Teaching your child an seemingly abstract (but very important) concept like responsibility can be a daunting task. Parents the world over have differing ideas on how one should approach this, and depending on your parenting style, some of those may work and others won’t. Here are five positive ways to teach your children how to be responsible.
The first lesson to help children understand responsibility is making everyone contribute to work around the house. If you live there, you help out. This goes for the parents too. One of the best ways for kids to learn about responsibility is if they see their parents doing the same tasks they’re asking the kids do too, without complaint. Act as though this is just something you’re supposed to do, and they’ll get the idea and do the same.
Have you heard the phrase “Do as I say and not as I do”? Don’t be like this. Be an example to your children. Let them look up to you and follow you. Sometimes, that’s easier than others. If you don’t want them to drink, then you need to either not drink, or teach your children well why alcohol is for adults and harmful for children. If you don’t want your children to smoke, then don’t smoke. Parents who are seen to be hypocritical will have a harder time getting their children to really listen to them and take in the right lessons.
When you see your child acting responsibly, praise them on it. Positive feedback goes a long way toward programming your kids to think like a responsible human being. Kids—especially younger kids—love it when their parents are appreciative of them and their work. And if your child thrives off any attention, whether good or bad, make sure you make the good attention given from these successes far outweighs the bad attention given for when they misbehave. You want your children to remember the positive feedback more than negative feedback—though they should remember the negative feedback enough to learn from it.
Don’t reward your children for basic responsibilities. Some tasks should be expected of you children, like chores. These types of tasks shouldn’t be rewarded, since rewarding them gives the wrong lesson. If you give your child money for making their bed, they won’t make their bed unless they get money for it. What happens when they don’t need that money? That’s not the lesson you want to teach your child. If you’re giving an allowance, make sure the allowance isn’t tied to just doing the tasks, but to something else. And keep your rewards limited to big accomplishments, like getting straights A’s in every class that year in school.
While you don't want to be too harsh, you want your kids to know what the consequences of misbehaving can be. Teach them this lesson while they’re young, so consequences when they’re older will make sense. If your child doesn’t do something for school, don’t sign a note to the teacher excusing them from doing it. They’re not going to get those free passes forever. What will happen when your child imbibes some alcohol when they’re a little older and then goes on a drive with some of their friends? What if they get into an accident or pulled over? You can’t sign a note to the police to let your child off, and there’s only so much a DUI lawyer can do. Teach your children consequences while they’re still young, and they’ll make better choices when they’re older.
Teaching your kids how to be responsible isn't an overnight thing. It takes a lot of consistent work, for years. But it’s worth it. Use some or all of these tips and continue working at it. Your kids will thank you when they’re older.