Raising Responsible Children

ByABC News
February 12, 2004, 11:56 AM

Feb. 16 -- How can parents raise responsible children children who can keep themselves out of danger and say "no" to alcohol, drugs and sex?

The best solution is an old-fashioned one that may, at first, seem improbable: household chores. Chores top the list of most of the experts interviewed for this story.

They had other recommendations as well, of course. Parents should be responsible and set a good example. They must also make clear their expectations for responsible behavior. And, though it can be difficult, they have to let their children suffer the consequences of their own mistakes and learn from those mistakes rather than bail them out (unless it's dangerous not to). They shouldn't, for example, rush to school with children's homework if they forget it.

Parents also need to monitor their children's use of the media. (See our earlier story on media.) And it helps if parents can build a community of like-minded friends for themselves and their families. Finally, since teens are hard-wired to take risks, parents should try to give them positive risk-taking options. (See our "tips" for more, below.)

Why Chores Work

Still, say the experts, chores are key in raising responsible children. But how can making beds and clearing the table help breed a child who will say "no" to drugs, sex and alcohol?

Marty Rossman, associate professor of family education at the University of Minnesota, finds that the best predictor of a child's success defined as not using drugs, quality relationships, finishing education and getting started in a career is that they began helping with chores at age three or four. The study found that it was important to start young.

Rossman is just completing an analysis of data from a study that followed 84 people from childhood into their 20s.