Raising responsible kids. It’s a goal that most parents share. After all, a responsible child usually feels more confident and sure of himself.
And as parents, it’s great having a kid we can depend on!
So how do we go about raising a responsible kid?
Sometimes it’s the little things we do to reinforce responsible behavior that make a difference.
Sarah’s parents count on her to do her chores, which include making sure the bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper, hand soap and clean hand towels.
Joshua’s parents are confident that he will set the table for dinner each evening without being asked.
These parents are raising responsible kids, and so can you!
Need some ideas?
- Start them off right. Assign age-appropriate chores at each stage to foster responsibility. Even two-year-olds can pick up toys and clothes off the floor. More on age appropriate chores here from Focus on the Family.
- When you need your child to do something, let him know you’re depending on him. If you say something like: “I know I can count on you to clean your room.” , he will be more likely to follow through and meet your expectations.
- You can use daily examples of your own responsibilities to emphasize the importance of responsible behavior to your kids.
You might say something like: “My Sunday School class counts on me to be on time, so we have to leave for church right now.”
Or “My boss counts on me to be at work, so I will go in today, even though I am exhausted.”
Your child will learn by example that being dependable and responsible is a way of life in your family.
- Give your child opportunities to experience how good it feels to follow through when someone is relying on him or her.
You might express your gratitude that she loaded the dishwasher without being asked, and let her know how this made your evening much easier after a long day.
- Thinking of himself as a team player can encourage responsibility. Taking a group approach can cause him to think of others and to feel a part of something greater than himself. Remind him frequently that everyone in the family is expected to make a contribution, just because they are members of the family/team.
- Working toward small goals can make it easier to complete a big task. Write down the steps to a task you expect your child to accomplish and allow her to check off each step as she goes. This way, she can see her progress and recognize how good it feels to be responsible.
- If your child breaks or damages something that belongs to her through carelessness, don’t run out and replace it. Let her know that the thing she broke costs money, and that we need to make an effort to take care of our things. If she broke something that belongs to someone else, you might have her do extra chores, or save her allowance to pay for it.
- If your child wants something that you are unwilling/unable to buy for him, encourage him to save up the money to buy it for himself. Getting too much with no effort of their own can cause kids to be ungrateful for anything.
- Don’t be too quick to jump in and rescue your child from the consequences of not being responsible. If he forgets his backpack or a homework assignment to be turned in that day at school, don’t rush to make sure that he has it. Especially if it happens more than once. If he has to go through the day without his backpack, or is reprimanded for not turning in an assignment, use this as an opportunity to discuss the importance of being responsible.
This is also a good time to help your child develop a plan to keep these kinds of things from happening again, such as a checklist of what he should take to school each day.
My daughter has come to me in a panic more than once, saying she has nothing to wear to school. She is in charge of her laundry, so while I have helped her out occasionally in a pinch, it is ultimately her responsibility to make sure she has clean clothes for school. (She is 16. Make sure both chores and consequences of not doing them are age appropriate.)
Make sure you temper building responsibility with mercy. For instance, if you know a particular forgotten assignment was left behind because your child is having a really difficult week, you might take it to her. But if she allows it to happen repeatedly, you are not helping her in the long run if you go to her rescue every time she shows a lack of responsibility.
Listen here for more advice from the child-rearing trenches on raising responsible kids.
We all want our children to feel good about themselves and their accomplishments. Responsible behavior helps kids to have a more positive self-concept and prepares them for adult life.
The more you encourage responsibility from an early age on up through young adulthood, the better off your child will be in the long run!