As a parent, one of my jobs is to teach my kids valuable life lessons. One of the ongoing lessons in our home is about responsibility. Sometimes teaching my kids responsibility can feel like a chore itself. I want my kids to be responsible adults. But how do we get there? I want them to do things independently, without me nagging them, because it's the right thing to do… not because they are hoping for a reward or trying to avoid being in trouble. I don't know about yours, but my kids need to be taught and guided (sometimes repeatedly) on how to be responsible. I thought I'd share my tips for teaching responsibility with you.
Tips for Teaching Responsibility
Trust me, you can’t wait until they are teenagers to start teaching your child about responsibility. It actually starts with the really small things. Asking your child to hang up their towel, make their bed, or put their dirty clothes in the basket are all great ways to start teaching responsibility now.
Have you ever heard a parent tell their child, “Do as I say, not as I do?” Let me tell you, every time I've heard that, I've wanted to shout, “That's not how this works. That's not how ANY of this works!” Children learn from our example. To teach our children to be responsible, we must ourselves be responsible. Model responsibility for them, and do it out loud. When cleaning up a mess, say, “Ooops, I made a mess. Let's get that cleaned up.” When putting your jacket away, “I'm hanging up my jacket because it stays clean and neat when I do.” If you're cleaning the bathroom, explain why as you go. “When I clean the bathroom, it gets rid of the germs that could make us sick.” As parents, we are their role model for responsible behavior. We like to use this model for teaching and modeling responsibility…
I do, you watch
I do, you help
You do, I help
You do, I watch
Children learn best from their parents. One of the best ways to teach your kids about responsibility is to model it for them. Show them each and every day what a responsible person looks like.
As children get older, assign age-appropriaone tasks and then expect THEM to do them. One of the worst things you can do is complete a task for a child that you’ve asked them to complete. In their eyes, why should they do, when you’re going to do it for them any ways? Always give your child plenty of opportunity to finish something on their own. Resist the urge to grab the dish cloth and clean the table yourself when crumbs remain.
Praise and Consequences
Our kids need to understand that every action has a reaction, or consequence, whether good or bad. Obedience results in positive reactions. Disobedience results in negative consequences.
If your child does follow through with something that was assigned or that they said they would do, praise them for being responsible. Let them know that you see it and make a big deal about it. Although there’s not always immediate gratification with following through and being responsible, it’s important that kids know it’s a good thing and that it's recognized.
When your child doesn’t follow through with something that was assigned or that they said they would do, assign an appropriate consequence. If they leave their toys on the floor when you've asked them to pick them up, remove the toy from play rotation for a week (or longer, if appropriate). When they were assigned to clean the living room, but didn't, they have to delay playing outside or on their tablet until it's done.
Teaching your children about responsibility is something that you will be dealing with throughout their life. And just in case you need it, check out my tips for squashing tantrums. You may need them as you embark on this journey!