5 Attitudes That Encourage Irresponsibility in Children

The growth of children must be accompanied by a greater encouragement of responsibility, so that we can give them more freedom and trust. Unfortunately, there are certain mistakes that parents make that encourage irresponsibility.
5 Attitudes That Encourage Irresponsibility in Children
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Raising responsible children and young people is one of the main goals of every parent. Understanding the value of fulfilling their obligations will bring them great benefits in the future. However, sometimes, adults maintain certain attitudes that unintentionally encourage irresponsibility in their children.

For children to be responsible, we must provide them with the right conditions. In other words, there must be clear rules and a space in which they can decide to exercise responsibly. Many times, we fail at some point in this process, which hinders the acquisition of this important value. So, pay attention to the following attitudes and try to correct them if you identify with any of them.

Parental attitudes that encourage irresponsibility in children

A mother talking to her son and daughter about responsibililty.

Issues that encourage irresponsibility: we don’t allow our children to make decisions

To instill responsibility in our children, it’s imperative that we provide them with enough space to make certain decisions. A young person can’t exercise responsibility if they’re not allowed to.

For example, if we constantly nag and insist that our children do their homework and stay by their side all the time, we’re not giving them space. They’ll be able to be responsible when we allow them to take charge of their homework and trust that they’ll do it completely and on time without being on their case all the time.

We don’t explain the rules

Many times, what we consider irresponsibility arises from a lack of clarity in our rules. It’s important that the rules are clear so that our kids can follow them and we can evaluate their performance.

Let’s imagine that our teenager is going on one of their first outings with friends and we ask them to come home early. Such a vague guideline isn’t appropriate, as it’s neither clear nor easy to follow, since “early” is a relative and subjective term. If instead, we tell them to come home before 10 o’clock, they’ll know what to do and we can easily measure whether they’ve been responsible.

Not allowing them to experience the consequences breeds irresponsibility

As parents, one of our biggest failures isn’t allowing our children to experience the natural consequences of their actions. In an attempt to spare them trouble and suffering, we end up depriving them of the opportunity to learn valuable lessons.

Therefore, if the child forgets to put a book in their school bag, it’s appropriate for them to experience the consequences of their forgetfulness. If mom or dad rush home to grab the book and take it to school, they’ll be encouraging irresponsibility.

A mother talking with her young son.

Problems that encourage irresponsibility: we don’t consistently apply consequences

Related to the above, when establishing discipline, we must be careful to apply consequences consistently and coherently. That is, they must be related to the fault the child committed and must appear whenever the rule is broken.

Children’s irresponsibility is often motivated by the fact that the consequence doesn’t always appear. Therefore, if we say that not meeting the curfew results in a weekend without going out, we can’t make exceptions frequently or change our minds at the last minute.

We don’t control our own emotional state

Finally, it’s important for parents to be able to maintain discipline without falling into emotional lack of control. In other words, rules and defined consequences are established and these are applied without changing the way we treat the child.

If the child hasn’t tidied up their room or finished their homework, this will have some effects that must be complied with. But that doesn’t make it right for parents to yell, make accusations, or get angry with the child. It’s the consequence that teaches, so creating a negative emotional climate is unnecessary and harmful. In other words, parents must learn to regulate their own emotions.

Combating irresponsibility, a task for everyone

In short, if you feel that your child is behaving irresponsibly, try to address the issue in a joint manner. Before blaming them, try to look for where you could improve your educational work. Maybe the rules aren’t clear enough or maybe you’re not giving them the space and confidence they need to show you that they can be responsible.

Always remember to be patient, stay calm, and let the consequences teach. This is the best way for young people to experience responsibility. By working together, you’ll be able to establish more mature and autonomous behaviors.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.