As parents, your main goal is to teach your child to be a self-efficient adult; however, that is easier said than done. Teaching your child responsibility is a lesson that requires consistency. When we are responsible, it proves we can take care of ourselves and things that are of value to us. Below are several tips which will help parents to teach their children how to be responsible.
Child Responsibility for Own Things
There is never a wrong time to begin teaching responsibility. If you have a younger child, it is critical to teach them that their items (e.g., toys) are important and they must take care of them. For example, “When we put our toys away, they are happy because they get a chance to sleep.” Hopefully this helps the child to clean up after themselves, but it also places importance on things they already value. If your child is older or has difficulty keeping track of their things, this may be harder. That is why it is important to be patient with your child and ask open-ended questions on what may be preventing them from taking care of their items. For example, “What gets in the way of you remembering to bring your homework?” This will give you more insight on the factors which contribute to lost items or unfinished tasks and help to prepare for the future.
As a parent, I am sure you have heard “…but, why!?” more times than you can count. I am also sure if your child keeps repeating “why?” your answer will probably be, “because I said so.” We hope “because I said so” to be the end of the discussion, but that is rarely the case. When you find yourself going back and forth with your child, take a minute and think about what they are truly asking of you. That is why it is important to explicitly state the reason why we ask children to do things. Instead of saying, “you have to clean your room, because it is a rule of our house” why not try, “we want you to clean your room because when it is messy, we notice you get more anxious or stressed.” Hopefully this will reduce disagreements in the home but also help children to understand why you are making them do tasks they may not always like.
Child Responsibility for Daily Chores
One of the quickest ways to teach responsibility is to have your child to do chores. Regardless of age, I would suggest beginning with easy, daily chores. For a toddler it could be having them to put their toys away when they are done playing. For older children, they could make their bed every morning or clear the table. Starting off with quick and easy chores will help to increase compliance and the completion of the chores. It is important to set firm limits when implementing a new rule or change in your child’s daily schedule. As a parent, it is best to stay firm regardless of your child’s behavior. A way to increase responsibility and to get your child on board is to have a menu list of daily chores for them to complete. I would suggest sitting down with your child and coming up with a list of chores you both feel they would be able to complete. Hopefully this gives your child a sense of control in the process.
Many parents do not feel that children should be rewarded for doing homework, completing chores, or doing things they are supposed to do. However, would we as adults work for no money just because our boss said so? I doubt that is the case. We like to feel our hard work is noticed, valued, and appreciated and the same can be said for children. They want to know when you recognize their efforts, especially when it is something they do not like to do. It is important to specifically and positively praise children for their behaviors. This teaches them that they are on the right track. Parents are also suggested to provide more tangible rewards. This could include an actual allowance or points to earn prizes. It is even more important that children are part of the reward process. Creating a reward menu assists in knowing what motivates your child. This process should be an open discussion with your child and the rewards should easily be able to be changed as needed.
Learn When to Let Go
Finally, it is important to know when certain duties become your child’s responsibility and not your own. This is likely the hardest lesson to learn as a parent. By middle school, typically developing children should be able to get themselves ready in the morning with minimal effort. In addition, they should be able to keep track of their school and extracurricular materials. If this is not the case, then a conversation needs to be had at home. A great way to begin the conversation is to tell your child that you have been noticing their struggles and saying, “What do you need from me?” This will help your child to advocate for themselves and to help you to better understand their struggles. It is important to be open to respectful criticism from your child if they are asking you for something you are not currently providing. It will be difficult to hear, but your child is worth the temporary discomfort.
In conclusion, teaching a child responsibility is a lifelong skill and not as simple as we think. It is important to have realistic expectations of your children and yourself. The best way to teach your children a new skill is to model that skill yourself. It may not be easy at first, but it will be worth it in the end.