The Gift of Personal Responsibility

The Gift of Personal Responsibility

By Raymond Shipley

Of all the parenting styles, enabling has come to prominence in the Western world. Time and again, parents assume the responsibility for their children's bad acts, or worse, attempt to convince themselves their child isn't at fault and everyone else is to blame. Tough-love, the use of authoritative rearing, is a concept that fails to take root.

As a young child I didn't see enabling as such a problem in the world. Discipline and punishment for wrong doing was a given, and I had better things to do than hang out with the spoiled kids. But as a person gets older their world expands. It wasn't long before I saw myriad instances of teens and young adults abusing their parents, and nearly every case ended in disaster for the family.

It all starts in childhood, where the little tantrums thrown over not getting a certain toy or snack are met with appeasement. Soon it becomes bad acts in school and play that are overlooked, and where there should be discipline are only excuses. Eventually, the roots of enabling are so deep, even if the parent tries to wrestle control away and teach personal responsibility they are only met with lies and deception. 

Recent reading uncovered a list of behaviors common to enabling parents. Included were:

- disbelief and denial 

- covering up a problem due to parental guilt and shame

- attempting to make life easier as a solution by giving unearned money and gifts, expecting less from them and removing responsibilities

- overlooking bad behavior to keep peace

- obsessing about the child to the exclusion of others and themselves

- trusting the promises of an addict

- inconsistency - not following through with logical consequences and/or preventing natural consequences

- giving the benefit of the doubt without them earning it

- forgiving too quickly

- blaming his or her peers

- seeking a simple and quick solution

- reluctance to face reality for fear of losing the child's trust if you snoop

- believing obvious lies

The list seemed overwhelmingly obvious, but at closer look the violations are apparent everywhere. Not a day goes by where the effects of enabling parents aren't so insanely conclusive one wonders at what point the Twilight Zone was entered.


It starts with the child who screams and throws things, and morphs into the physically and emotionally abusive individual. A child that hits his parents when not immediately placated is likely a child who hitherto was just a screamer. And it will get worse, for the parents and for everyone that comes into contact with that child.

Being a parent isn't supposed to be easy. Nothing worthwhile has ever been a cake walk, for worth is inherent in cost. But being a parent is rewarding, and there is no feeling comparable. It is a parent's duty to cultivate the roots of independence and responsibility that make possible the ability to soar. Although my own history is replete with instances of bad acts, the roots that were sown shined the proverbial light on my path. There is no justifiable excuse to raise children that will one day become the bane of all with whom they come into contact. Instead, give them the gift of personal responsibility. We will all be glad you did.

A revolution in sentiments, manners and moral opinions