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Bill Cirone: Teaching Children to Be Responsible

Use everyday situations to demonstrate proper behavior

Parents, business leaders and educators share the goal that children grow up to be responsible adults. We hope that children feel, think and act with respect for others and for themselves.

Bill Cirone
Bill Cirone

These are acquired skills, and adults can help nurture them.

According to the publication “It Starts on the Frontline,” learning to be responsible includes the following actions:

» showing respect and compassion for others

» practicing honesty

» showing courage by standing up for what is believed

» developing self-control out of consideration for others

» maintaining self-respect

It’s always a good idea to watch for the chance to teach children responsible behavior through everyday situations. Show compassion and concern about what others are suffering. Be aware that children copy what they see. Adults are always role models for children, whether they intend to be or not.

Read stories with children or grandchildren that teach lessons. The Little Engine That Could is a good example. Also, talk about complicated decisions. Help children understand how the choices they make can affect others.

Parents should talk with parents of their children’s friends and agree on acceptable behavior for play and at parties. Adults should take turns supervising to show children that all the parents agree on similar standards of behavior.

Always make clear to children that prejudice is wrong and that all of us are equal, no matter what our color, gender, ethnicity or background. Show an interest in learning about others — neighbors and relatives, and also from books about our own culture and other civilizations.

Most of all, listen carefully when children want to tell you things they have discovered about history, geography, religions, art and ways of life. Reinforce all their good instincts and actions.

Together, we can all help nurture a community of responsible adults.

— Bill Cirone is Santa Barbara County’s superintendent of schools.

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