Your home for intelligent conversation on the web
Kids Room Education At what age can you hold children responsible for their acts and behavior?
THINQon is a platform for a more intelligent web. It aims to replace the ruling paradigm of the web – that of sharing and gathering information – with a sharing and achieving of understanding. Instead of the Q&A model it offers an experience. A platform for discovery of ideas, people, and yourself.     Continue >
At what age can you hold children responsible for their acts and behavior?
I went yesterday into a shop. The shopkeeper was alone with her 3 or 4 years old son who was sitting and watching a cartoon. She asked me to sit down on a chair nearby, while she was occupied with doing something for me. At this point the child left his cartoon and whined to his mother about not letting me sit as these were his chairs as well. I felt embarrassed for the mother and needless to say that I was not tempted to sit and make him scream more. She was telling him off very gently, and he kept on screaming about his chairs till he got so mad that he spat on her. I was quite shocked but the mother just brought her finger up above his head and as she got near to him -she gave him a kiss! She later said that he didn’t know what he was doing as children don’t understand at that age. By saying this, she cleared her son from any responsibility and herself from the obligation to educate him.

Is there an age limit (being too young) for education?
Julie - I admire your courage for bringing up such a controversial subject.  And I'm sure I just wrote that to bolster my own courage to respond (as well as to buy time perhaps).
While there are some insights into the typical cognitive development of the "average" child, this is not often helpful in child rearing.  Most parents parent either like their parents, or in reaction to what their parents did.  Even many child rearing books seem to be focused on ideologies of some sort or another. 
While children at that age don't know what they're doing in a larger context, they do often know what they're doing to get their smaller context needs met.  For that reason - as much as I detest having to admit it - that dreaded behaviour modification approach is operative whether one believes in it or not.  If being a brat gets that kid a kiss, there is no reason to change the behaviour.  There are parts of the adult world where this plays out and it's not pretty.
Education begins the moment the kid comes out of the womb as far as I'm know, and quite likely even earlier to some degree.  Everything they perceive forms their world and how it's supposed to run.  They learn by example much more than by the stuff that's consciously communicated to them.  On some level the human mind hits the ground running, with everything perceivable being fodder. 
Knowing how hard it is, how many people tell one what to do, how much conflicting advice is is out there, and how applying any of it in the trenches involves all sorts of battles, I am reluctant to pass judgement on another parent.  Who knows - perhaps they're from a culture where boys are little pashas and she could get flogged for saying no to her son.  Other than that I think she is doing a disservice to that child and whatever tribe he will be inflicted upon.
There is no age for putting the right limits and make children react to authority. I agree with Rhea that it starts in the cradle. It is a mistake to think that parents must explain to their children and make them "understand" instead of using the simple and age-old authority. Explaining comes instead of hierarchy.
The fact is that when you start explaining you fall necessarily into questions asked by the child “why?” and there is no end to this “why” because you don't know yourself all the answers, so you can't explain it all and must use alternatives to make them behave.

In response to Antonia Bening
I disagree. It is not about authority, or enforcing authority. You are not the boss or the owner of the child, you are its creator , its teacher, its guide through life. Too often this authoritarian attitude is used as an excuse for abuse and laziness or worse hypocrisy.

Do children take time? Yes they do, and if one doesn't have the time for them perhaps one should be asking themselves why they are conceiving children? It seems a little irresponsible to me.

With love and guidance and respect for another human being you will earn all the respect and authority you need from your child.
Join the Community
Full Name:
Your Email:
New Password:
I Am:
By registering at, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Discussion info
Latest Post: February 16, 2011 at 10:36 PM
Number of posts: 38
Spans 49 days

No results found.