Like walking and talking, responsibility is learned gradually over time. Mighty Mommy has 5 great tips to help teach your child how to take on more responsibility and grow more confident, from toddler to teen.
As a parent, there are endless things I want to teach my children—how to be thoughtful and caring, how to be creative and innovative, how to be trustworthy and honest, how to be a good listener, and much more. But one trait that is high up on that list is how to be responsible.
Being responsible includes learning how to take care of yourself and others, as well as managing personal belongings, a school life, a home, and eventually a job. Learning responsibility doesn’t happen overnight, but the good news is that it can be taught early, even in 3-year-olds.
Mighty Mommy has 5 tips that can help your child learn the values of being a responsible person.
Tip #1: Model Responsible Behavior
It’s one thing to try and teach your child responsibility by telling him “You need to be more responsible and pick up after yourself.” It's quite another to teach by example. As the parent, you are the perfect person to model what responsible behavior entails.
Simply put: A responsible person can be counted on to do what is theirs to do. Parents have many responsibilities that can be used to demonstrate this on a regular basis. If you’ve promised to take your daughter shopping for some cool new bedroom decor, make the trip to the mall this weekend instead of pushing it off again.
Be on time when it’s your turn to drive the carpool to soccer practice rather than making a sheepish excuse about having to work late. Don’t leave your clean laundry strewn all over the laundry room—take it to your bedroom and put it away instead. Promise to set aside some time to volunteer at school or at a local community event, then actually do it and involve your child, if possible.
It’s difficult to teach your children responsibility if you’re not demonstrating it in your own life. It is much easier and more effective to encourage your child to make his bed if you do the same when you wake up.
And when you notice your child's efforts to mimic you and act responsibly, don’t forget to heap praise on those efforts. If your 5-year-old is feeding the family pet every day as one of her chores without being asked to, let her know you’ve noticed and how appreciative you are that she’s taking her job so seriously.
Tip #2: Assign Responsibility Gradually
Children learn responsibility gradually—much in much the same way they learn to walk and talk. A light switch doesn’t suddenly get flipped when they realize the virtues of being responsible.
I made it a point to start teaching responsibility when our kids were 2-3 years old. At this age, they can learn some self-care such as brushing teeth and washing their hands after using the toilet or before eating a meal. They can also put their dirty clothes in the hamper, start putting toys away when it’s clean-up time, and turn the lights off when they leave a room.
Other age-appropriate examples of age-appropriate chores include:
Kindergarteners can help get themselves dressed, help put out the silverware for mealtimes, make their beds, and fill the pet’s bowl with food.
Elementary school-aged kids can shower and wash their own hair, help make their lunches, put their own laundry away, clear the table and load the dishwasher, vacuum, sweep the kitchen floor, and take care of cleaning their bedrooms.
Tweens and teens can learn to do their own laundry, help with meal preparation, mow the lawn and help with yard work, garbage duty, and babysitting younger siblings. They can also tidy up the main living areas of the house.
Basically, as kids get older, they can be expected to do many of the things that any adult would do.
Let your kids participate in the planning of which jobs they will be responsible for, make a schedule that is easy for them to follow, and then stick to it! It’s easier for your child to be responsible if the job is defined.
Tip #3: Let Kids Observe Parental Responsibility
Parents are responsible for so many home and family-related things that often go unnoticed. If you want to give your school-age and tween or teen children a real eye opener, pick an evening and lift all of your parental responsibilities for several hours.
This simply means that you are physically present in your home but you're not cooking, helping with homework, adjudicating fights, reminding about chores - basically you're sitting back and not orchestrating the flow of your household. (Just as long as there are no safety concerns while you are conducting this experiment).