Teaching Responsibility Isn’t Always Easy


parenting advice, parenting tips, teaching responsibility

I had no idea what I was getting into when I first became a parent. I knew all about the sleepless nights, and the responsibility to clothe, feed, and discipline my child. Fifteen years ago when I held my infant son in my arms I knew that it was going to be my responsibility to prepare him to be respectful, productive member of society. But I had no idea just how many other life skills I would have to teach him.  One of the big check marks on my parental “todo” list is teaching responsibility.


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Responsibility was the topic this weekend.

Over the last week, the weatherman has been warning of a potential snowstorm hitting the Midwest early this week. As the weekend approached, the probability of this storm climbed, prompting my wife and I to finish up several outdoor tasks that needed to be done before a blanket of snow covered our yard. On tap Saturday morning was the final mowing of the lawn. Normally, I mow the front yard and go around the perimeter of the rest of the lawn before handing the mower off to my son.

When I told my son that I would be ready for him in about twenty minutes, our conversation went something like this:

“Isn’t it cold outside?” said my son.

“It’s in the low 40’s,” I replied.

“Do I have to?” he asked.

“You said you would mow part of the lawn each time to earn extra money,” I stated

“Can I not do it, and just not get paid?” he asked.

I just looked at him dumbfounded, muttered, “fine,” and shut his bedroom door.

I stewed about our exchange for the rest of the day. We had talked about this in  Spring as a way for him to earn money. As a typical teenager, he’s got a long list of thing he’d like to buy. I had provided a way for him to earn money, and had gained some very valuable help in the process. I had let him out of doing the work using the logic that he would learn a financial lesson of losing the income because he wasn’t willing to put in the work. But the more I thought about it, I wish I had chosen a different path.

I really wish I would have given him a lesson in responsibility and commitment. He didn’t want to mow because it was cold. It’s important to me that he learn that if you commit to doing something, you do it, even if it’s a little inconvenient or uncomfortable.

I had taken the easy way out. I chose to avoid a confrontation with my son, and let him off the hook simply because he didn’t want to.  That’s not the kind of message I wanted to send to my son.

I’m tucking this experience away. With the next opportunity not only will I choose a different parenting path, but I will revisit this experience and reinforce to him that I made the wrong choice. I will emphasize that he should have had to mow the lawn. It’s about honoring your commitment, and sticking to your word.

Sometimes your word is your most valuable possession.

Have you ever taken the easy way out as a parent? Did you ever revisit the decision with your child?

Brought to you courtesy of Brock

About the author

Brock Kernin


  • I like that you’re reconsidering and planning for a different approach next time. I sometimes have a hard time admitting I was wrong and I’m trying to be better about not holding onto my initial convictions if they were misguided. I’m sure your son will appreciate (and learn from) your thoughtful reconsideration.

  • When our son was a teenager we “hired” him to do things around the house that we didn’t have a lot of extra time to do. Other things we expected him to do simply because he was a member of the family living in our house. One time I asked him to wash the car for $5 and he tried to negotiate the amount up to $10. I replied, how about you wash it for nothing? He quickly said “$5 will be fine.” Smart kid!

  • @MrsFrugalwoods – I can only hope that the next opportunity comes along while this experience is still fresh in his mind. I could just go and talk to him now and admit I took the wrong path…..but I don’t think it would have quite the same impact. 🙂

  • @Kathy – the reverse negotiation……always seems to do the trick. LOL. I remember one time my brother and I raked our yard in fall, with the promise of getting paid. We were joking around with my parents when we were done, and I said, “Now it’s time for you to give us some bread.” and my brother responded with, “Yeah, about 10 loaves.” At the time I thought it was hilarious. 🙂

  • I know it is hard. Sometimes it is easier to give in and do something myself vs. putting my foot down. I try my best to be consistent. Sometimes I will let them negotiate. My kids can perform the most amazing disappearing act when they get the slightest hint that there is work to be done. LOL.

  • @Alexis – I actually do the same thing – our son has a list of responsibilities he has to do each week for his base allowance. The lawn mowing, however, is a seasonal and “extra” money making opportunity. Thanks for sharing!

  • @May – Consistency is very important indeed, May. Kids seem to always notice inconsistency and then use it as a negotiating tactic later (But Dad, you let me not do it that one time last fall…….). I should have put my foot down!

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