(Editor’s note: please welcome this guest post from Jane about teaching responsibility. Thanks Jane!)
How Children Learn to be Responsible
In an age where cheating in school is at an all time high and people often value good results over hard work, many parents are at a loss for how to raise responsible children. Responsibility encourages children to work hard, to be kind to others and to make good decisions in all areas of life. Lessons in responsibility start from birth, and children whose parents encourage responsible behavior have a distinct advantage in life.
So what can a parent do to encourage this important life skill? Here are the most important ways children learn to be responsible.
Modeling Responsible Behavior
The expression, “Do as I say, not as I do,” has become a cliche for good reason. As Roy L. Smith noted, “We are apt to forget that children watch examples better than they listen to preaching.” Children are much more likely to notice what their parents do rather than what they say, and your child watches you for clues about how to behave. Modeling responsible behavior is one of the most important things you can do to encourage responsible behavior in your child. Work on daily chores together. Allow your child to watch you budgeting and paying bills and help her understand that even grown-ups have rules they must follow. Children want, more than anything else, to be like grown-ups. When the grown-ups in their life act responsibly, children value responsibility too.
Many parents look back on childhood as a time of carefree fun, and itÕs true that children need lots of time to explore their interests and strengths without the often crushing weight of adult responsibility. However, basic daily chores get your child in the habit of understanding rules and accepting that his choices can affect other people’s well-being. Give your child an age-appropriate list of daily chores to complete. Children under 5 should be expected to help you clean up their messes and can follow simple one-step directions. Children 5 to 8 should have 10 to 15 minutes of daily chores, while children 8 to 12 can perform 15 to 30 minutes of chores. Teenagers can begin accepting more involved responsibilities such as baby-sitting younger siblings and driving carpools. Give your child a small reward such as an allowance, stickers or a later bedtime for helping out around the house.
Not sure which chores to give your child? Try assigning simple tasks that will make your life easier. Young children can throw away food wrappers and clear tables while older children can participate in daily pet care tasks such as changing wee wee pads for puppies,, feeding fish and cleaning the litter box.
Make It Fun
Responsibility doesn’t have to equal drudgery. Children learn best when they’re having fun, so turn chores into a game. Try putting on music and dancing around the house while cleaning or offering children simple challenges. Announce, “Whoever can clean up the most trash in the next ten minutes gets a dollar!” Children will scurry to compete with each other and win a small prize. Avoid giving children tasks that can be dangerous or at which they are likely to fail. Cleaning your dog’s teeth, for example, is generally a task that’s best for adults and older children.
Remember that responsibility is not a skill that is learned overnight. Instead, children gradually become more responsible as they get older and learn more. Celebrate your child’s accomplishments and successes at responsibility and encourage her to try again when she fails.
Jane Warren is a freelance writer, an animal lover and a dedicated traveler. Her valuable money-saving tips and articles about lifestyle, parenting and pet-related topics have helped countless families live more meaningful and fulfilled lives.
Earnest Parenting: tips for parents who want responsible kids.
Image courtesy of David Reber’s Hammer Photography via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.