To have responsibility means to be able to respond, to answer why someone did what he did. Who does the person have to respond to? Sometimes he has to admit that he did wrong publicly. Sometimes he apologizes to a person he hurt privately. But very often he doesn’t have anybody to speak to, but himself. He admits to himself that he doesn’t want to repeat what he did wrong. That is what is most important. That is how people become responsible. They learn to do right and avoid doing wrong because doing wrong hurts! In human language this internal responsiveness is called conscientiousness. A developed intelligence to discern between right and wrong is called conscience.
Only when children learn about how doing wrong hurts inside they develop their own internal system of judgment. They start to strive to do good and avoid doing bad things, in other words, they become intelligent. They don’t need outside approval or disapproval because they already know what is good and what is bad. So they become independent from approval and from any judgment. They become free. They are not afraid of people’s judgment, they are not afraid of people. They acquire internal strength of character, which brings courage to admit willingly that they did something wrong, a quality, which not many adults have.
Another misconception of parents is when they think that they teach responsibility by setting boundaries or limits on children. The parents’ boundaries only irritate children and teach them to ignore their parents’ efforts, or to play a game called power struggle. The real boundaries arise inside a child, in his conscientiousness, in his developed intelligence and heart.