Teaching responsibility to children
By Laura Seymour

Responsibility — achrayut, in Hebrew — is important. It’s about community and being part of something larger than ourselves. Responsibility tells us we’re all interdependent with one another, and it’s that connection which makes us strong.
Responsibility means accepting the consequences for our actions and choices, whether those consequences are positive or negative. It is also about keeping promises, being honest and fair, acknowledging our mistakes and taking steps to make things right.
Though responsibility is hugely important, it can be a difficult concept to teach children, especially young children; they tend to be very ego-centric and may not understand the concept of taking responsibility for a project or action.
The good news is that it’s never too early to teach about the importance of responsibility. At a very early age, children can be taught responsibility for their toys by encouraging them to put them away when they are done playing with them. If a toy is left out and it breaks, the child can be shown that not taking responsibility for the toy led to its being broken.
You can also talk about responsibility to your children by asking the following questions.
What does it mean to be responsible?
What things are you responsible for at home? With your friends? At school?
Think of a time when you have been blamed for something someone else did. Why didn’t that person take responsibility for their actions? How did you feel about that?
When you are on a team, you have a responsibility to the other team members. Should you choose to go to a party instead of the game? How would that represent responsible behavior?
As you go through your days with your children, continue using the word “responsibility” both in English and Hebrew. No matter how young our children, it helps to hear the words and to use them. Also think of appropriate times during which you can teach the children about responsibility.
Above all, be patient. Responsibility is a difficult concept for even adults to master. But the more you discuss responsibility, the more you demonstrate your own ability to be responsible, the more of an impact it will make on your children.
Those who think they can live without others are wrong. But those who think that others can survive without them are even more in error.
— Chasidic Folk Saying
In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.
— Ann Landers
Laura Seymour, is director of Youth and Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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