from them and promised to send the e-mail. After a week of asking if they already did send the e-mail my son J. started writing one. While he was sitting in front of the computer he decided also to write that he didn’t like to read books, though the story seemed to be exciting. This was great, he not only took responsibility for a simple communication point he also used communication to let his grandparents know that books are not the best gift to him, in which he was directing his own situation. A. took another week before responding and did the same as J.
I explained them that it wasn’t a matter of liking their grandparents and it had nothing to do with past experiences it was simply being here in the moment and communicating in a practical way to not plant seeds for more confusion at a later stage. In a way the kids were relieved and it felt comfortable for them to be their own directive principle and take in the end responsibility for this event. We talked more about how I was standing within this old conflict and they really felt they could do something about it instead of being the victim just as I had been showing them all along.