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Good parents have similar feelings and goals for children. We look at our children with care, concern, and hope. We want them to be the best versions of themselves they can be. Most of all, we want them to be self-sufficient long after we’re gone.
One of the keys to helping our kids survive and thrive in this wacky, crazy world of ours is by teaching them responsibility. And it’s often a challenging concept to teach. This article will give you seven simple strategies that are highly effective at guiding your kids toward becoming responsible.
Communication is Key
If you want to teach kids to be more responsible, you’ll first need to communicate on a level your child can understand. First, realize that young children don’t grasp sarcasm. They don’t begin to understand it until their teen years, which is probably one reason many teens come off as so sarcastic or surly. They’re practicing a new skill!
Next, remember that young children often don’t understand abstract concepts. Look at the word freedom. What does that mean to a child? Children grow up in the world they live in accepting things are the way they are just because.
Any time you talk to your child, check yourself and ask if you’re using abstract concepts. Discuss any you use with your child to make sure they understand what you’re trying to teach.
It’s also important to be specific. If your child is in a cluttered room and you point in the general direction of several objects and say, “Hand me that over there,” your child is likely to become confused or frustrated. Be clear and patient. Your child’s brain is still developing. A human’s cognitive functions don’t fully mature until a person is in their twenties or even their thirties.
Parents who ask their children to think, behave, or act in a certain way contrary to what they do are making their job much harder. Children look for guidance in the world by modeling the behavior of others around them.
If you want your children to become more responsible, model that behavior yourself. Lead by example. Remember that children are incredibly observant, even if they don’t appear to be. You’re a role model.
In addition to serving as your child’s guide for behavior, talk to them about what you’re doing. Make sure they understand why you’re doing what you’re doing and are not just copying you.
The easiest way to do that is by talking to them. Get down to their level. Sit or kneel so the two of you can look each other in the eye and communicate. Ask your child questions so you can determine whether they understand what you’re doing.
Lessons in Money
As you lay the foundation with responsibility in other areas mentioned above, talking to kids about more abstract concepts like money will become easier. If you give your child an allowance in exchange for completing chores, they will begin to understand the value of money.
When they want to use their allowance to buy expensive items, sit down with them and help them calculate how many weeks of chores will be needed to have enough money to buy the item.
Lessons like this will help children have a sense of ownership for money later in life, especially when going to college. Taking the initiative to get scholarships when they are teenagers will come as a direct result of the foundation learned when they were in grade school.
When they are high school students looking for scholarships, you can talk to them about maximizing their time. For instance, when looking, they can look for scholarships with no essay requirements. Since writing an essay takes extra time, applying for no essay scholarships means they can apply for more opportunities in less time.
Assign Tasks at Home
Giving kids chores is a long-held strategy for instilling responsibility. There are ways to make this work even better. First, when assigning the task, tell your children why you’re giving them chores.
Open the topic for discussion. Help them understand through example what responsibility is and why humans do it. As you assign tasks or chores, speak slowly, pausing after each step. Ask your child if they understand the steps and what’s expected.
When they begin to do the task, watch to see how they proceed. If there are problems, gently correct them. Pre-teen children can be extremely sensitive. There’s so much of the world they don’t understand, yet they yearn for independence to explore that world.
After gently correcting them, allow them to continue. If you simply take over the task completely and finish it yourself, your child may feel inadequate.
Establish Consequences and Stick with Them
Helping your children develop a sense of responsibility starts with obedience and grows from there. Start by assigning given tasks as mentioned in the above section. Then clearly state what the consequences are if those tasks are not complete.
By establishing the consequences upfront, children will not feel blindsided if they are punished and they didn’t know what the punishment would be ahead of time. Perhaps this is why kids often protest, “That’s not fair!” after punishment is handed out.
In addition to their consequences, you may consider sitting down with your children and explaining that adults have consequences when they don’t do something that is expected.
If one or more of the parents in a child’s life are working, it’s a great idea to compare the consequences of the child not completing a task to the consequences of a parent not completing a task.
Tell your child, “If I don’t do my job, the company I work for won’t let me work for them. Then I won’t have money. Without money, we can’t get food or stay in this house.” Explaining consequences to kids in this manner shows them there are consequences for people of all ages, not just kids.
Strategies for Homework
A key factor of learning responsibility in kids is doing their schoolwork. Some kids hate homework, some don’t. One factor that may help your child is helping them to take ownership of their homework, especially a big project.
Sit down with your child and ask them to explain the project to you as if you were the student and your child is the teacher assigning the work. In the beginning, your child may feel silly doing something like this. Stick with it. Ask questions as if you’re the student trying to understand the project.
If your child can explain the assignment and answer your questions, it’s a likely indicator they understand the project thoroughly. As they work on the project, monitor their progress. For kids who seem overwhelmed with the scope of the project, suggest they write down daily tasks to do to complete the project on time. They’ll begin to develop time management skills, and along the way, they’ll be breaking the project down into more manageable bite-sized pieces.
Of course, getting involved in your kids’ homework is not the only interactive way to help them develop responsibility. Get your kids involved with things you do around the house. Not chores, but other activities the two of you can do together.
Start by involving your child in cooking. There are fun holiday baking projects you can do together, goofy ways to alter their favorite foods so they are more nutritious, and much more. Like so many things in life, kids will be more eager to be involved if they are having fun.
Children are wonderful, joyous, and curious. Teaching them responsibility can help prepare them for their adult lives – and the younger you start, the better. The younger a person is, the more malleable their brain is and more receptive to learning. Helping to instill these good habits now will help your children become the self-sufficient people you want and need them to be.