“What does your child do that someone else relies on?”
Most people shift a little uneasily when I ask this question in parenting seminars!
It’s not meant to make you feel guilty. It’s meant to provoke some thought and make a point about developing responsibility in kids.
I’m often asked by parents how to develop responsibility in kids.
The answer is simple – give responsibility to them! Let them feed the family pet, empty the dishwasher, clean up the living area at the end of the day.
Most kids rise to a real challenge when it’s sincerely given, and backed by realistic expectations.
We tend to give responsibility to the kids who don’t need it – the easy kids. But we often ignore the kids in our family who really would benefit from giving them some trust – the difficult kids, those that require following up, or some parental work.
Kids belong in two ways to families – they either belong due to their positive contribution or they belong through poor behaviour. The family pest has as much cache as the responsible child – their parents know they are around!!!
It makes sense for parents to work hard to provide opportunities for kids to contribute to their family so they feel valued for what they bring to their family, rather than for what they take.
Here are five practical tips to promote a sense of responsibility in your kids:
1. Start early: Children as young as three are keen to help and take some responsibility but we often push them away and say, ‘You can help when you’re older.’ Train your kids from a young to help themselves and others.
2. Make sure the responsibility is real: Setting the table, making beds, tidying rooms are jobs that others benefit from. Jobs for the sake of jobs just don’t cut it with kids.
3. If a child forgets then no one else does the task: If a child doesn’t empty the dishwasher then it still there when they come home from school. Sounds tough but that’s how the real world operates. When you empty it, it becomes your responsibility.
4. Place help and responsibility on a roster: The use of rosters has the advantage of placing responsibility on to kids – remind them to check the roster, not to do their jobs!
5. Don’t give kids jobs where you have an emotional attachment: Give them tasks that you know that you can live without if they are not done, or not done to your standard.
Another thing! Many parents call this type of responsibility ‘jobs’ or ‘chores’. I prefer to call it ‘help’. It’s just a little rebranding, but it reflects what it’s about.