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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Teaching Children the Big R

Remember when the “three R’s” were reading and writing and arithmetic? They were the foundation for every school’s curriculum. Another R they taught back in the old days was Responsibility. Oh, it wasn’t a school subject as such, but it was taught.
  • When students got their assignments handed in late, they suffered the loss of a letter grade.
  • When students were disrespectful to teachers, they were warned and then marched to the principal’s office.
  • When students were violent on the playground, they lost recess privileges for several days.
  • When students didn’t behave at school, the teacher called the parents. No one wanted that to happen! They would have stiffer penalties at home than at school!
  • Students wanted to be honored to be hall monitors. They wanted to have the responsibility of washing the chalkboard. They wanted to be picked to answer questions. Eager little hands went into the air volunteering.

Contrast that with today:
  • Students don’t care when their homework gets turned in—and they expect good grades.
  • Students mouth off to teachers all the time. (I doubt if the principal sees anyone but kids who stab or hit others.)
  • Students bully and are violent all the time. Playground is no exception.
  • When a teacher calls parents today, the parents take up for their “angel” children.
  • Students mock those students that are called on to answer questions or help the teacher in any way. Volunteer? Are you kidding? 

It’s a sad state of affairs, and there’s plenty of blame to go around, but that’s not the purpose of this post. I’d like to inspire parents to teach the R that usually doesn’t get taught in schools any more.


It means accountability. It means “the ability to distinguish between right and wrong and to think and act rationally, and hence accountable for one’s behavior. Readily assuming obligations, duties, etc.; dependable, reliable. Able to pay debts or meet business obligations.”*

Today’s kids have no clue. Do you know why? They have no idea of what it means to be responsible for a couple of reasons:
  1. The break-up of the family—Divorce and separations mean that children aren’t brought up by both parents in a loving, secure home. Parents are struggling with their own issues, and this translates in children rearing themselves.
  2. Parents do everything for their children.—Little children are babied—even when they’re quite able to be expected to do things for themselves. The children grow up believing they’re entitled, that someone else will always do stuff for them. So, why learn to do things for myself? As a result, many kids have never washed, folded, or ironed their own clothes. Many have never learned to cook. Many wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to change a car tire or the oil. And in school, many have no urge to strive for good grades or even to hand in assignments.

What does our society look like today? Just listen to on-the-street TV interviews. Nine out of ten Americans use the English language badly. If the questions are about history or even current news, most Americans are ignorant. Who’s Shinzo Abe? Who’s Theresa May? They haven’t a clue. (They’ll recognize movie stars and hip hop singers, though.)

So, how can we help our kids learn Responsibility? Require something from them.
  1. Demand respect. There is no excuse for your child to talk back to you, tell you no, or have a nasty attitude. Punish disrespectful talk towards any adult.
  2. From the age of three or four, a little one can make his bed each morning. Yes, it takes some oversight, but he’ll be doing it automatically before long.
  3. Have your children help you in the kitchen and cleaning the house.
  4. Give them “chores.” Some families rotate a job list; others do this in a more loosely organized fashion. It’s important that kids have regular jobs to do at home.
  5. Encourage your children to help their father. Even very small children can carry a tool to Daddy or hold something for him. A child who watches Daddy will learn to do the things that he does.
  6. When your children are school age, make sure they do their homework, get their assignments and projects done and handed in on time, and are conscientious.
  7. Limit their extra-curricular activities. Some kids are driven and able to handle juggling extra stuff all the time, but they’re the exceptions. Most kids need time to just be kids. They need down time. They need free time in order to read, run around outside, and be silly or creative. I would suggest you prayerfully consider after-school activities in the light of each child’s abilities and needs.
  8. Encourage good behavior and discourage bad. Don’t lie to your kids and exaggerate, for example: “You always do so well.” “You can do anything.” No one always does well and no one can do anything (except God). Don’t say impossible, silly stuff. But when your child does well, say, “Good job!” If he paints a picture and you have no idea what it is, say, “Wow! What nice colors! Can you tell me what that is?” instead of, “Oh that is perfect!” We need to be real with our kids. Praise them for obedience, but expect it, too. When a child is willfully disobedient, he needs to be chastised. Never take the side of a child who is sinning and/or disrespectful. If he has gotten into trouble at school, support his teacher.
  9. Teach your kids to strive to do the best they can. Give them practical goals. Each child needs realistic goals he can reach. Help him work hard and succeed. 
When we expect nothing of our kids, we’ll get nothing. The first generation of “nothing achievers” is coming along now. It’s sad to watch.

Let’s teach our children to grow up, become independent adults, get jobs and keep them, and to take responsibility. One day, we’ll happily look our children in the eyes, smile at our sharp little grandchildren, and thank the Lord we taught our children the big R—Responsibility.

  My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
  For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. 
(Proverbs 1:8-9)

*Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition


  1. The only point I'd disagree on here is taking off a letter grade for late work. :-) In college, I had not learned how to manage my time well (in high school I got my homework done between 10 pm and 1 or 2 am - couldn't do that at our college). I would get so discouraged because I wasn't being lazy about it - I was frantically pulling my hair out trying to get everything done, and then getting letter grades off left and right, affecting my grade point average. I always felt like the grade should be a reflection of my mastery of that subject, not leveraged as a penalty for late work - that it should be dealt with in some way (but I don't know what would have been a good substitute). It wasn't until I got to Tests and Measurements in my senior year and one of the administrators was the teacher that I found someone who agreed with me. I guess he didn't have the authority to mandate a change among the faculty, though. 30+ years later, I think I'd handle that aspect of college better - but I don't know if my brain could keep up, LOL!

    But otherwise, yes, children can and should be given responsibilities at an early age. With our little 2 year old grandson, he enjoys being part of bringing in and putting away groceries, etc. And I love the point about praising but not being not unrealistic about it.

    1. Thank you, Barbara. As always, you have thoughtful comments, and I appreciate you. God bless!


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