This is the third article in our series on How to Raise Responsible Kids. You can read part 1, where we defined what responsibility means here, and part 2, where we shared the first step to raising kids who are responsible with money here.
Today, we are focusing on how to raise kids who are responsible when it comes to relationships. This article may be a bit more “woo woo” than most of our articles, but it comes from the heart.
Let’s begin by looking at what it means to be responsible with relationships. We’ve defined responsible in part 1 of this series on how to raise responsible kids as “able to be trusted to do what is right.”
In order to trust our children to do what is right, we need to trust ourselves first.
Your children are sponges, absorbing everything they see you do. That’s why in our article on teaching children to be responsible with money, we recommend you model responsibility by bringing your children into the process of planning your Family Wealth (which includes all of your assets — intellectual, spiritual and human — not just financial assets).
So how do you begin to trust yourself to do what’s right when it comes to relationship? First, be willing to see where you have and are making poor relationship decisions.
- Look at where you are blaming other people for your circumstances, rather than taking 100% responsibility for your choices.
- Look at where you may be trying to control people and events that are not within your personal domain.
- Look at where you are gossiping (even inadvertently), avoiding hard conversations, or failing to communicate your truth about something and then making the person you haven’t communicated with responsible for your pain.
- Look at where you are failing to set boundaries and then lashing out when they are crossed.
- Be willing to see where you are hiding behaviors that you feel shame or guilt about and passing on an ethos of lying to your children.
These are just some of the ways your children may be picking up irresponsible relationship habits. If that’s the case, the good news is that you have the opportunity to “grow up” these parts of yourself that were likely not parented properly in these areas (because our parents didn’t know how to do it better than they did) while at the same time raising responsible kids who can be trusted to do what is right in relationship.
Start by recognizing that, after your child’s other parent, your relationship with your child is your primary relationship and deserves the most attention and care.
I imagine if you are still reading this that one of your greatest life desires is to heal any core family wounds so that you and your children, grandchildren and beyond can experience true love, connection and belonging.
The way you do it is to see that every behavior your child exhibits is a reflection of your own interior. Your child is the mirror for the parts of yourself you cannot see. And shows you where there is healing work to be done inside of yourself.
While most people try to fix their kids (with drugs, therapy, wilderness programs, behavior modification, punishment and rewards), if you truly want to raise responsible kids, you will see that when your child behaves in a way you do not like, it’s not only (or possibly even primarily) your child who needs fixing, it’s you.
Now, this is not to say that your child may not need therapy or treatment if he or she has been through trauma due to early childhood events that were not in your control or that occurred before you understood the impact of your actions, but if you simply try to fix your child, you’ve missed the opportunity for the true healing that is possible.
And, if you do not focus on “fixing” yourself, you will likely never fully trust your child to do what is right because you haven’t done the internal work necessary to trust yourself.
Bottom line: If you want to raise kids who are responsible when it comes to relationship, start with yourself. Be responsible with your relationships by learning how to see where you are not and then taking 100% responsibility for your circumstances and make a change.
If you need support with making a change like this in your relationships, we have many people to recommend who can help. Contact us. We are so much more than a law firm, we’re here to guide your family to grow it’s family wealth — all of it, including your human capital — from one generation to the next.
This article is a service of Jill Gregory, Attorney and Counselor at Law, who develops trusting relationships with families for life. We are a family-focused law firm with a mission of guiding your family to grow its family wealth from one generation to the next.