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Responsibility Is a Skill that Takes Teamwork to Develop

Work together!

Dear Dr. Fournier:

When my son was in grade school, I could ask what he had for homework and he would tell me. Now that he is in the seventh grade, he gets angry if I ask. He says I don’t trust him. He is doing all right in school, but I know he could do better. His teachers say I should leave it up to him, and that it is his responsibility and I should let him take charge. For some reason, this makes me uneasy. I don’t want my son to be angry with me someday because I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.

Kiara P.

Boston, MA

Dear Kiara,

ASSESSMENT

"Responsibility" has been a buzzword for a long time as well as how it relates to school and schooling in our society.

We hear of children who don’t take their school responsibility seriously. We hear of parents who don’t take responsibility to be "involved" in their children’s school(s). Frankly, I believe we hear too many mixed messages and too much “irresponsible” talk.

For many parents who are middle-class or above, schools discourage help with homework so children can learn to deal with their responsibility. Occasionally, parents are even counseled to set up consequences if their child meets the criteria of an “irresponsible child.” Instead of placing the blame or onus of responsibility on one or the other, I would like to introduce the concept of shared responsibility. It seems to me from your concerns that you are intuitively looking for a way to bring this about.

The concept of shared responsibility requires collaborative thinking and problem solving – the same skills that will be required of our children when they enter the workforce of the future.

With shared responsibility, it is the parents’ task to help teach responsibility as a skill, not assume it will develop as a genetic characteristic. In school and at home, children must learn to respect the concept of working with others for the sake of expanding their own thoughts.

WHAT TO DO

Explain to your child the idea that "two minds work better than one." In order to prepare your child for the future, discuss how to develop a team approach at home.

As you move toward shared responsibility at home, you must also re-evaluate the language you have used in the past. Here are some examples:

PAST: Do you have any homework? FUTURE: What are you going to learn tonight that will make you a new person by the time you enter school tomorrow?

PAST: When are you going to do your homework? FUTURE: Show me your game plan for learning tonight.

PAST: When you finish studying, I’ll ask you questions. FUTURE: When you have learned it, then you can teach it to me.

PAST: Have you done your homework? FUTURE: Show me what you have learned tonight.

Shared responsibility must be that – truly shared by parents and children who are responsible together for future success.

School can enhance these shared responsibilities by creating a nurturing educational environment, but no one should preempt the parent-child partnership.

CONTACT DR. FOURNIER

Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at [email protected].

 

More Stories By Dr. Yvonne Fournier

Dr. Yvonne Fournier is Founder and President of Fournier Learning Strategies. Her column, "Hassle-Free Homework" was published by the Scripps Howard News Service for 20 years. She has been a pharmacist, public health administrator, demographer and entrepreneur. Dr. Fournier, arguably one of the most prolific of educators and child advocates in America today, has followed her own roadmap, calling not just for change or improvement in education but for an entirely new model.

She remains one of the most controversial opponents of the current education system in America.

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