Teach Responsibility

Have you ever said in frustration, “What should I do with this kid?” If you have, you’re not alone. It’s probably one of the most common questions teachers and parents ask themselves.

Realize, though, that you don’t “do” things to people. A better approach—one that promotes responsibility and reduces discipline problems—is to teach young people to do things for themselves.

Using traditional approaches of discipline, such as imposed punishments and rewards, may make the parent or teacher feel better, but it does little to foster independence and self-discipline in youth. In fact, the external approaches of relying on rules, imposing consequences, rewarding youth for appropriate behavior, and punishing children to make them obey are all counterproductive. They may force compliance in the short term, but they fail to instill self-discipline for the long term. 

In fact, remember these three important points:

  1. If you focus on obedience (traditional discipline techniques) you may engender resistance and even defiance—whereas focusing on responsibility (teaching youth to do things for themselves) brings obedience as a natural by-product.
  2. Using rules places you in the position of a cop, rather than a coach.
  3. Although you can control a person, you cannot change another person. People change themselves, and coercion is the least effective approach for influencing another person to change.

So what should you “do” with this kid? Nothing. Instead, focus on practicing the three principles of positivity, choice, and reflection (all of which are described in detail on this website and in my books Parenting Without Stress and Discipline Without Stress) and you’ll instill responsibility and experience more joy in parenting and teaching.