You Can’t Spell “Success” Without “Responsibility”

If I were to survey parents and ask whether they’d rather have their teens grow up to be successful or responsible, most would answer “Both.”  Yet many parents don’t realize what problems they cause by sacrificing one for the other.

Take, for example, the mom who spots the school project left behind on the dining room table after her teen has left for school.  She knows that the project will count for a large part of the grade, and she doesn’t want her son to get anything less than an A, so she scoops it up and drops it off at school.

Other examples include students staying home from school on the day a project or paper is due in order to finish it, because they didn’t get it done the night before; parents persuading teachers to give students grades higher than what they’ve earned; and parents making excuses for teens’ misbehavior (or telling their teens they didn’t deserve the consequences they received).

These are well-meaning parents who want their kids to get into good schools so they can pursue their career goals.  Yet they don’t realize that in the long run they are doing more harm to their kids than good by smoothing out their paths.

When parents offer easy solutions for their teens’ lapses in responsibility, the teens learn a dangerous lesson: “If I drop the ball, there will be somebody there to bail me out.”  Students who get rescued by parents don’t learn accountability, self-reliance, or responsibility – three characteristics which are important for success as adults.

Allowing teens to experience the natural consequences of their mistakes doesn’t even qualify as “tough love” – it’s just good parenting.  If we want our teens to be successful adults, we have to first teach them to be responsible teens.  And that can’t be done by bailing them out.


  1. yep, an allowing them be irresponsible to LEARN from those mistakes to help them BECOME responsible can really hurt, but it is so necessary. My son even as a sr. in high school still hadn’t quite learned the lesson…allowing him to procrastinate w/o reminding or nagging was hard for me to learn. It meant him loosing a $500 scholarship because he never finished paperwork and got it turned in, it means on grad nite his pics won’t be in the slide show because he left them here at home instead of taking them to school and putting them in a box, or even easier, he could have scanned and emailed…was very painful to watch. It’s been a rough year because of divorce, so I really needed to let him discover, that w/o the “enabler” parent here, he actually has to tow the line, and I’m not “picking up” for him. Responsibility is not just a learning lesson for the child, but for us as well, the sooner we “get it”, the better they will be!

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