Learning to Be Responsible
Your friend has a young daughter who makes her own snack and packs most of her lunch. Your sister’s 2-year-old son cleans up his dishes after dinner. How did these parents get so lucky? It isn’t luck—they’ve raised their children to make responsible choices. Teaching children how to take responsibility is not easy and takes a lot of practice, but if you work on this, your child is more likely to develop into a responsible adult.
The earlier in life that you give children responsibilities, the earlier these responsibilities will become routine and habitual. There are tasks that even toddlers can perform, such as picking up toys, helping to feed pets, and taking care of their own dishes after meals.
One of the easiest ways to introduce recurring responsibilities is to invite your children to help when it is time to do housework. (But be prepared! The job may take longer than normal and may not be done to your expectations.) Chores around the house are widely varied so there is usually some chore or part of a chore where children can pitch in.
While many parents like to give money for chores, most child development experts believe household responsibilities are not the place for monetary rewards. Young children are happy just spending time with you and hearing how much you appreciate their efforts. This helps boost their confidence level. Save the rewards for duties that go above and beyond daily household chores.
There are many effective ways to encourage your child to take on household responsibilities:
- Introduce a routine so your child is performing a task that ends with something positive. For example, your child needs to put his pajamas on, brush his teeth, and put his clothes in the hamper before he can pick out a bedtime book to read.
- Make it fun. Put a timer on and have a race to see if they can pick up their toys before the timer goes off.
- Introduce natural consequences. For example, if your daughter does not want to clean up her blocks, explain calmly that it’s her responsibility and if she won’t clean up, she won’t be able to play with them the next day. If she still will not clean up, make sure to follow through on your plan. Explain again why she cannot play with them today, but that she can try again tomorrow. The more consistent you are with natural consequences and explaining the rules, the more likely she is to understand and accept responsibility.
- Remember that the long-term goal is to help your children develop into responsible adults who are willing to help others. As your children grow and mature, increase their level of responsibility. Create a list of chores for the entire family. It is often a good idea to rotate the chores so that they can experience all the household duties.
The following website contains an age-appropriate list of chores most children can accomplish: