“Misbehaviour in children is a sign of a lack of responsibility.”

I may have not gotten the quote exactly right, but this statement made in Michaeleen Doucleff’s book Hunt, Gather, Parent hit me like a bombshell.

It clicked like a piece snapping down into a puzzle that completed and pulled together so many thoughts I’ve had about parenting over the past 20+ years.

Now, it’s a generalization — and like any generalization it has exceptions — but as a general truth, it’s a tool many of us never knew existed.

We are taught in our culture that childhood is a sacred space designed to be free of responsibility.

“Child labour! Child labour!” cried one mom who entered one of our businesses recently when she encountered the tragic sight of our 12-year-old happily helping her mom and older sisters with a shipment.

It’s difficult to overestimate the damage that labelling early childhood an “entertainment-only zone” has done to kids.

Because they know, often better than parents, that zero responsibility also means zero team. You can’t be on a team if you’re not allowed into the game.

How often do you invite your kiddos to help? Do you accept their early (often counterproductive) attempts at playing the family game? Has entertainment become so pervasive that kids lack any motivation to lend a hand?

Next time Junior demands attention by acting out, take a step back and ask, “Does he feel like he’s on the team, and does he believe that his contribution really makes a difference?”

Maybe then you’ll discover that giving him a little responsibility will not only help you, but will also help him feel like he truly belongs.

For more on how to build your family as a team, listen to the podcast below.

Used with permission. Originally published on familyteams.com.