Raising children can be the most rewarding thing you ever do, and the most challenging. As parents we must encourage responsibility in our children.
Our world is an incredible place, full of wonder and possibilities. But to maximize their potential, there are life skills parents need to teach their children. One of the most important is responsibility.
Chores vs. Responsibility
When we want our children to do something, we often set rules for what we want them to do. Then we establish consequences for when the child doesn’t do what we expect.
As the Center for Parenting Education warns, that’s not responsibility. It’s obedience. Responsibility is taking ownership of a task or project. We do it because we are guided by our internal motivations.
Parents need to strike a balance between being a caregiver and a disciplinarian. Too much overindulgence? Your child may become selfish and expect to be catered to. Too much discipline? A child may have trouble developing their sense of self and independence.
Many Tasks Aren’t Fun for Kids
As adults, we do many things because we know they need to be done. Big things like going to work, cutting our grass, or changing the oil in our car. But a child is hardwired to seek out new and exciting experiences. To them, there’s nothing more boring than cleaning their room.
Understand that mindset of kids and embrace it. Find activities that encourage responsibility and satisfy a kid’s need to explore new things.
- Start teaching your child to take an active role in preparing meals. With the potential to explore fun ingredients and make a mess,cooking is a great way to encourage responsibility.
- What child wouldn’t want a pet? Not only will the wonder and excitement of a pet stimulate their desire for fun, but a pet has responsibility-building activities built into their care and feeding. And they can help reduce stress, too.
Set Age-Appropriate Tasks
Some parents forget that a child is easily overwhelmed. They may burden them with too many chores or assign a task without guidance. Remember, a child’s cognitive functions (their reasoning capacity) are still developing.
To a young child, “Clean up your room” may feel like a massive project. Help your child by offering guidance and gentle encouragement. Break down big jobs into bite-sized pieces that they can easily understand.
Remember to balance responsibilities appropriate for your child’s age and their desire to “grow up fast.” They may claim to be ready for things that excite them (like being home alone) before they can handle them.
Establish Consequences and Stick to Them
Many parents struggle with disciplining their children. Children push boundaries and test authority because it’s their nature to explore the world.
Want to teach consequences in a way your child understands? Let them know about them in advance. You’ll prevent your child from feeling unfairly blindsided when faced with a consequence.
Link consequences to activities kids already enjoy. Does your child enjoy video games? Tell them to put away their gaming equipment when done playing. Explain if they leave their equipment in a tangled mess, they lose gaming privileges for a certain time.
Be Aware of Your Child’s Emotional State
Remember, children don’t have the same coping skills as adults. If they neglect responsibilities, it may be a sign of stress.
Most people are familiar with the “fight or flight” response to stress but aren’t aware of the third: freeze. People of all ages (including children) may simply shut down if they feel overwhelmed.
There are multiple solutions for helping people of all ages reduce anxiety. Some options include emotional support animals, practicing mindfulness, exercise, and more.
You Don’t Have to Go It Alone
A big mental hurdle parents face is thinking they need to come up with all the answers themselves. There are support groups, activities, online programs, and after-school programs, just to name a few. Even the military offers programs to instill responsibility into children.
A Final Tip
As a parent, remember the joys of childhood. The wonders, the curiosity…the feeling that anything is possible. Take a few moments out of your day and drift back to your childhood. Remember some of your mistakes. Things you had to do then that confused you.
By recalling what it felt like to be a kid, you’ll gain empathy for what your child is feeling and thinking.