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Early Responsibility Learning

Pet Care/Pet Respect for Kids

          Early Responsibility Learning

I was very lucky growing up. We had a very tiny "half-double" home, lived on my father's meager income as a salesman, always had food on the table and clothes on our backs. I walked back and forth to school (even to Kindergarten) with my friends who are still my friends today--60 years later--, loved my teachers, and paid attention in class. Nothing less than a "B" was acceptable on Report Cards. No one actually "said" that to my friends and me.  We just knew it.

Friends_forever_sm.jpg (21980 bytes)After school, we did our chores and schoolwork. After dinner in the Spring and Summer, it seemed like the entire neighborhood went outside to play "Hide and Seek", "You're It", Roller Skated, or jumped into kid-invented "boxes on wheels" and raced down our paved, hilly road.

And, the minute we saw the street lights come on, we picked up whatever gear we had and headed for our little houses. It was the rule. No "ifs, ands or buts." If there was studying to do, we went to our rooms, usually shared with other siblings, and studied. We didn't have time to chat with friends on the only phone in the house. That was for grown-ups. We did our talking in person.

In the Winters, we put on two layers of mittens, leggings, plastic bags over our shoes before we shoved them into rubber boots and went outside to play in the heaps of snow. (I swear our mothers actually locked us out until THEY were ready for us to come in for supper.) We built snowmen, made snow angels, constructed forts and threw snow balls at each other, and made our own skis out of curtain rods and strapped them to our boots. As cold as we were, the fun of it all kept us outside until our cheeks were red as apples and we instinctively knew it was almost supper time and time for us to set the table.

As kids, weekends were spent eagerly waiting near the fire-house for the Bookmobile to arrive. What a treat that was. In school we were taught how to read by Dick, Jane, Spot and Puff. But, we were all actually co-raised by Beverly Cleary. Additionally, our extended families consisted of the characters in "Father Knows Best", "Make Room for Daddy" and "Leave It to Beaver".

So, my core beliefs were instilled in me by my parents and then reinforced by my teachers, neighbors, circle of friends, books and the few shows that were on TV - way back then. Some of these beliefs, also strictly adhered to by my buddies, were:

  • Work hard and use your time wisely
  • Accept responsibility for your actions
  • Always tell the truth
  • Finish your tasks
  • Keep everything in its proper place
  • Look neat and clean
  • Have fun - good, clean fun
  • Respect your elders
  • Stand up for your rights

And, from my mother, "G-d gave you a mouth. Use it."

And, from my father, "Don't start a fight, but make sure you finish one."

These credos were enforced by me and got me through school, college and grad school - all with "honor" plus healthy social involvements, friend-to-friend relationships, jobs, business, marriage and parenting.

When I taught school, first in a ghetto school and later in some lower to middle class schools, I brought my belief system with me and drummed it into my students. I didn't do this by making them memorize a list of my beliefs. Rather, I employed solid and fun techniques which illustrated my beliefs. But, first, I had to establish myself as the authority and become a benign dictator. Obviously, the kids (even the worst of the worst, as I was led to believe by prior teachers), "got it". It didn't take long before I had my students "eating out of my hands", happily and quietly working away on any task, doing well on tests, seeing each other as part of a cohesive group rather than as adversaries, and attending school rather than playing "hooky".

These same beliefs were used in Parenting, although our child was stubborn and fought us on every single issue, once she became a pre-teen. I did not waiver. In the end, it paid off. She did very well in college and went to an Ivy League institution for Grad School. Now, she is teaching and although she is in another state, quite far away, I know that she is employing creative techniques and has her students right where she wants them.

I have also always believed that one of the worst things parents can do is to be "pals" to their children. Kids don't need another pal. They have enough friends. They need "Parents". They need limits. They need to see their parents - the first people they trust - as a tall, sturdy tree, to be steadfast, deeply rooted and always there for them. Think of it this way: it would be harder to put faith and trust into a delicate branch that cracks and blows whichever way the wind blows or actually blows away altogether, than a tall, sturdy tree. Which one will most likely always be there? Which one will likely be flexible, bending a bit when the wind blows, (when issues come up) but remaining in the same place, year after year?

Kids can't lean on "delicate branches" for support. They need to lean on trees.

If I put my beliefs and what worked for me as a teacher and mom, into teaching or parenting main issues, I'd tackle: Responsibility, Behaviors, Organization and Making Good Choices. Those are key to socialization, education, employment, health (emotional, mental and physical) and being a good citizen.

Responsibility is the most important, and Responsibility Training needs to start early: It can begin when it's time for baby to hold his own bottle, get toilet trained, select an appropriate outfit, put the toys away, choose a vegetable over a twinkie, feed the dog, help with chores, decide to pass up a TV Show in order to do homework, say "I did it" when the milk is spilled and then help to clean it up, etc.

Children who are not accountable for their actions, who exhibit poor behavior, who are disorganized and who cannot make good choices are likely to NOT possess the traits and skills needed to excel in today's world.

I feel very strongly about these issues because they can shape children into productive citizens and perhaps the leaders of tomorrow. Whereas the lack of inculcating positive traits at a young age can turn out children and young adults who contribute nothing, become leeches on society, never achieve self-worth and therefore, cannot succeed in life.

My husband and I had always been in the Parenting Business, creating simple but effective tools that taught responsibility at an early age. Getting "floxed" kind of put the developing part of me to rest for a few years. Right before I was poisoned, in addition to the Pet Responsibility Line, we had developed a full line of Responsibility items for kids, starting with Potty Training and including doing chores, establishing routines and more.

Marketing these products prior to the Levaquin attack showed us a high demand for such items. Now, several years later, I feel that I am at the point of helping parents, teachers and caregivers, again, on a smaller scale. We'll need a lot of help. My condition is full of surprises, none of them very good. But, I am no quitter.....must be that solid work ethic that was instilled in me by my parents, teachers and buddies.