How often do we hear a sigh from a parent and then, “I wish my children acted more responsibly!” I’m sure you’ve also heard, “She is so irresponsible. I have to do everything for her.” Or, “At his age, I had to act responsibly; I did not have any choice.” What has happened in an era when children have more privileges, opportunities, and freedoms than ever before, but often show little inclination toward responsible action? Here we explore how we might build resilience while encouraging the development of responsible children. Many of us grew up with too much responsibility and little freedom. Today’s parents are witnessing, often encouraging, children to have little responsibility and too much freedom. Too much freedom means having and doing whatever they desire without earning it and without a sense of ownership or accomplishment.
Was it easier to parent in the ‘90s than it is now? Well, for starters, we could buy a house without selling our firstborns. We communicated over the back fence and at the park while keeping a watchful eye on our kids. ‘Mobile phones’ were just landline phones attached to the wall with ridiculously long, curly cords - if you could talk and reach the stove to prepare dinner at the same time, life was good!
Teaching your kids to have goals, do their best, and leverage personal momentum to succeed are all good ideas. However, there is a difference between supporting a child’s efforts to reach their goals and taking control of the results you deem the best possible outcomes. Parents who habitually steamroll their kids rob them of personal experience on multiple levels. When parents over-step, kids can lose their point of view; their self-esteem may go down; they may feel confused, anxious, or depressed; and they may focus too much on pleasing their parents instead of honoring their own desires.
In the 1960s, Transaction Analysis (TA) theory, based on the work of Psychiatrist Dr. Eric Berne, was popular. Berne simplified and made available to the ordinary person the work of Sigmund Freud. One of Berne’s prodigies, Dr. Stephen Karpman, developed the drama triangle, a tool that took TA from a theory to practical application. The model describes three unconscious and habitual behavioral habits or roles which people often play out or enact in their relationships. It helps you to move out of relationship drama by no longer enacting the roles of victim, attacker, or rescuer.
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