Teaching kids to be responsible may be a lot to take on, but it’s not as difficult as you might think! A few small additions to your child’s daily life routine can do wonders towards helping them to understand the concept of personal responsibility. To make things easier, we’ve narrowed it down to 4 simple steps you can take to help teach your children about responsibility!
1) Give them their own responsibilities. This can be done in a few different ways. It may be helpful to divide these responsibilities into two categories – tasks the child is expected to complete for their own well-being, and tasks they are expected to complete for the family. The first category would include typical routines like tooth-brushing, laying out clothes the night before, keeping one’s room clean, etc. This teaches your children that they have a personal responsibility to take care of themselves (and their own self-hygiene). The second category can include responsibilities like chores and tasks around the house – things that your child can still be responsible for but are also beneficial to others around them.
2) Show them how to do something instead of telling them. As the old saying goes, it’s always better to show someone how to do something rather than telling them. Kids see their parents as role models and are more likely to follow suit if the parent is also performing the same tasks. For example – at the end of dinner, instead of instructing your child to bring their plate into the kitchen, tell them to follow you. Have them watch you rinse your plate before putting it in the sink, and then tell them it’s their turn. Children are extremely impressionable and are infinitely more likely to do something if they see mom or dad doing it first!
3) Give praise to positive behavior. We’re very big on positive reinforcement here at Tutor Doctor, and for good reason – giving praise and small rewards for good behavior is always more effective than its opposite (punishing bad behavior). If your child is doing a great job keeping track of the responsibilities you’ve assigned them, reward that behavior! Children respond more to positive reinforcement than anything else. However, it’s also important not to over-reward your child as this could have the opposite effect – you don’t want them to be doing something just for a prize. For this reason, we recommend primarily using positive verbal reinforcement. In general, kind compliments and praise are going to be more beneficial than material rewards.
4) Let them make mistakes. Another old saying proves itself to be true –you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. In other words, we all need to make mistakes in order to succeed. When it comes to children, it’s healthy for them to learn from their mistakes. Although we may have the urge to shield our kids from disappointment, the truth is that making mistakes is the only way for them to fully learn and grow as people. A while back, we used an example in our “How to Teach Your Teens to Be Financially Savvy” blog about a teen that spent his entire allowance too quickly:
“Consider this – your teen decides to spend all $100 in their bank account on two new video games. They have the games, but they also now have no money left in their account for the rest of the month. This is a great way to introduce budgeting, and more importantly, financial responsibility. It is better for your teen to make a mistake now and spend ‘too much allowance’ than later in life when real money is at stake!”
And really, that’s the point – it’s truly better for children to learn from small mistakes now rather than larger ones later. Responsibility, more specifically personal accountability – is never fully observed until we make a mistake, but in the process also teaches us what to avoid next time. Ultimately, this mentality helps your kids not to be overly critical of themselves when they do make a mistake – it happens to the best of us, and learning how to deal with it in a healthy way is a skill they will rely on for the rest of their lives.