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  • Dr. Gil Stieglitz

Growing Your Kids towards Independence (Part 1)

Today's article on Responsibility will be sent in two parts, otherwise it would be way too long.

One of the primary goals of good parenting is for your children to be an independent, responsible, productive young man or young woman. A parent's job is to make them more and more responsible for decisions they'll have to make as they incorporate themselves into the real world.

Responsibility says, "I am accountable for all of my choices." It also teaches, "Everything I think, say, do, and emote is a choice. I am responsible for each one." Take a look at what these two scriptures say about responsibility and accountability:

"Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul. Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law. A slave will not be instructed by words alone;

For though he understands, there will be no response." (Prov. 29:17-19)

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."

Allowing your son or daughter to experience natural consequences for their actions is part of growing towards independence. To get them to this point, however, it begins when they are young. Next week, I'll share more about what to do when they are already in their teen years.

Here are some abbreviated ways to build responsibility in your kids. For more about this, I offer a podcast called, "Four Keys to a Great Family," available by clicking HERE. I go in to much more depth about these concepts and provide more examples of ways to do this.

1. Stabilize their world through bedtime, meal times, wake-up time, chores, and routines.

Do not allow your children to just follow their impulses about when they go to bed, when they eat, when they wake up, what chores they do, and the routines that they follow. If you allow them to be impulse driven in these basic areas, they will learn that their impulses are king and should be obeyed. This idea is disastrous as they grow older, because it allows the impulses inside of them to dictate their actions, which means that at one moment they could be great and helpful and at another time they could be a complete terror, all based upon whether they feel like it. If you are going to raise enjoyable children you must help them realize that they can not act on all the impulses they feel inside of themselves.

2. Remember, they live inside of your box.

Help them understand that they live inside the box (limits) that you set for their safety and maximum development. The box gets bigger or smaller by their choices, actions, and attitudes. The box is small when they are young and grows bigger as they demonstrate maturity. It does not automatically get larger because they get older. When they go outside of the box with their actions or speech, you may become angry and will have to discipline them in some way. They must not believe that you are arbitrary or capricious, punishing them for unknown reasons. Every discipline technique must be designed to cause better choices or it is useless. They must know that as long as they stay inside of a consistent set of boundaries everything is okay in their world.

3. Respond in action not anger.

All children test the boundaries that their parents have set for them. They want to know where the fences are. They need some kind of response from you that they have reached the edge of your boundary. Too many parents think that saying where the boundaries are will cause the children to respect those boundaries forever. It does not work that way. Along every rule and every boundary your children will continue to probe and push until they get a reaction from their parents and then they will know that there is a boundary there. If there is no reaction of any kind, then it was not a boundary, just talk. What most parents do is wait until they are angry enough at what the child is doing to motivate them to act in some way against the child. This is damaging in a number of ways. First, it causes the child to think the boundary is further out than it really is. Second, it teaches your children that you are always angry with them when they push against the boundary. Third, it teaches them that until you get angry you will not do anything. Wherever you put a boundary you must be willing to act in someway to support that being the boundary. It is possible and preferable for you to move the action line and the anger line quite far apart. You can decide to take action in regards to something at any point you want. You do not have to wait until you are so annoyed or frustrated that you can't sit still any more. It is best if you note the activities and actions of your children that almost always make you angry or irritated and determine that you will take some action way before your children ever get to that point so that you are still rational and pleasant. You do not have to be dramatic in your action or forceful. Any type of action that derails the trajectory of their action will do. Do not wait until you are angry. Act early.

4. Make the expectations known clearly and early.

Don't say to yourself, "They know how they should act." Spell it out to them again. Spell it out before the possible difficulty.

"When we go into Grandmother's house here is how I want you to act and react for the next two hours. Grandma always offers cookies near the end not at the beginning. Wait until she offers first. Grandma will tell many of the same stories over again. You need to listen and act interested. You are only allowed to go to the bathroom three times while we are at Grandma's. You can not play with the statues in her bathroom."

Directions like this need to be reiterated over and over again so that the children clearly understand what is expected of them. Realize that they do not remember how to behave; you'll need to remind them what the positive behavior looks like. Most children really do want to get your approval.

My wife and I found that every time we went out to eat (especially when the children were little) it went so much better if I stopped the children before we went into the restaurant and explained the blow by blow description of what we wanted them to act like in the restaurant while we were there for the next 45 minutes. I would kneel down and tell the children exactly how we wanted them to behave. We described in detail the positive behaviors we wanted them to do in as close to chronological order as possible. Our children want to please us but they often are not clearly reminded right before the new situation, so they do forget and let their impulses get the best of them. Be positive not negative. Tell them what you want them to do instead of telling them what you don't want them to do. Some negatives will come up, but focus on describing much more positives than negatives.

I hope you found this helpful and that you'll join me next time for Part 2 about teaching kids to grow to independence. I look forward to interacting with you. Please email me at to let me know how God is working in and through your life.

In His service,

Pastor Gil


Four Keys to a Great Family

Audio Podcast by Gil Stieglitz

According to the president of a well known youth ministry that works with 250,000 kids in 600+ cities, over 80% of the young people will abandon their faith in college. I have watched with alarm the growing number of families who have teenagers that rebel from their parents. This podcast covers the essentials that are needed to keep this rebellion from God and their parents from happening. When parents work hard at instilling the four keys into their family, the nature of the family changes. It is not enough to have great kids when they are in elementary school. Many parents are not prepared for the significant changes that they must make in their parenting style as their children grow into the teenage years. A great family is an enjoyable family through the teenage years as well. Don't miss this resource if you are headed into the teenage years or are already in them. This could be the best investment you make. Visit our online store at

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