Helping children develop responsibility is simply teaching them life skills. It’s more than just about completing a task – it’s also an attitude of helpfulness and intrinsic pride. Inviting your child to experience responsibility is something that can happen daily.
- Start young. Doing everything for your child until they reach adolescence and then expecting them to magically become responsible is magical thinking. It won’t happen. Toddlers can put placemats on the dinner table, sort silverware into a drawer, help to put their clean clothes away, or offer an icepack to a sibling.
- Invite help. Human beings of all ages like to help. Often, we don’t let little ones help us because it takes longer. Being able to contribute helps them know they are part of the family. They feel connected and valued. Children love to help, and it’s well worth the effort, even when it takes longer or is not done to our standards, when we see the pride on their face!
- Encourage your children by commenting on their process, or their effort, rather than the end result. Use “I notice” or “I appreciate” statements without words like good, better or best. Avoid rewards and incentives. You are building competence and confidence and letting them experience the satisfaction of trying and/or completing a responsibility.
- Share family work. With your children, generate a list of work that must be done in the home (e.g. vacuuming, wiping counters, cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes). Decide who will take responsibility for each item on the list and when it will be accomplished. Remember to take time to teach the needed skills. Children see themselves as important contributors to the family when their help is recognized and appreciated so remember to pause and say, “thank you.”
- Model responsibility. We can’t expect children to keep their rooms clean and their toys in the shelves, if we consistently leave things all over the house, or dirty dishes in the sink. Children learn what they live.