Who knows? Certainly not us. We do not know enough, nor do we claim to know enough, about the current economic crisis facing our nation to be telling people what to do about it. We do not have sufficient understanding of all the interlocking ramifications of doing or not doing a financial bailout. The situation is outside our area of expertise.
What is not beyond our level of expertise, however, is what to do about the issue of bailing out our children. We firmly believe it is not helpful to rescue, save or bailout children for their inappropriate choices or actions that result in natural consequences that would not be a health or safety risk to them.
In fact, it is harmful. When you do so, you teach your children they do not have to be responsible for their choices and actions. You show them that the cause-and-effect relationship at work in the universe does not apply to them because someone will always be there to save them from experiencing the legitimate consequences of their actions.
Do you bail out your children? Are you inadvertently teaching them they do not have to act responsibly because they will not be held accountable for their choices? Consider the following.
- If you are running lunch, homework, gym shoes, band instruments, or other forgotten objects to school, you are bailing out your children. You are not giving them a real reason to remember the forgotten object next time. Your job is to teach your children a system for remembering. Their job is to use the system.
- Do you return home to get forgotten shin guards for soccer or a teeth guard for karate? Again, teach your children a system for remembering. If they forget, allow them to experience the natural outcome of their behavior. Give them a real life reason to remember in the future. Why would they ever have to remember if someone keeps bailing them out?
- Do you give advances on allowances? If so, you are rescuing. One of the reasons for allowances is to help children learn that if they spend it all the first day, there is no more until next week. You are depriving children of the opportunity to learn an important lesson when you bail them out. Allow them to deal with the outcomes of their spending, saving, or budgeting choices.
- Are you a rescuer with your child’s homework? Do you care more than they do? To step out of the rescuer role, be available to help with homework, set a study time and create a study place. Once again, your job is to create the structure. Their job is to use it. If they come to you at 9 p.m. and inform you they need a poster board for a project, resist the urge to jump in the car and drive all over town trying to find one. Procrastination on their part does not necessitate an emergency on your part. Allow them to experience the consequences.
- When your teen gets in over her head with a cell phone bill, parking tickets, or lack of gas for her car, rejoice. She now has the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson about the importance of keeping control of her spending behavior. Allow her to learn the lesson. If she doesn’t learn it now, she will have to learn it later when the stakes are higher. Debrief the situation with her and help her create a system for keeping track of her spending. This will come in handy when she goes off to college and someone offers her a free T-shirt if she accepts a credit card. Better to learn this lesson now rather than later.
- Did your son visit an inappropriate Web site on your computer? If so, it is time to remind him that opportunity equals responsibility. When responsibility in using the computer goes down, so does the opportunity to use it. Hold him accountable so he can experience the consequences before he gets another opportunity to use the computer. Then increase your level of monitoring and reset your Internet safety programs.
- If your child accidentally breaks a neighbor’s window with a football, help her create a plan for paying for it. Help her learn that her actions produce results and that she is responsible for the results she creates. If you bail her out by paying for the window without having a payment plan in place, you teach her that she doesn’t have to be responsible for her actions.
Resist the urge to bailout your children regardless of what you see modeled in our culture or government. When you regularly hold your children accountable (with an open heart), they will learn to see themselves as the cause of the results they produce. As you help them experience the direct relationship between cause and effect, they will become more empowered and view themselves as both capable and responsible. We could use more of that attitude today in our government, in our businesses, and in our world.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of “The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose.” They are two of the world’s foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it or to obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their Web site today: www.personalpowerpress.com.