Q&A: Giving my child age-appropriate responsibility

Question:

I’m a single mom of a teenage son who’s never been given any responsibility. He’s spoiled, and it’s my fault. I wanted to make things easier for him because he didn’t have a dad, but I realise now that it’s only made him self-centred and ill-equipped for adult life. Is it too late to turn this around?

Answer: It’s never too late to require age-appropriate responsibility from a child. And with a humble approach and firm resolve, you could start seeing some immediate progress.

Begin by having an honest conversation with him. Let him know that you’ve been misguided in your efforts to show compassion toward him, and that you’re sorry you haven’t given him the opportunities he’s needed to grow as a man. Sincerely apologise, ask forgiveness, and then ask him to join you in making some positive changes that will benefit both of you.

How the discussion moves from there will depend on his response. Your goal is for him to have buy-in and avoid a power-struggle. He may be cooperative and agreeable, but regardless, he should understand that his participation isn’t voluntary.           

Discuss what’s involved in running a home. Where everything’s been taken care of for him, he probably has no clue what all needs to be done. Once you’ve painted that picture, invite him to suggest what responsibilities he’d like to take on. Again, don’t ask him “if” he could help around the house. Make a list of chores that need to get done and let him pick.     

At first, you may need to work with him to provide instruction and show him what results are acceptable. It’s also critical that you determine and clearly communicate what the consequences will be if chores don’t get done. Accountability and consistency will be the keys to your success.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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