Responsible behaviour and a sense of responsibility is something we want our children to have, but unfortunately it doesn’t come as naturally to many children as we might think. Apart from encouraging this behaviour and acting as useful role models to set an example, the experts have some useful ways to foster responsibility in your child.
Provide Boundaries and Set Consequences
Children of all ages need boundaries. They feel safe and secure when they understand where the lines are drawn and they like to know what happens when they cross these lines. It is important to be clear with the rules and consistent with the consequences. In this way a child quickly comes to realise that any punishment or consequence of their action is something they were directly responsible for. They will understand that punishment is not handed out without cause and they have the choice to break a rule and face the consequence or work within the boundary and bypass the negative consequence.
Chores are one of the best ways to encourage responsibility in your child. Chores are something that should be continually adhered to, and should be regularly adapted in order to remain age-appropriate. The level of responsibility on the child should increase over time. Toddlers can be taught chores as basic as learning to pick up toys once they have finished playing, or putting their pyjamas under their pillow in the morning. As parents, it’s important to remember that your child’s chores need to be regular and consistent, and rewards are based on chores being performed. Giving children specific chores and roles within the household helps to foster a feeling of accomplishment, leading to positive feelings of responsibility. Chores help your child to feel like an important and contributing member of the family.
Allow Age-Appropriate Choices
Giving your children choices that are age appropriate is a great way to foster responsibility and prepare them for life outside your home. Allowing age-appropriate choices from a young age and continuing this on into the school and teenage years is important for preparing your child to face the difficulties of adolescence and adulthood. Your young toddler can choose which book they want you to read at bedtime or which plate they want to use for lunch; school children can choose what they want to wear or what to cook for dinner one night each week. Use kids labels to personalise their smaller dishes and let them set their own place at the table. As children get older, their need to make choices becomes more important. If you allow your older children to make wise choices when they’re young, they are likely to continue this responsible behaviour as they enter their teen years and beyond. As they age, your role towards your older children increasingly becomes one of advisor instead of director.
Teach Consideration for Others
Teaching consideration for others is something many parents don’t often associate with fostering responsibility in their children. However, a child who understands compassion and empathy and who has consideration for the feelings of others will understand responsibility in all areas of life. Consideration for others can include sharing toys, being responsible for caring for a family pet or taking the opportunity to talk about others’ feelings in empathetic situations. Giving is another way we as parents can teach our children to consider others. Giving of time or money to charity is very useful for teaching children that we have a responsibility to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. Some parents get their children to give some of their old toys they no longer want to charities once a year. This is a great thing to do around the Christmas season.
Keep in mind that encouraging responsibility in your children takes consistency, effort and mindfulness. You are the best role model for your children. The behaviours you want to see in your children should be demonstrated by you. A child who understands responsibility is more likely to adjust better to the various changes of life, from childhood to the teen years and on to adulthood.
About the Author:
Selina Manders is a regular contributing writer for various websites and publications dealing with family and parenting.