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Parents give gifts that give back by teaching responsibility

November 24, 2006|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

"Mommy, you should do a column on responsibility!"

I thought about my 7-year-old's suggestion and then asked, "Why do you think I should do a column on that?"

She smiled and said, "Because that's what Daddy's been working with us about. He says we need to be responsible."

I started to think about how parents help children make the right choices. We do our best to teach our children the difference between right and wrong.

Just to see if we were on the same page, I asked my daughter what she thinks the word responsible means.

"Oh, it means taking care of your things, putting them where they are supposed to go and not breaking them on purpose," she said.


I had been out of town at a convention for several days, and my husband had cared for the children during that time. I was pleased that he was able to help our daughter understand what responsibility is.

He tells our children to do something, tells them why they should do it, explains the principle behind it, then expects it to be done from that point onward. For the most part, they obey. There's still something to be said for the importance of a father's authority in the home. If Dad says it, it must be important.

As for my daughter's understanding of what it means to be responsible, her definition of the word is parallel to the first one listed in the dictionary: "expected or obliged to account for something or to someone."

My thoughts on the word match the fourth listing: "able to distinguish between right and wrong and to think and act rationally."

As we enter the holiday season, we will be given many opportunities to teach our children responsibility.

Will we give in to the latest craze and buy them things that will be neglected after the first week? Or will we put some thought into our purchases and give gifts that will help develop our children physically, emotionally, spiritually and academically?

Need some gift ideas? Try these on for size.

Control the computer

It's not enough to limit the time your child spends on the computer. Know what games are being played. Select engaging educational games. There's nothing wrong with being entertained, but why not learn something at the same time?

Don't allow your child to access the Internet alone. Take advantage of any time you have off over the holidays and surf the Web with your child so you can train him on what sites are safe and on what sites to avoid.

Play creatively

Encourage your children to be childlike. Board games, remote-controlled vehicles, paper dolls and similar toys foster creativity and companionship. It's fun to play these things with a friend. These toys enable friends to get to know one another better. You don't learn much about a person when you're shoulder to shoulder watching a screen.

Buy books

Under every tree there should be a book - or several books - wrapped in pretty paper waiting to be opened. Think of some books that your child has signed out of the library over and over again. Those would be good choices for your child's bookshelf. Or, perhaps there is a recently released title by your child's favorite author. That would be a good pick, too.

Get physical

What athletic activities does your child enjoy? Would she like to have a new soccer ball? Sneakers? Socks? Encourage participation in sports by providing equipment for your child to use at home. Plan to play with your child. That's a great bonding time and it's good exercise for you, too.

Create music

If your child takes music lessons, consider the gift of a new music book. Perhaps your child would like to have a music stand or a dictionary of music terms. Most children like sets of rhythm sticks, tambourines, toy drums and the like. Let them clang around with some things for a while. Just observe how happy they are.

Have fun

Your children will only be little for such a short while. Don't view shopping for their gifts as a drudgery. Think about their smiling faces as you enjoy making each selection.

Happy shopping!!

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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