The Key to Raising Your Children to Have a Sense of Personal Responsibility

by denny hagel on July 31, 2011


Just this past week I received a letter that read, “I want my child to have a sense of personal responsibility wrote the mother of a 10 yr. old girl. “But it seems to be a futile effort. She doesn’t feel she is to blame for anything that goes wrong in her life. There is a constant battle going on between her and her younger brother about who is at fault, who is right and who is wrong. How can I help her take responsibility?”

Does this resonate with you? Do you wish your children would understand and accept responsibility for their actions? Your answer is most likely yes as this is a common concern for parents. Assuming a sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives is at the root of all things that follow in our lives. The degree of our success, happiness and over all well-being is determined by how we perceive ourselves in conjunction with the world around us. In other words, do we see life happening to us or do we see life happening as a result of what we do? The good news is that it is never too late to introduce the key elements into your children’s lives that will inspire them to develop a strong sense of personal responsibility.

And of course, like all things in parenting, it begins with you. How do your children see you handle personal responsibility in your life? Ask yourself the following questions…
  • Do I openly admit when I am wrong?
  • Do I apologize to my children when I make a mistake?
  • Am I honest when I don’t have the answer they are looking for?

These are all things that model being responsible for your actions and choices.

That being said, the single most important key to raising children to have a sense of personal responsibility is to empower them with an understanding of the power they have in their lives through their thoughts, beliefs and choices. Once armed with this awareness they can develop it and integrate it into their perspective and approach to life.

To provide you with an example of how you can to help your child begin to understand that he/she alone is always in control of what they do, I would like to share with you the following Q&A that was first published in my free “Invitation to ASK!” column of my weekly newsletter when Awakened Parenting began. This concept is one that I have used not only with children I have worked with but within my own family as well with astounding results. 

A concerned parent ASKS:

"I have realized how important it is to encourage my children to take responsibility for their actions, I have noticed my 5 year old saying things like.”I called her a name because she called me a name", "I took his toy because he took mine." or "She hit me first!" My question is how can I help my son take responsibility when he feels justified in his actions because the negative actions began with someone else?"


Part 1:
Begin by having a conversation with your son about his understanding of what is positive and what is negative, stressing the point that people are to respect one another and love one another.

What you are doing is laying the foundation of what he understands…what he can realistically be held responsible for knowing and then increasing his awareness of the expectation that we are all held to which is to always be kind, loving and caring toward one another.

Part 2:
Then explain to him in very absolute terms that he is very powerful, that God (Divine, Source, or whatever term feels right for you to use) gave him this amazing power…and that this power that he has is over only him.

Often children of this age will identify with super heroes which is a great analogy to use. Share with him that he is the "super hero" of his physical body with amazing power that no one else has over his body! And what that means is that no one can MAKE him do anything that he doesn't want to do. You can go through all the physical things that he can do…and how he is the one who chooses to make his legs run, his arm throw a ball, or his voice speak loudly or softly and even sing a song.

These examples will help him begin to see the power he has over his body and the actions he takes. Children learn best when having fun! Play a game with him where he is to ask you to sing a song when you prefer not to sing. Encourage him to do or say anything he can think of to get you to sing a song! And of course, no matter how he asks, begs, or pleads, you will not sing UNLESS YOU CHOOSE to sing. You can replace singing with lots of different things, raising your hand, closing your eyes or lifting one leg for example. You can even reverse it and ask him to do things, demonstrating that regardless of what you say to him, he has the power to choose yes or no.

Again, this will establish the power everyone has over their actions…that no one on the outside can do anything to make another do something they really don't want to do.

When you see that he is beginning to understand this concept, translate it to his actions when someone does something he doesn't like. You are working toward explaining the lack of control we have over other's actions and the complete control and power we have over our own actions and reactions.

Once he has grasped this understanding, as time goes by and you witness situations where he acts or reacts negatively, "walk" him back to the reality of his "super-power" over what he chooses to do and chooses to do in reaction, regardless of someone else's choice of action.

And of course, when you see his mindset shifting toward taking responsibility and making positive action and reaction choices, PRAISE PRAISE PRAISE!!

When a child understands that he is in control of what happens in his life by way of his choices, actions and reactions, it automatically removes the victim mentality that feeds a lack of responsibility. As he learns to make positive choices and they are reinforced with praise he will inevitably adopt the realization that he is in fact personally responsible.
A Triple Treat!

To receive more information to enhance your parenting journey simply enter your name and valid email address in the box below. You will not only receive your very own FREE copy of my hugely popular e-Book "Becoming an Awakened Parent", you will also receive a complimentary subscription to my weekly newsletter AND access to my FREE coaching column "Invitation to ASK" where you will be able to anonymously submit your questions!


Denny Hagel is a child advocate and parent coach, devoting over 25 years to the success and well being of all children. She is the published author of over 60 articles on parenting, many of which have attracted international attention in over 24 countries.

Denny was blessed with forward thinking parents who raised her with an understanding of her value as an individual, her innate power to choose by way of her thoughts, ideas, opinions and beliefs, thus, instilling in her a strong sense of personal responsibility for what happens in our lives

She is the founder of Awakened Parenting LLC, a company dedicated to helping parents release parenting paradigms of the past and consciously choose to raise their children to approach life with a positive mindset and strong sense of self. It is Denny’s passion to combine what she learned through her formal education in early childhood education and psychology and what her parents instilled in her and pass this on to all parents.

Denny has created the discussion group "Awakened Parenting Discussion Forum" on Face Book which now has over 600 members.  She does on line coaching with parents and teachers who consult her on a regular basis. Denny collaborates with counselors, authors, coaches and others working in the parent coaching field. Denny Hagel is the author of the newly published "The Missing Secret to Parenting", "The C.P.R. Program for Parents & Teens: Conflict Prevention/Resolution Formula", "Mini-Me Syndrome" and two free e-booklets Parenting Using the Law of Attraction and Becoming an Awakened Parent".

  • Robert Seth

    I like this article a lot Denny!  Good idea to take the time to lay this kind of foundation.  I think too often we just talk about the principle of the thing but don’t take the time to lay the proper foundations.  Thanks for this good advice!

  • Anonymous

    Fortunately some parents lay this kind of foundation innately.  Because not everyone had the advantage of wise counsel such as what you give, Denny.  Out of curiosity:  what is the relationship between personal responsibility and a feeling of entitlement?

  • Anastasiya Day

    Great article Denny! So true, children must understand what is good and what is bad. I totally agree: “When
    a child understands that he is in control of what happens in his life
    by way of his choices, actions and reactions, it automatically removes
    the victim mentality that feeds a lack of responsibility. As he learns
    to make positive choices and they are reinforced with praise he will
    inevitably adopt the realization that he is in fact personally
    responsible.” Thank you for your advice!

  • Olga

    Hi Denny, building the foundation is fundamental.

    As parents we should be very strict at a younger age and
    give them more and more freedom as they grow up. This way when they grow they
    know what they can and cannot do. Most parents though give their children a lot
    of freedom when they are small and see then that they have to take back that
    freedom when their kids grow up.  

  • Annie

    Have you been spying on me?  This really was the big question I needed answered this week.

  • Joanie McMahon

    Great post Denny, it is so great to have this knowledge to share with our babes! Keep up the great work!!

  • Anonymous

    Denny, thanks for talking about this – we need to hear it.

  • Nancy

    Oh, wait. You mean one is supposed to lead by example? Great advice, Denny. I always appreciate how you teach to empower both children and parents.

  • Hughie Bagnell

    Thank you Denny…I really like the “Super Hero” idea…this is an excellent article! Thanks, Hughie

  • Denny

    Thank you Nancy!

  • Denny

    You are very welcome! :)

  • Denny

    Ha! I am glad I was able to help! :)

  • Denny

    Thanks for commenting Olga!

  • Denny

    Totally agree Robert! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Patty

    Thank you Denny! Great Article…Your blog is a must from all parents!

  • Janet Garcia

    A friend of the family who is a Psychologist and are in the Family Ministry always said: never do for your children anything they can’t do by themselves….

    So true…
    Janet Garcia

  • Denny

    You are very welcome, I appreciate your kind words of support! :)

  • Naomi Richards

    Denny as usual a great blog and lots of great advice. There are so many children who do not take responsilibity for their actions. Where does it all start from?

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