Although sometimes it might feel like it, your child won’t rely on you forever. Self confidence and self-reliance are two of the biggest gifts we can give our kids and the two actually go hand-in-hand. One of the best ways to cultivate these two qualities? By giving responsibilities – around the house and in their lives in general. How can we make sure we’re raising responsible children? When do we start thinking about this? And how do we know which tasks are age appropriate? Well, we’ve got your back.
The research around giving kids responsibilities suggests that the benefits of doing so are many and varied. When we look to our children to carry out tasks on a regular basis, whether chores around the home or whether we give them wider responsibility elsewhere they get better at self-discipline and time management, they learn empathy and they figure out that their actions have consequences. Not only that, but research suggests they also pick up skills that mean they’re more likely to succeed in school, careers and personal relationships. They become more responsible, have higher self-esteem and are often better at managing feelings of frustration. These are all skills we want to pass on to our kids, and we’re pretty sure you want to pass on to yours too. But responsibility needs to be taught, coached and learned. So where do we begin with raising responsible children? And how can we do it in a way that works for us too?
When will my child be ready to take on responsibility?
You can start introducing the concepts of responsibility when your child hits toddler age. At this stage, it’s not about setting them giant tasks that are going to overwhelm them, it’s about helping them to grasp the basics. Start thinking of things you know your child can do without too much difficulty. While ‘tidy your room’ might be too big a task, ‘put your jigsaw puzzle away’ is very manageable. These tasks that are easy to take care of will increase your child’s growing sense of independence and give them pride in a job well done. You can also show your child how to do certain tasks like setting the table, unloading the dishwasher, sorting the recycling and watering the plants. As they get older, take the lead from them. If you have to show them something loads of times, it might be that it’s too complex. If they pick it up after a couple of goes, you’re pitching it just right.
Let them help (even if it takes longer)
The truth is, sometimes when your kids want to help you sort the lights from the darks before they go into the washing machine, it’s going to take longer than it would if you’d just done it yourself. But. It’s an exercise worth doing when you’re concentrating on raising responsible children. You’re teaching them essential life skills and it’s precious time together that you’ll one day crave. Even if they *don’t* ask to help you and you have to persuade them to help you out with chores around the house, they’ll thank you one day. Everyone has a weird skill they thank their parents for teaching them. You’re on the precipice of discovering what yours might be!
Model good behaviour
We can hear you rolling your eyes at this one. We get it. Because the reality is baby see, baby do! As much as we might hate doing chores and being responsible because we still feel like teenagers ourselves, if we’re doing things like doing the dishes straight after dinner, putting our car keys on the allocated hook, folding the laundry and putting it away promptly and the like, all while explaining why we’re doing these things when we do ’em, our kids are going to see us doing them and think “blimey, look what great adults my folks are. I want to be just like that”. Or something like that. But kids watch our every move, paying attention to all of our actions. Everything we do is an opportunity to show our kids how to behave. We can’t always be perfect (no-one can!) but we have the chance to try to be our best for them.
There’s real power in giving your kids the opportunity to choose, especially when it comes to teaching them about responsibility. The ability to choose gives a sense of control that kids really thrive off, and instils that sense of independence again. You might let them choose what to wear, or what cereal they want for breakfast or let them decide what toys they want to play with. Don’t overwhelm them with choices – offer them a choice between cereals or suggest a couple of toys they might want to play with. But choice is a great way to give your children a sense of responsibility for their own decision making. Make sure you praise them for making decisions and taking ownership of their responsibilities.
Communication is always key
As ever, when it comes to negotiating with kids, no matter how big or small, making sure you’re talking to them about what’s going on is the best way to get ahead. It’s important to lay out your intentions and expectations from the get go so everyone’s on the same page. When you start talking to your kids about responsibility, and every time their responsibilities evolve (with age or when situations change), explain what’s appropriate and expected of them. Speak in their language and make sure to use more positive language than negative. Tell them how responsible they’re being and how much you appreciate it with plenty of positive affirmations. Everyone loves to hear how well they’re doing and kids are absolutely no exception to that rule.
Raising responsible children takes tonnes of hard work but it’s something they’ll thank you for (possibly internally) in the future. The main thing to remember is that they’ll be looking to you for support and guidance to become responsible and learning to be responsible takes time. Sometimes kids are bound to make missteps. As long as we’re there to help them figure out what their choices mean, they’ll still become self-reliant and self-confident beings in the future.