When a child is born they are completely and utterly dependent on their parents—and that’s exactly as it should be. Even a toddler needs most everything done for them. But it is also at that toddler stage that a child begins to exhibit the first signs of having the capability to be a responsible, contributing member of the family. Do NOT ignore these signs!
Instead, take advantage of them by giving your child age-appropriate chores and responsibilities. Teaching children to do chores not only allows them to practice the art of responsibility, but gives them feelings of self-worth and accomplishment and teaches them the value of contributing to the dynamics of the family.
The key to a child’s success in learning to be responsible is none other than you. You have to be willing to slow down and allow for the extra time it takes for a child to do what takes you only a minute or two. You need to be willing to choose teaching responsibility over perfection. You need to be patiently persistent. Let’s face it, there aren’t many kindergartners jumping through hoops to make their bed or who never forget to feed the dog. The question is…are you up to the task? The answer is…you are if you want to be.
Toddlers and preschoolers learn to be responsible when they are:
- Allowed to work with you—making salad, setting the table, folding laundry, dusting, picking up toys and taking care of their personal hygiene.
- Allowed to be less than perfect.
- Not criticized repeatedly. Teaching a small child to do something correctly can and should be done without criticism and negativity.
- Offer praise and recognition for what they do.
Once your child reaches school age, your expectations of responsibility can grow right along with your child. You can:
- Use educational games and skills they are learning in school to enhance their learning as well as make them more responsible. This is done by allowing them to measure ingredients and cook with you or practice their writing skills by asking them to write out the shopping list (as you dictate, of course).
- Create a chore chart to help your child monitor their progress.
- Reward their efforts and accomplishments by granting special privileges.
- Hold your child accountable when they neglect their responsibilities.
Teenagers want to be treated like adults…when it suits them but are equally eager to act like toddlers when they don’t get their way. Sometimes you would swear their brains have turned to mush. The child who once eagerly asked to sweep the garage and walk the dog may not remember how to put their dishes in the dishwasher after a meal. When or if this happens, it is YOUR job to remind them how these things are done and that it is your job to do them by:
- Instilling the philosophies of ‘with privilege comes responsibility’ and ‘with responsibility comes privilege’.
- Being credible as a parent by following through with what you say instead of backing down and letting irresponsibility pass without consequence.
- Recognizing their efforts.
- Giving them more responsibility in an effort to prepare them for being on their own.
- Extending grace once in a while because of your teen’s over-full schedule.
Responsibility isn’t free child-labor or something a child should be given with the attitude that they owe you for giving them life. Responsibility is the teaching of life-lessons for the purpose of making your child’s life as fulfilling and productive as possible.