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Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD Headshot

Teen Responsibility Doesn't Happen -- It's Nurtured

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"If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, 
put some responsibility on their shoulders." 
-- Abigail Van Buren

Do you feel kids today are as responsible as kids a generation ago?

This recent conversation with a mom opened my eyes to this age-old concern:

Mom: Are your girls excited about the new high school?

Me: Yes, very. In fact, they started in the new building this week and love it already. More room, shiny walls and floors, and no going outdoors to get to the next class (the old school was open campus)... what's not to love!

Mom: Sounds great. I'm hoping to take a tour when they offer them to the public.

Me: Me, too. It's supposed to be incredibly high tech -- TV screens in all classes, fancy computer lab and a full laptop program starting in the fall. It will be great for the kids to not have to lug all those books!

Mom: I'd love to see my kids shed a few books! But, do you think the kids will do ok with laptops? I mean... it's a lot of responsibility. What if they lose it or break it? I'm just not sure.

Me: I guess I'd think of it this way. Most kids already bring expensive digital stuff to school, including laptops. They all have cell phones, including iPhones, so most have shown responsibility with those already. And, we have to remember kids are kids -- they lose stuff all the time -- like text books. So, I'm sure the school has some sort of plan in place given the price tag of the hardware. Other towns in the area have been doing this sort of program for years with good success so I'm thinking it's worth a try.

Mom: Really? I had no idea. Perhaps it will work. They just seem so young.

So, there it is. And, I agree, many times this generation of teens does seem young.

But, is it fair to place that burden on their shoulders when they are the product of a generation of parents often given labels such as "helicopter parents" and "tiger moms."

Robert Heinlein once said: Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.

Interesting. Unless my memory is failing me, I believe this is how we were raised. Just goes to show some parenting strategies can be revised but not rewritten. Teaching responsibility seems to be one of them. It's not old fashioned to do for our kids what our parents did for us. It's just good parenting.