The Responsibility of Teaching Children Proper Behavior

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The responsibility of teaching children proper behavior lies solely on the shoulders of their parents. However, more and more parents are fractured by divorce, cut off from the support of extended family, and overwhelmed by the simple job of surviving. Children learn through example, and the examples they are seeing from their parents is paradoxical. In one sense they are largely neglected, and because of this they are largely spoiled. This has created a generation of manipulative children who feel entitled to lash out to get whatever attracts their fleeting attention in the moment more as a power struggle with their guilty parent than due to any real need. The result of this warped prioritizing has kids developing without any real sense of community or of themselves, and the results are devastating. 

The Cause of Behavioral Breakdown

Effectively raising a child is not only a job that really needs two full time parents, but the entire coterie of the extended family. However, more than ever parents are divorced, and children do not regularly see one parent or their extended family who often do not live close. No matter how with it a single parent is a child is sensitive to the heightened stress sense that having to do it all alone creates, and this message of stress makes the child feel unsafe in the world. Just as a dog will act out when it feels the lack of an alpha, a child needs strength and surety to shepherd them through the complex and challenging period of early development. 

However, many marriages break down in the first three years when children are in the decisive emotionally development period of the first four years. Being exposed to loud arguing, crying, tension, and isolation of neglect which an emotionally unavailable parent cannot help but warp the child’s sense of proper behavior. Thus, some of the key reasons for the rise of behavioral issues in children are:

Lack of cohesive family ties.

Parents working a lot more.

Early education focused more on academics than the social ABCs.

Rise in behavioral and mental disorders. 

Lack of cohesive attention to surroundings.

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Many of today’s children are hyper stimulated and malnutrition, raised on TV, digital media, and eating sugar snacks. This creates systemic addition to stimulation and a lack of attention that is not only always looking for the next thing, but makes children totally unaware of those around them and social cues. They are unaware, and they do not care. This is one symptom of the disassociation from others which hyper fixation on digital media creates. After all, most consistently seen on this format is 1) Violence; 2) People trying things and failing painfully; 3) Meaningless gibberish; and 4) Pure spite. 

Without parents and extended family around to offer examples and the rewards which come from following them children learn from the examples they are exposed to, which often are very poor. The deterioration of the family is the main cause of the behavioral breakdown which has led to increased misbehavior, violence, and social isolation. This has translated into youths being on pharmaceutical drugs more and from an earlier age.

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The Question of Responsibility

ADHD is a result of these factors of being overstimulated by the wrong things because the quality things are simply not available. Many of these children consume psychoactive medication to curb behaviors, often taken at school. This is the fault of the parents who are likely living outside their means which is forcing them to work too much to pay for it, and are not there for their children. As a result of this parents have come to shift the responsibility of raising their children to the schools. As principle Rabbi Adam Englander at the Hillel Day School of Boca Raton puts it, in my opinion, I don’t see it as a function of kids being poorly mannered…I see it more as a function of schools being involved in much more than education. Schools are increasingly being asked to take on roles that years ago would have bene considered the realm of parents. (Doyne)

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The over dependence on schools to raise children has not only disassociated children from their parents, but has drastically damaged academic performance. Children need their parents to raise them more than anything. The following five aspects are essential for children’s development:

1. Love. Children must feel loved and secure. Without an atmosphere of love and support, parents cannot teach their children anything.

2. Clarity. Children will only learn rules if they’re applied clearly and consistently.

3. Modeling. Parents should demonstrate good behavior, and also show kids what to do when their own behavior isn’t perfect.

4. Rewards. Friendly words and encouragement, along with occasional and unexpected tangible rewards, are the best way to reinforce good behavior.

5. Punishment. Some parents think discipline is only about punishment. That’s a mistake. Relying on punishments alone will not lead to long-term success. But parents should use effective punishments as one way to discourage bad behavior—along with the other 4 items on this list. (Benaroch)

Many parents are confused into thinking that these elements can be met with material success. After all, that is how they landed in a house they could not afford, driving a car they cannot afford, and do not have the time to see their children. However, the most valuable thing a parent can give their child is their time and attention. Children will attempt to manipulate their parents no matter how attentive they are as a way to experiment with boundaries. When a child finds there are no logical boundaries to their parent’s behavior they will act illogically as a matter of morphing to the conditions of their world (Edwards). 

How Children Really Learn

Children learn most through examples and not words so the best way to instill proper behavior is to treat children with it. The following ten lessons for instilling respect may apply for all those who find themselves living examples to children:

1. Respect is the root of all good things

2. Manners (or understand that other people are people)

3. To lose (and win) gracefully

4. Show up and work

5. Quality person trumps quality performance

6. Tolerance snuffs out anger

7. The ability to tell the truth, because it can stop a vicious spiral

8. Learn from everything

9. A lesson for parents: Welcome help

10. Mom and Dad won't always be there to save you when you screw up (Oneill)

These lessons can be taught any number of ways, but require parents to take responsibility for the actions of their children.


The responsibility of teaching children proper behavior is not a cultural construct, but a day to day reflection from authority. Parents are the only real authority for their children, and when they shirk their responsibility there is no one else to take on the role. Schools are for learning and jail is for punishment. Children act out because they need a sense of security in an uncertain world which comes from discipline, boundaries, and logic. Parents must reflect in their behavior and choices the logic of their child’s life.


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Works Cited

Benaroch, Roy. “Teaching children how to behave: 5 essential principles.” Kevin MD, 19 Feb. 2013. Retrieved from:

Doyne, Shannon. “How, and by Whom, Should Children Be taught Appropriate Behavior?” New York Times, 15 Oct. 2012. Retrieved from:

Edwards, Owen. “Are Schools Responsible for Teaching Manners?” Edutopia, 22 Jan. 2010. Retrieved from:

Oneill, Therese. “11 lessons every good parent should teach their kid.” The Week, 8 Jun. 2014. Retrieved from:

Rebarber, Theodor. “Helping Your Child Learn Responsible Behavior with activities for children.” Kid Source, 2016. Retrieved from: