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Teach children personal responsibility early in life

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POSTED: January 14, 2013 12:00 p.m.

Twice in recent weeks, I’ve exited the interstate on my daily commute and noticed — in two different places — bags of scattered fast-food rubbish lying in the grass by the side of the road. Both times, the remnants of children’s meals — milk cartons and telltale cartoon-character packaging — were among the discarded cartons and wrappers. This tells me that children likely witnessed adults irresponsibly disposing of trash. How sad.

Teaching children good habits, such as taking care of the environment, isn’t always easy, but leading by example is. As if being a litterbug weren’t bad enough, it disappoints me to know that these careless people actually are leading their children to believe that such inconsiderate behavior is acceptable when it certainly is not.

A parent’s work is hard. We want to ensure our children grow up to be responsible, hard-working, intelligent, productive members of society. It’s a daunting task at best. However, there are plenty of aspects of parenting that don’t require a degree in rocket science. Teaching children to throw garbage in a garbage can is one of those aspects. And although it seems simple, exercising common sense in this instance actually can have big implications.

Teaching a young child to dispose of trash correctly seems small, but parents who encourage this behavior are facilitating a greater sense of responsibility in their children. People who are brought up to respect their environment and surroundings usually end up respecting themselves and others. Making sure a child approaches every situation — waste riddance or social interactions — with the knowledge they’re obligated to act conscientiously will benefit the child throughout his or her life.

My husband and I go to great lengths to foster a sense of personal accountability in our daughter. Yes, we recycle, conserve water whenever possible and drive fuel-efficient vehicles, but I’m not just talking about eco-friendly behavior. We’re teaching her to share, be kind to our pets and communicate using good manners.

Behaving politely, taking pride in your habits and respecting people and places all go hand-in-hand. A parent can’t expect a child to score high marks across the board in these categories if something as simple as “don’t litter” isn’t taught early on.

 

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