5 Ways to Teach Your Child Responsibility

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.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #314

For your kids, this means that they need to do everything on their own—homework, chores, school projects, cooking and eating meals, resolving sibling squabbles, and anythng else that you usually have a handle in.

At the end of this time, sit down together and talk about how everyone felt without parental guidance.  Sure, you’re going to get one or two smart answers about how great it was not to have any rules, but this will also give your kids the opportunity to decide what matters they truly could handle on their own and what they couldn’t. 

This offers the chance for your kids to see where they might be able to increase some responsibility in their daily lives which in turn could mean less work for you. Remind them that taking on a new job could earn them a new privilege or two.

Tip #4: Play the Responsible Game

Our next door neighbor is a pediatrician (talk about a stroke of luck for a family with 8 kids!). She always has fun suggestions relating to nearly every topic under the parenting umbrella. Her suggestion for helping a child learn and accept new responsibilities was a game called “The Most Responsible Thing To Do.”

All you need is 20 index cards. On each one, write one of the following scenarios:

(Come up with about 20 different situations that require an action or decision. Make them age-appropriate for your children.)

To play the game, put all the index cards face down on the table. The first person picks up a card and reads it aloud. Everyone playing has a few moments to think of the most responsible way to handle that particular situation. The person that picked up the card is the “card holder” and asks everyone playing to share their answer. The “card holder” listens to all the opinions and then picks the most responsible answer and explains why.   This allows for an interactive experience for all family members and can help plant the seeds of responsibility at an early age.

Tip #5: Irresponsibility Has Consequences

For years I felt it was my responsibility to save one of my children when they forgot a homework assignment or rushed out the door without their warm jacket.

Today, I'm coming clean in admitting that I’ve written a few excuses for kids who were late with a project or homework paper, or dropped everything I was doing to drive a forgotten lunch to school. And then one day, something happened to change all that. 

I was nearly 9 months pregnant with my sixth child and got a frantic call from my son at school saying that he had forgotten his gym clothes.  Exhausted and with two young kids in tow, I drove to the school (pajama pants still on) and rushed into the school office so I could deliver his gym clothes with only 5 minutes to spare before his Phys Ed class.  As I entered the main office with my two pajama-clad toddlers who were coated with oatmeal and bananas, I stopped right in my tracks as I realized I had been in such a rush to get there in time that I had forgotten the gym clothes at home in the mud room and driven all that way for nothing. 

Lesson learned—this particular child who was always forgetful and consistently irresponsible could not continue to be rescued. My constant rescuing was not teaching him about responsibility. So that night, I sat down with him and explained that there would be new rules and consequences for his forgetting things.  

Three days later, he forgot his Spanish book and called home only to learn that I was not available to bring the book to school. He had to stay after school that day to make up the assignment but he received the message loud and clear—Mom is not going to bail me out any longer. It took a few more instances before he truly did realize that I meant what I said. Since then, he’s only forgotten one thing in the past 5 years!

See also: 7 Ways to Help Build Your Teen's Self Esteem


How have you instilled responsibility into your children?  Share your thoughts in the Comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mightymommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.

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Girls watering plants, boy brushing teeth, and boy recycling images courtesy of Shutterstock.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.