Teaching Two-Step Thinking
One way of looking at teaching your child responsibility is as a process through which you help the boy or girl develop the habit of thinking twice. You want to teach your child to rely on second thought. This means helping your child learn the discipline of two-step thinking.
Consider child raising this way. When an infant is born into your care, he or she is a one-step or first-step thinker. What is this first step? It is the infant's knowing what he or she wants. Immediate gratification of wants is the infant's ruling impulse.
As parents, you appreciate the importance of wants and urgency of impulse, but you know that a life governed only by wants and impulse will become destructive. This is why your job is, through discipline (instruction and correction), to train the growing boy or girl over time to become a two-step thinker.
Two-step thinking needs to be taught twice — first in childhood to help the child outgrow the tyranny of impulse that rules infancy, and then again with the onset of adolescence, when the urge to satisfy immediate wants returns.
What is the second step? The second step of two-step thinking is exercising judgment. You train the child to delay impulsively gratifying wants long enough so he or she can consider what is wise. You do this by reminding the child to think about consequences. “What happened before when you made this kind of choice? What might happen later if you make this kind of choice?”
So when you see your child tempted to rush into a risky decision, you say, “Think twice about what you are going to do.” And the child is reminded to delay wants long enough to exercise judgment by considering past and possible consequences. “On second thought, maybe I'll wait until tomorrow to decide what to say to my friend about our fight at school today. I'm feeling pretty hurt and angry right now.” So what feels good at the moment is delayed until she can determine what is really the best thing to do.
The child takes time to think ahead. Present choice is being informed by predicting possible outcome. As want (telling the friend off) is influenced by judgment (taking time to cool down before speaking), your child is learning responsibility.