“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” — Abigail Van Buren
It’s perfectly normal that during the early years, your kids count on you. It’s also perfectly common for you to get used to helping them with everything, but that is not always a good idea. One of the primary goals of every parent is to raise independent and self-reliant individuals. As children grow, they take on more responsibilities and become more independent. They will still rely on you for support and, depending on their age, protection and guidance. Therefore, they won’t naturally acquire a sense of responsibility, they will need your example and help.
Teach by Example
Kids look up to their parents, and if you keep delaying your chores and don’t take responsibility for your actions, they will see that as a normal behavior. Demonstrate how you deal with your duties and try to talk about it. For example, when you’re done with lunch, immediately clean the table, put the plates in the sink, and wash the dishes. Try to use inclusive “we” phrases when discussing such matters, e.g. “We should to make our beds in the morning”.
Doing Age-Appropriate House Chores
You should including your children in chores schedule as soon as you can. Assisting with chores helps them grasp just how much work there is to be done in the house and, at the same time, builds maturity and makes them more aware of other people and their needs. Here are some ideas for age-appropriate chores:
- Picking up toys (2 – 3 years old),
- Help set the table (4 – 5 years old),
- Fold laundry (6 – 7 years old),
- Wash dishes (8 – 9 years old),
- Clean the kitchen (10 – 12 years old)
- Prepare meals (13+)…
Introduce Responsibilities Gradually
Seemingly small responsibilities, such as independently brushing teeth or getting dressed for kindergarten are big milestones for your kids, so don’t overburden them with all of them at once. Go with one duty at the time, and when you see it has become a habit, introduce another one.
There is a reason why Mary Poppins was a great nanny, she made chores fun. If you include some fun into children’s tasks, they will have a more positive attitude about helping you around the house. Put on some music while working, and encourage them to dance and sing while folding laundry or performing a similar task.
Praise Them, but Avoid Rewarding Them
Kids love to be praised, and when they’re doing something right, they deserve it too. Show them that their efforts are appreciated and noted, but don’t try to buy their help with rewards. Rewards can come later, but at first, kids must develop a routine and a sense of respect for others and their hard work. The basic message you should be sending out is that good deeds are done without the expectation of reward.
Taking Care of another Being
Kids and animals have a special bond, and every kid wants to have a pet. However, having a pet isn’t like owning a toy. It requires care and nourishment. Precisely because of that, having a pet friend teaches kids to be responsible. Kids feel like that little creature is relying on them. That care creates a sense of empathy, and teaches consistency and commitment. Younger kids can alert you to refill the pet’s water bowl, help you brush or wash it, while older kids can help feed it, exercise with it and walk it. Teenagers are old enough to take care of the pet by themselves and they can even order online pet supplies. Make sure to supervise them at first, in order to ensure they’re doing everything right.
Kids learn through play, so games are very effective in teaching responsibility. Here are a couple of them that will help your kids become more responsible while still having fun:
- Whodunit (2nd – 7th graders) is a mystery solving game that requires good behavior.
- The responsibility game (1st – 6th graders) is a responsibility-themed board game.
- Plane rescue is a team-building activity that can be adapted to kids of various ages.
- Great egg drop is very similar to the previous mention.
Responsible behavior starts in the youngest age. It is up to the parents to guide their children through the learning process.