Oct 2014 Most people I have the privilege of encountering as a character educator are not ‘tiger parents’ or ‘Hong Kong children’（港孩）, but I have met a few in my lifetime. And when I do see such children, I only have to look at their parents and caregivers to understand why they are the way they are. Everything is done for them. All they have to do is lift their foot and a show gets placed on it and the laces tied, or they just have to say ‘I’m hungry’ and the chef, helper and driver are instantly mobilized to cook, pack and deliver a hot meal! The problem is that these children will grow up not knowing how to make decisions for themselves or how to take care of themselves and others, which is a worrying thought since they are our future leaders. But my outlook is optimistic; I believe every child has the potential to be an excellent member of society and a leader of their generation. One core character trait of such a person is responsibility – the ability to be responsible for himself or herself, to be responsible to others and also for the world.
Learning to be responsible starts from the little things on a personal level – having toddlers put their toys away, children pack their own schoolbag and teenagers manage their own time schedules. It starts from taking care of one’s personal belongings, commitments and time.
Hong Kong parents need to look at the bigger picture and long-term vision for their children. Yes, it’s faster for you to get out of the house today if you pack your child’s schoolbag, so he doesn’t leave books he needs at home, but in 10 years your teenage child won’t know how to pack the things he needs for his exams. In 20 years, he won’t know how to pack for a business trip he needs to go on.
To steer young children into responsible adulthood, I suggest getting together to create a chart of things that they need to be responsible for and then tally daily progress. Giving your child something to take care of every day and watch over its growth – a plant or a pet, for instance – is another beneficial step.
A sense of responsibility goes beyond being personally responsible; it extends to being responsible to others. Children must recognize that they are relational beings and part of a world that means interacting with people from all walks of life. Being relationally responsible includes being responsible for the promises one makes to others and even taking care of people. For example, students have to be responsible for their part of a team project because it affects the whole team and older siblings are responsible for taking care of their younger family members. Environmentally Responsible
Beyond being responsible for oneself and others, we have a greater calling to be responsible for the world we live in. This world is the only one we have and we have a responsibility to protect and preserve it. If we don’t start teaching our children to take care of the world as it is now, it’s a grim future for the world they will live in when they are older. We need to raise children who are aware of the issues in the world and will take on active leadership in making a difference.
It is never too late to begin encouraging environmental responsibility at home. Go on family outings to clean the beach or plant a tree. Bedtime reading with younger children can encompass tales about plants and animals that need a home to live in. Buy ‘Green’ books such as 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh and the ‘Why Should I?’ series by Jen Green.
As a family, brainstorm ways to help the environment by making small changes at home, such as taking showers and not baths, turning off lights and electronic appliances when leaving a room, taking public transport and not wasting food. Buy additional rubbish bins to use for recycling inside the home and ask your children to separate their rubbish to put into the appropriate containers. Get involved in school or community projects that advocate or implement environmental changes such as a walkathon for a green cause.
As educators and parents, it is our job to equip children with a sense of responsibility that will help them fare well personally, relationally and for them to take care of the world they live in. After all, our children of today are our leaders of tomorrow.