We all want to raise responsible children. After all, it is a vital trait for success in school and in life. As they learn and develop, children want and need responsibility. It’s an important part of their growth and development.
The primary and pre-teen years are a prime time for children to acquire the skills to plan, meet deadlines, follow through on promises and make sensible decisions.
So how do we raise our kids to take responsibility for their choices and their impact on the world? Follow these simple steps to get your child on the right track.
Show kids what being responsible looks like by following through on your own obligations and commitments, being on time for appointments, and accepting accountability for your mistakes instead of making excuses or blaming others.
Having jobs around the house helps kids prove to themselves that they are valued and dependable members of the family. Primary-age kids can handle chores like folding laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, and taking out the rubbish. Pre-teens are capable of washing dishes, doing laundry, and vacuuming. As your child masters her assigned tasks, gradually introduce jobs requiring a greater level of conscientiousness—for example, entertaining a younger sibling while you prepare dinner. Also, be sure to explain to kids why doing chores matters: Not only are they contributing to the family, they’re learning skills they’ll need to live on their own one day.
An important element of being responsible is making smart choices. The best way to develop this skill in kids is to offer them plenty of practice. Start with small decisions (“Do you want to have your snack before or after you do your homework?”) and work up to more complex issues (“How can you manage your commitments to school, and after school activities?”). Prep your child by teaching him or her sound decision-making strategies, such as listing the pros and cons of each alternative. Encourage them by asking questions such as, “How do you plan to…?” “What do you think will happen if…,” and “What other options might work?” Also, walk him or her through decisions you have made—explain your thinking and why you came to the conclusion you did.
Even with the best intentions, it’s tough to be responsible without the right logistics in place. Introduce your child to tools like to-do lists, calendars, and checklists. For example, encourage your kid to create a checklist of items needed each day. (library books on Mondays, sports uniform on Fridays and so on). Have your child pick a spot to post the list and to station outgoing items so nothing is forgotten.
If your child repeatedly leaves without his library books or homework, hold off on high-tailing it to school with their belongings. The same goes for rescuing your child if he leaves a big assignment until the last minute.
When it comes to children, it’s healthy for them to learn from their mistakes. Although we may have the urge to shield our kids from disappointment, the truth is that making mistakes is the only way for them to fully learn and grow as people.
Research tells us that the qualities of capability, respect, and work ethic build the foundations of responsibility. They need this for their self-esteem and for their lives to have meaning. Putting in the effort now will plant the seed for responsibility to grow naturally in the later years.