I know I’ve talked quite a bit about kids doing chores, and making sure they do their fair share, but in this post I want to share how teaching them responsibility looks day-to-day. Our everyday actions can have such an impact on their overall perspective of doing what they should and that THEY are actually responsible for many things for themselves.
This is truly as simple as teaching them everyday life skills as you go through your days. Don’t be so quick to just do FOR them, even if it is easier. Kids who do not have responsibilities feel entitled and think that you, and then the world, will always do it for them.
Taking responsibility is not just about completing a task, but an overall attitude about taking action and being proud of it. They will be proud of being able to do something for themselves and not having to have mom or dad do it for them, such as making a snack, making their bed, or cleaning their room.
Raising responsible, helpful kids is not huge feat to tackle. There are many things you can work into your day-to-day lives to begin to instill these principles into them.
- Start young- If your 2 or 3 year old wants a snack, instead of them sitting at the table waiting, impatiently, for you to prepare it, help them walk through the process. “Would you like an apple or a sandwich? A sandwich? Okay, so what do we need to get to make a sandwich?” Once you’ve collected the items, ask “What do we have to do first? Put the mayo/mustard on? Right!” You get the picture. It will take longer, but the more you do it, the more capable they will become of making their own choices, within reason, and fixing their own snack, among many other things they can learn to do.
- Have a good attitude towards work- Don’t grumble at housework, use it as an opportunity to teach, but also as a time to spend together. Children feel such pride at completing a project, especially something new. He will feel valued and important. He will take these good feelings and begin to take responsibility for his home and his belongings.
- Model responsibility- Daughter always throws dirty clothes on floor? Get a hamper and encourage using it everyday to keep the floor clear. Use phrases such as “we”. “Finished with your snack? Okay, now we need to clear off the table. We put our trash in the can, and place the dishes in the sink (and dishwasher when old enough). Did we leave any crumbs? Let’s wipe up our mess!”
- Praise them- Sure, eventually they can’t get an attaboy every time they do something good, but kids love to help. They want to help. To them, chores don’t feel like work. Keep up positive vibes by offering specific praises for actions. “You hung your coat on the hook and I’m proud of you!” Or, “Thank you for emptying the garbage in your room!” Children will develop a sense of ownership for any repeated action, and positive reinforcement helps speed up that process.
- Manage your expectations- Beds will be lumpy. They’ll miss the trashcan sometimes. They’ll sometimes make more mess than they were cleaning up. Realize they are a work in progress, and make adjustments where needed, but do not criticize. If they got water on the floor during their bath, use phrases such as “Oops, we got water on the floor, let’s wipe that up so no one falls!” Adjust those expectations as they learn and grow.
- Provide structure and routine- Experts agree that ALL children (heck, even adults!) do much better with structure and routine. If your child has learning or behavior disabilities, this becomes even MORE important. Having morning and evening routines, as well as guidelines as to what is expected by way of chores and responsibilities, as well as even a loose schedule so they know what to expect. Kids can tend to act out when life is chaotic as they have no idea what to expect next.
- Instead of rewards, let consequences, natural and imposed, do their job. Teach kids that if they do THIS, then they can do THIS. Such as, if they follow their morning routine and get everything done early, THEN they can watch TV or have their tablet. Or if a teenager gets good grades and keeps a good attitude, they they will be allowed more privileges such as using the car or hanging out with friends.
Other examples of consequences
As a parent, and as my younger children got older, I learned that the natural consequences could be the best teacher. Instead of bailing them out, let them “suffer” a little. They didn’t tell you that they needed a poster board for a project due tomorrow? Oh well, they will have to improvise or turn in a day late and receive a lesser grade.
If the rules are that your toys must be put away before dinner or they get taken away til the next day, then you MUST follow through with the consequences of not following your rules.
They didn’t bring you a uniform to be washed, or wash it themselves? Then they wear a stinky uniform and deal with the social consequences. They will remember these lessons much better than us bailing them out and coming to their rescue.
If your daughter has to pack her bag for school each day and forgets her basketball sneakers, then she won’t get to practice that afternoon. As much as you want to bring her sneakers to her, don’t! Hopefully she’ll be more aware of remembering her responsibilities next time.
Obviously there ARE times when it IS appropriate to come to the rescue and be the hero, just don’t do it MOST of the time.
Following the steps above will take time to implement, YEARS as they grow and the lessons evolve. The result, however, will be a much happier home, and responsible, respectful children. Make the time and take the time and put the effort into teaching them. You’ll be glad you did!