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Raising Responsible Children: 5 Common Causes of Irresponsible Behavior in Kids

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January 19, 2012

Winston Churchill once said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” The benefits of responsible behavior will help your child throughout her life. From good grades to successful romantic relationships, responsibility can positively impact virtually every area of your child’s life.

So what’s a parent to do with an irresponsible child? There are several common causes of irresponsible behavior among children. If your child frequently exhibits behavior that is more irresponsible than her peers’ behavior, there may be something you’re doing to trigger it.

Authoritarian Parenting

Authoritarian parents are strict disciplinarians who provide their children with few rewards and little opportunity to express their own opinions. This parenting style can make it difficult for children to exercise independent decision making skills, leading to irresponsible behavior.

If you tend to be a strict parent and wonder why your child is behaving irresponsibly, the problem could actually be your strictness. Try rewarding your child for good behavior rather than punishing her for bad choices and encourage her to frequently express her opinions and beliefs, even if you disagree with them.

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parents are parents who set no rules and who tend to do everything for their children. To learn responsibility, children need their parents to set clear rules and expectations for behavior.

Inappropriate Expectations

Children must be given developmentally appropriate tasks in order to behave responsibly. Children under five, for example, are generally best at following simple one-step directions, while children under 10 generally require adult supervision when completing chores. Teenagers should be given substantial independence and opportunities to make their own decisions. When parents give children too many chores or spend too much time supervising older children, kids may exhibit irresponsible behavior. Ensure that your expectations for your child are reasonable for her age group.


Children frequently react to stress by regressing, which means acting as if they are younger than they are. Previously responsible children who begin behaving irresponsibly may be experiencing stress. Family difficulties, trouble with friends, too many extracurricular activities and school anxiety can all trigger poor behavior. Work with your child to minimize her stress and develop coping strategies together. This models responsible behavior to her and makes it easier for her to make good decisions.

Although children are ultimately responsible for their own choices, it is the responsibility of parents to set children up for success. If you’re unhappy with your child’s behavior, take a hard look at yourself before pointing the finger at your child. You just may find there is room for improvement in meeting your own responsibilities to your child.

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