Raising Responsible Children, By Dr. Bert Alexander

Raising Responsible Children, By Dr. Bert Alexander

Summary of Chapter 2 of the Book Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay

Prepared by Dr. Bert Alexander

Translation and Prezi by Henry Roncancio

Prezi Presentation: Clic here

Poll Clic Here

Raising Responsible Children Video

Henry, Hai and I are both ministers and we have heard this particular passage quoted all our lives: sometimes to encourage, but more often chastening and making a parent feel guilty. What is your take on this famous proverb?

What is your goal in parenting?

  • To get the kids out of the house in eighteen years!
  • To have children who make good decisions most of the time.
  • To equip our children to be able to make it in the world.
  • To help our children move from total dependence to independence. 

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How will our children handle the pressures of life?
  • What choices will they make when faced with these decisions?
  • How will they function when we are not around them most of the time?
  • Will telling them to be responsible actually get the job done?

Let us first look at some ineffective parenting styles and then look at ones that work much better.

  1. Helicopter Parents: these are the parents who think that love means revolving their lives around their children: they hover and then go in and rescue their children when trouble arises. They are constantly protecting little junior from what he needs and deserves; an opportunity for a growing experience. As soon as their children send up an SOS flare, helicopter parents, who are ready hovering nearby, swoop in and shield the children from teachers, playmates, and other elements that appear hostile. These kids are unequipped for the challenges of life, because many of their significant learning opportunities were stolen from them in the name of love.  Helicopter Parents are often viewed as model parents: when their children hurt, so do they and that is when they swoop in and bail the kids out of imposing consequences. They bring forgotten lunches, assignments, etc. to their child instead of allowing him to be responsible for his actions and decisions. In the real world, traffic tickets, overdue bills, taxes and other responsibilities do not disappear because some benefactor bails us out. 
  2. The Turbo-Attack Helicopter Parent: like the one above, but these guys fly in with guns blazing because they are obsessed with the desire to create a perfect world for their kids. This world is free from struggle, inconvenience, discomfort, and disappointment. The child is being groomed to be launched into adulthood with the best credentials:  high grades, extracurricular activities, awards, and special honors. The attitude is that we live in a competitive world and they want their children to have every advantage and any mistakes they make when they are young should not hold them back later. These kids lead a life where their mistakes are swept under the carpet. Declaring their child a victim is a favorite maneuver, designed to send school personnel and social workers diving into the trenches for protection. The children learn to blame others for their lack of success instead of becoming people who reach goals through effort and determination. The college who enrolls a helicopter kid or the company who employs him will not be intimidated by parental pressure in the face of substandard performance. A perfect image and spotless school transcript are poor substitutes for character and achievement that comes from struggle and perseverance. 
  3. Drill Sergeant Parents: although these parents love their children, they bark orders like a DI, and the more they control, the better they believe their kids will be in the long run. Drill Sergeant Parent’s words are filled with put-downs and I-told-you-so’s. If the children do not accomplish a task, the DI makes them finish it. Given a chance to think for themselves, often these kids make horrendous decisions to the disappointment of their parents. They have never had to think for themselves, because the parent did the thinking for them. By the time these kids become teenagers, they are more susceptible to peer pressure than most. Because, when they were children and the costs of the mistakes were low, they were never allowed to make their own decisions but were told what to do. As teens they continue the pattern, but now the voice they listen to are peers and not parents. These kids are usually followers because they have never had an opportunity to lead. 
  4. Laissez-faire parent: Another lesser parenting type is the laissez-faire parent. These parents decide to let the child raise himself. Some believe that children have the ability to govern themselves, and others simply want to be the child’s best friend and preserving that relationship is more important than teaching the child self-discipline or character. There is a tendency to believe that “quality” time will counteract “quantity” time, when the parent is actually lacking in real quality time with their children. There is a final group that does not know what to do with their child anymore, so they do nothing.  We should emphasize that this is really not a parenting type at all, but a cop-out or misunderstanding of parenting responsibilities. Parents send messages to their children about what they think their kids are capable. The helicopter parent sends the following message: “You are fragile and can’t make it without me.” The drill sergeant’s message is, “You can’t think for yourself, so I will do it for you.” Even if there is some success with these styles early on, by the teen years helicopter children become adolescents unable to cope with outside forces, think for themselves, or handle their own problems. Drill sergeant kids do a lot of saluting when they are young, but as they get older, it is generally a raised fist or a middle finger! Okay, enough with the ineffective parenting styles let us look at a more effective model:
  5. The Consultant Parent: as children grow, they move from being concrete thinkers to being abstract thinkers when they are teens. Children need thoughtful guidance and firm, enforceable limits. These limits are based on the safety of the child and how the child’s behavior affects others. Then we must maintain those limits to help children understand that they are responsible for their actions and will suffer reasonable consequences for actions that are inappropriate. In order to help the children feel more in control, choices are given with the limits for them to make. Consultant parents ask their children questions and offer choices, instead of telling them what to do, they put the burden of decision making on their children’s shoulders. They establish options within limits. 

