Adventures into the Madness

The Mom Frants – Responsibility vs Behavior


It took me a long time to realize I was often confusing behavior with responsibility. Behavior is how a child (adolescent, grownup, anyone) conducts themselves in a given situation. Do they follow rules, speak appropriately and politely, keep themselves under control? If it’s my kids, behaving means NOT TOUCHING EACH OTHER FOR FIVE FREAKIN’ MINUTES!!!!! Ahem.

Responsibility is accepting both the tasks and consequences of a job over time. Responsibility is self motivation and earned trust. What I’ve had to learn is that forcing my kids to “behave” with bribes or punishment is not the same thing as teaching “responsibility”.

This lesson caught my attention at the grocery store. As little kids, the dreaded weekly trip to the grocery was accompanied by bags of cheerios and enough finger snacks to last the duration. When they got older, bribes of candy at the checkout aisle and a “stay on opposite sides of the cart” rule enforced behavior for a few years longer. Last summer or so, bribes, threats, rewards, and screaming in the aisles still didn’t avert constant behavior disasters and I had to put some serious thinking into how I was going to get food into our house without getting kicked out of the store.

So, I divided my grocery list, gave the kiddos their own cart and their own list and sent them on their way. Ah…but are these the same children who had been rolling on the floor, wrestling in the cereal aisle the week before you ask? The very same.  They did fantastic. They hunted their items with the enthusiasm of a scavenger hunt, walked their cart with respectful dignity and were so busy with their chore they never once pounced or poked each other. Mission accomplished.

I could have continued threatening and probably been strict enough to force them to cooperate while I did the shopping. But by giving them a real job with real benefits, they not only “behaved” they reached a new level of maturity. Now, when I have to take the kids, they expect their own list. I can tell my son “get the cheapest brand” and he will compare prices and make a good choice. He is learning to evaluate costs and always wins the “what will the total be?” bet at the checkout line. My daughter is learning to read and is proud when she can puzzle out the items on her list and find them by reading signs and packages.

It wasn’t an obvious solution: give these horrendous babboons a cart and let them run free through the store? But it was the right call. They didn’t need discipline. They needed a responsibility.

posted under Frants
One Comment to

“The Mom Frants – Responsibility vs Behavior”

  1. On July 26th, 2010 at 3:27 pm Glenn Says:

    You’re a great Mom & Wife, thanks for both!

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