How do we teach children responsibility at different ages and different stages of development? 6 tips to help you grow a responsible adult!
Make an authentic connection with your child. Try a FREE 30 Day Challenge. You’ll receive a new question to ask your child every day- for 30 days. Get away from the boring questions and start connecting with your child one question at a time! https://theimpactfulparent.com/connection
Don’t forget to check out all the FREE resources and tips that The Impactful Parent has to offer! https://theimpactfulparent.com Links to the YouTube channel and social media post are there too! Join The impactful Parent community by signing up for the weekly newsletter. Don’t miss an impactful tip!
First, what does it mean to teach responsibility? What would be the end goal for you? For me, teaching responsibility is teaching my child (#1) how to be dependable. Can my child be counted on? Do they keep their commitments? Do they keep their word? (#2) Being responsible also means to me that my child is accountable for their behavior. Can they take ownership of their choices and with that- even own the consequences of their actions and lastly, (#3) Being responsible also means that my child is an active contributor to their world. For me, being responsible is an active role, not a passive attitude. Responsibility requires action and is not something that just happens to people. Responsibility is something that people choose to be or do actively.
So how do we teach responsibility then? We cannot do this overnight. It takes time- even years. Part of teaching your child HOW to be responsible is also letting them TAKE responsibility for their choices. Not wanting your child to fail and sheltering them from consequences and pain or even doing too much for your child- does not teach your child to take responsibility for themselves. On the other hand, there are times when children need guidance and support so that they can learn how to be responsible.
So how do we keep this balance and grow children who are responsible? Here are 3 TO-DO and 3 DO NOT-do items:
Teaching Responsibility Tip #1: Communicate your unconditional love to your child. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many people are all talk and no action. They tell their children that they will love them unconditionally meanwhile criticize them for choices and try to mold them into the kid the parent always wanted- instead of respecting the kid they are. This sends mixed messages to your child. So be conscious of HOW you express this unconditional love to your child with your ACTIONS and not just use lip service. If your child knows and trusts your unconditional love, they will be more likely to take healthy risks. In addition to this, build up your child’s confidence and show them that you believe in them! Make them feel capable, trustworthy, and believe that they can solve problems they encounter.
Teaching Responsibility Tip #2: Set limits and boundaries on what YOU will do for your child. This is true for all ages and all levels of development. If your child has the cognitive ability to do their laundry- then let them. If they can only sort out the colors from the whites- then let them. At some point, you have to say- I am not doing this for you anymore. You are old enough now to do for yourself. Setting limits and boundaries teaches your child how to behave, teaches values, and shows them not only new expectations but you are inadvertently telling your child that you trust them. You are allowing them to grow up and instead of stifling their growth by doing everything for them. Along these same lines of creating boundaries, parents should not meet every need for their child at the moment they need it. This is just setting up your child for disappointment when the real world does not cater to them. By not meeting their needs immediately and not giving them everything they want, you provide an opportunity for your children to tolerate some frustration, delay gratification, become less impulsive and less self-centered.
Teaching Responsibility Tip #3: Let them face the consequences. Set standards of behavior that you expect your children to meet. You establish consequences for breaking the rules, and you follow through on those consequences. I follow through with consequences with my kids in a matter-of-fact kind of manner. We talk about the choices they made. We discuss how things could have been better. We plan for next time this happens, and then they face the current consequences for their actions. Period. No more discussion. No more obsessing about the past and what-ifs. Just take the consequence and move forward. Let your child whine to their friends if they want but make them sit with their consequences. Bring love and learning to the frontlines, and soon you will be fostering their development of taking responsibility.
Teaching Responsibility DO NOT Tip #1: Don’t give them too much. This will not teach your child to appreciate anything, and with no sense of appreciation- your child is likely not going to be responsible with their given privileges.
Teaching Responsibility DO NOT Tip #2: Don’t too much for them. Do not be a hover parent, the helicopter parent, or the lawnmower parent. A hover or helicopter parent is always right over the child, ready to rescue them whenever they anticipate trouble. A lawnmower parent mows down all the obstacles their child can face. This kind of parenting is a disservice to your child. Doing things for your child that they can do themselves results in them not learning how to care for themselves.
Teaching Responsibility DO NOT tip #3: Don’t do things yourself just because it is easier. I know this is difficult. Remember when your child was a toddler, and they just wanted to tie their shoes, but you had to get out the door in 5 minutes, so you just tied the shoes yourself or bought Velcro straps? Yeah- me too. I did it. And the consequence is that my seven-year-old still does not tie her shoes well. I did a disservice to my child by buying Velcro because I did not want to be inconvenienced. Now that your child is older, the stakes are higher. They need to learn responsibility, and you cannot shy away from it because it may take you an extra hour to teach it.