Children become personally responsible when parents role-model taking personal responsibility for their own feelings and needs. In addition, children need to be allowed to make their own mistakes without punishment and to fail without a loss of love. Children learn responsibility when their parents set firm limits regarding what is and is not acceptable.
Let’s take an example – bedtime. In many households, bedtime is a nightmare for the parents of young children. Typically, the parents nag about getting ready for bed and the children resist – dawdling and ignoring the parents. The parents are tired and want some time for themselves, so the conflict escalates until the parents are yelling before the children finally capitulate. It’s not much fun.
When our children were young, we set a firm limit regarding when we would be available to tuck them in, spend some loving and cozy time with them, read to them, and so on. We said, “We will be available to put you to bed at 8:30 (or whatever time was appropriate for each child). If you are not ready at that time, you will need to put yourself to bed. You can stay up as late as you want, but you cannot disturb us, each other, or watch TV.” We taught them how to read a digital clock by the time they were three so that they knew what time it was.