Have you ever thrown pasta against the wall? If it sticks the pasta is done, and if it falls you keep cooking? Keep that metaphor in mind the next time your kiddo comes to you with a problem and tries to sling that noodle at you to see if it will stick.
The word responsible gets tossed around a lot in parenting, teaching, and coaching jargon. The meaning here is, “Able to respond,” or response-able. In my experience, kids’ attempts to get someone else to respond (so that they don’t have to) fall into four main categories: the helpless attempt; the polite request; the argument; and the button push. (Ahem…this might be helpful with adults, too.)
The Helpless Attempt
Bless this kid’s heart. They just can’t…tie their shoes, get their own breakfast, get dressed in less than 15 minutes. It’s just soooo hard or soooo slow! If the schedule is going to work, you simply have to move things along, and if there is pasta in your hair, then so be it.
The Polite Request
This little angel looks up at you with that sweet face and says “please” and “thank you” every time! You don’t want to discourage such lovely manners. Of course you will help pick up the toys, take out the trash, or come up with a solution. You rather like the smell of olive oil, wheat, and egg.
This kid could also be called the debater or the negotiator. There is always something more important than the task at hand. They really would feed the dog if they didn’t need to get started on homework, or if it weren’t tragically unfair that they have already fed the dog twice this week! Homework is important, and you can see the argument will take longer than the task, so…
The Button Push
This crafty booger, this master of distraction, has taken it to the next level. They have figured out the most useful of childhood tactics: the bait and switch. They know just the right thing to say to create an emotional response. They manage to make you angry and poof, just like that, the problem is not the wet towels on the bathroom floor. Instead the problem is you. And as your anger rears out of you like the lava monster in Moana, you see tears well up in little Button Pusher’s eyes and question whether you are the worst parent in the world. Meanwhile, the towels on the bathroom floor are completely forgotten…and you are wearing pasta.
It is natural to look for the easier path, to defer, to delay. It is also the intuitive instinct of a well bonded parent to help, to teach, to respond. So, why is this really important? Because the little things become the big things. Able to respond to self-care, hygiene, chores, and animal care become able to be disciplined, self-reliant, healthy, care for employees, work, property, and family of their own.