An English idiom advises “Nip it in the bud.” That is, deal with a problem while it is still small and has not grown into something serious. Nip irresponsibility in the bud by working to build responsibility in children who are not yet teens.
Children do not learn all they will ever learn about character by age 10, although some educators would have us believe that. Those who are honest in their work with children find that boys and girls are capable of learning and building character after age 10. We never stop building character, if we try at all to build it.
Upper elementary and middle school children need to be taught responsibility. The lessons should include clear definitions, and should be presented in a variety of media.
The Character Mystery Series book “Lost on Superstition Mountain” gives you a good way to introduce responsibility to these children.
Set at “Responsibility Camp” in the Arizona desert, this mystery book follows twin 13-year-olds as they struggle to learn responsibility while trying to search for a lost gold mine.
The concept of responsibility, with a clear definition, is woven subtly but surely into the story’s plot. The accompanying teacher’s lesson plans are helpful for parent or educator.
In addition to the book, you will want to aggressively teach responsibility.
Introduce a responsibility to children in clear language. It might be responsibility to care for the pet hamster. Show them what it involves by doing it carefully for them. Make sure they understand every step they must take, from beginning to ending. Then have them do it with you. They must know required actions and time limits for each responsibility you give.
Explain the consequences they will receive any time they fail to fulfill the responsibility completely. Tell them that excuses are seldom or never acceptable (depending on the responsibility).
Later, provide opportunity for them to exercise responsibility in an area you have set. Example: completing a craft or other task neatly and fully by a set time. Set your timer so they will have accountability.
This first time, give them no reminders. Do not tell them time is running out. Have a marked clock or timer they can see, and let the children fulfill the responsibility.
When the timer rings, discuss whether or not the responsibility was fulfilled, and what to do in the future to get better results.
Your goal is to have young people who…
• understand thoroughly what it means to exercise responsibility;
• want to become responsible citizens;
• put responsibility into action consistently in their lives.
Give plenty of opportunity for them to practice once they understand.