Raising Responsible Kids

raising-responsible-kidsRaising responsible kids is one of the most important goals parents tend to set, but it’s also the one that takes the most time.  Becoming a responsible person takes practice and guidance, and things like nagging and yelling can really set kids back. 

To be responsible is to make good choices on your own, not simply to respond to requests that might or might not be delivered using negative voice tone. 

The good news is that young children love to practice being responsible (that’s why they start copying your every move at age 2 – they are learning to be more like you).  They are capable and happy to take on tasks that fall within their age level and they can understand what it means to make choices.  As long we help them through the process, that is.

6 tips for raising responsible children:

Set a good example:

It’s nearly impossible to teach responsible behavior if you’re always late for important things and forgetting essential paperwork (like field trip slips).  As parents, we set the tone. 

Keep your promises and show up on time.  Don’t simply say yes to everything – kids need to learn that you can’t attend every party or play date in life.  Develop organizational systems at home for paperwork, storing your keys and purse/wallet, and sorting the mail.  This shows kids the value of staying organized.

Allow age appropriate choices:

Getting dressed is always the obvious choice here, but allow your child some freedom to make decisions about things like play dates, parties, and school assignments.  Use pros and cons lists to help your child learn how to think through decisions.

Provide age appropriate tasks:

Forget about chores and allowance, learning to be responsible means learning what it takes to get out the door in the morning! 

Even preschoolers can make their beds (whether or not it’s up to your standards shouldn’t matter, it’s the act the counts) and help pack their backpacks.  Helping in the kitchen is a great way to teach responsibility while staying connected and keeping their own bedroom organized helps them learn to stay on top of clutter.

Keep a chart:

Charts aren’t always about rewards.  Charts are great tools for teaching accountability.  Keep a large wall chart for your child to check off his tasks as he completes them.  This gives your child a feeling of pride and helps him learn to plan ahead so that he can get his tasks done each day.

Teaching our children to help others and be mindful of the world around us is a very powerful lesson in responsibility.

Community involvement:

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Getting involved in the community, whether it’s helping with a town garden or cleaning up the beaches, helps kids learn about the bigger picture.  The world is bigger than all of us.  Teaching our children to help others and be mindful of the world around us is a very powerful lesson in responsibility.

Evaluate success:

If your child is always failing to meet his responsibilities, it’s time reevaluate.  It might be that the tasks are simply too difficult or that there are too many.  It’s better to start small and build up than to overwhelm your child and have him check out.  Make sure that he’s getting the help that he needs along the way to ensure success.

What do you think?

Raising Responsible Kids

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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3 comments

  1. ana says:

    ITS TRUE SO YOUR CHILD BECOMES A BETTER PERSON IN LIFE THEY HAVE TO BECOME RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR UPCOMING FUTURE.. AND THE PARENTS HAVE TO BE THE LEADERS

  2. Claudia says:

    I want my child to grow to be independent and learn how to manage her self without anyone’s help, I think this is a good beginning they can start multitasking.

  3. jami says:

    I love this. I want more than anything for my child to have a good heart and be grateful. It is something we have encouraged since being an infant at our house. We can’t raise a generation that takes things for granted.

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