As parents, you probably want to raise your children to be responsible, but you may be unsure just what that looks like or how to do it. First, it helps to know what responsibility really means.
What Does It Mean to Be Responsible?
In a nutshell, being responsible means taking a personal interest in and doing something about your own welfare and that of your family and community. Being responsible means not waiting for someone else to do something for you that you can do for yourself. When you are responsible, you know when to take the blame for something and admit when you’re wrong.
Responsibility means taking it upon yourself to do something about a problem – your own, your community’s, your family’s, etc. – and not waiting for someone else to do it.
How Can You Teach Your Kids to Be Responsible?
Here are some tips on teaching responsibility to your children. Be sure to modify the following for your kids’ ages and temperaments.
1. Accept “bad” feelings
It’s tempting for parents to think that their primary job is to make sure their kids are happy all the time. But being able to take your kids’ negative feelings is key to teaching them responsibility. Why? Because your kids may be annoyed, upset, angry, or otherwise unhappy about having to take responsibility.
Young children may cry or yell or stomp their feet when you ask them to put away their toys, but if you calmly accept that these feelings are part of it, you will be less likely to scramble to stop the negative feelings and relent on the task.
2. Follow Through
As parents one of the most important things we can do is to do what we say we’re going to do – in other words follow through. Children will quickly gage when you “mean” it or when you don’t. If you say to your child, “if you don’t stop that I won’t take you to the park today” then you must be prepared to follow through on that statement if your child does not stop.
Sometimes it’s easier to let a few things go here and there but unfortunately that sends a message to your child – “I can get away with this because my mom or dad won’t really punish me.” It’s really important to follow through each and every time.
Teaching your children to take responsibility for their own chores is an important step toward taking responsibility. If you need help getting started, consider making a chart with privileges on one side and a list of chores on the other. Each chore can be worth a certain amount of “points” and each privilege can “cost” a certain number of points. For instance, your lists might look like this:
Putting toys away throughout the house: 10 points
Making own bed: 5 points
Clearing dishes off the table: 5 points
Helping prepare dinner: 5 points
Half an hour of TV: 10 points
Playing video games for half an hour: 10 points
Playing with toys: 5 points
This way, kids earn their privileges and can take responsibility and control for what privileges they get to enjoy.