Effective parenting nugget number one: nothing in parenting is sure. We can do all the right things and still not be as successful as a parent as we might like. However, these principals, like the passage in Proverbs are truisms: they work most of the time. We increase our odds or rearing responsible kids when we take thoughtful risks. We do this when we allow our children to fail! Children must be allowed to fail in order for them to choose success. Parents who try to ensure their children’s successes, often raise unsuccessful kids. However the loving and concerned parent who allow for failure wind up with kids who tend to choose success. 

The cost of learning how to live in our world is going up daily. Little children can make many mistakes at affordable prices. They can pick themselves up and try again if things don’t work out. E.g. to a toddler, “would you like to go to the car with your feet on the ground or in the air?” “You can do your chores or see some of your toys to pay for someone else to do them.” These prices are affordable, yet some parents are not willing to buy into the program. The cost of allowing human nature take care of a smart-aleck kid at five is not nearly as high as at fifteen. 

True, it is painful to watch kids learn through natural consequences or significant learning opportunities [SLO]. However, that pain is part of the price we must pay to raise responsible kids. “Pay me now or pay me later.” We can hurt a little as they learn life’s lessons early or we can hurt a lot as they learn them later when they become individuals who cannot care for themselves. Protection is not the same as caring, but both are part of love. God loves you enough to care if you were to throw yourself from a cliff, but his love is not overly protective. 

Effective parenting nugget number two: caring for our children does not equate to protecting them from every possible misstep they could make in growing up. Protection is not synonymous with caring, but both are a part of love. For example, we would all agree that God cares a lot about us, but He would not keep us from jumping off a cliff tonight. Therefore, God loves without being overly protective. 

 As children grow, parents must make a gentle, gradual to transition to allowing their children the privilege of solving their own problems. E.g. a group of kids are learning to ice skate. The first child falls and mom asks, “Are you hurt?” “Come to think of it, I think I am hurt!” Instead, when the mom says “Kaboom” when the child falls, it minimizes the effect on the child. 

Children who have been shown love primarily by protection may be irreparably damaged by the time they reach high school. Parents of adolescents who must concern themselves with clothing, television habits, homework, teeth brushing, haircuts, and so on have “at-risk” children on their hands. The challenge of parenting is to love kids enough to allow them to fail. To stand back, however painful it may be and let SLOs build our children.

Effective parenting nugget number three: Responsibility cannot be taught, it must be caught. In order for children to gain responsibility, we must offer them opportunities to be responsible. The message you are trying to convey is, “I’m sure you will remember on your own, but if you don’t, you will surely learn something from the experience.” These parents help their children understand they can solve their own problems. These parents are sympathetic but don’t solve their kids’ problems.

Children who grow in responsibility also grow in self-esteem, a prerequisite for achievement in the real world. As their self-esteem and self-confidence grow, children are better able to make it once the parental ties are cut.


  1. Take time to self-examine your parenting style. Are you a “helicopter parent,” a “super-helicopter parent,” or even a “drill sergeant?” Do you jump in and attempt to handle conflict situations which are brought on by your children? Do you bring items to your children that they have “forgotten” Do you “hover” over your child and are actually responsible for them doing their assignments? Do you think that your children are incapable of making decisions on their own?
  2. Do you allow your children to do whatever they please? Do you have a tendency for confusing “quality time” for “quantity time?” 
  3. Do you ask your children questions and offer viable choices or do you simply tell them what to do (which places the burden of the decision on you instead of your child)?
  4. Are you willing to allow your child to fail in small things in order that they might learn to succeed in greater things?
  5. Nothing in parenting is sure. Children must be allowed to fail in order to show success. 
  6. Caring for children does not equate to protecting them from every possible misstep they could make in growing up. 
  7. A “Significant Learning Opportunity [SLO]” is when we have the chance to teach our children by allowing them to suffer the consequences for their improper decisions. If you are unwilling to allow your child “pay for a bad decision”, he will not learn this as a child and sadly, he will have to learn it as an adult. 
  8. This week, you need to work on the following practices with your child:
  • When your child is defiant, will you give him two choices [both of which you may live with] to correct that behavior and be willing to follow through on the choices? For example, “Tommy, would you rather take out the trash before dinner or after dinner?”
  • If you ask your child more than twice to complete a chore, are your willing to withhold a privilege to help the learning process? For example, “I am sorry that you cannot go to soccer practice today. You were supposed to take out the trash before/after dinner and chose not to do so, but I am sure that you will be able practice in the future.”
  • “We are eating dinner in ten minutes. We would love for you to join us at that time, or we will see you at breakfast tomorrow morning, your choice.”
  • “I am so sorry that you forgot to bring home that textbook you need for your project that is due tomorrow, I hope it works out for you.”
  • “We are having roast and green beans for dinner. I do not plan to prepare you a frozen pizza, because this is a healthy, nutritious meal. We will miss you tonight, but I bet you will like what we will have for breakfast!”
  • “You must be really cold since you forgot to bring your coat; I have been cold before myself. Maybe we won’t be outside too long.” 
  • “We are leaving McDonalds in ten minutes, I hope you enjoy your Happy Meal, because we will not eat again until [next meal; breakfast, lunch, or dinner].”
  • “It is time for bed. Do you want to brush your teeth first or put on your pajamas first?”

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