How to Raise Responsible Children

mother and child

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What is it? What does it mean?

When we talk about responsibility, are we referring to responsibility to ourselves, to our family, to our community or to the greater good?

Instilling a sense of responsibility in children is vital for their development. Unfortunately, it’s often easier said than done.

How to Raise Responsible Children

Raising responsible children means much more than telling your kids how to behave and hoping they follow suit. You must teach your children how to follow rules, make tough decisions and experience consequences for their actions. You must also set an example by being a responsible person yourself.

Materials Needed

Books about responsible parenting may include:

Raising a Responsible Child: How to Prepare Your Child for Today’s Complex World
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • McKay, Dr. Gary D. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Step 1: Understand the Concept of Responsibility

The concept of responsibility can be a difficult one to teach. Before you can explain it to your children, you must understand it for yourself.

Simply put, responsibility means doing those things that you are supposed to do.

As a parent, it is your responsibility to see to it that your children are fed, clothed and have a warm home to sleep in.

You also have responsibilities with paying bills, carrying out work duties, taking care of your own body, upkeep on the home and vehicles, and far too many more to name.

Each of these responsibilities are important. If you don’t meet your responsibilities, you will face consequences.

Your child’s responsibilities are different. They may be responsible for eating right, doing their homework and cleaning their rooms.

Though their responsibilities might not have life-or-death consequences, they should be seen as no less important because they prepare your child for the “big R” responsibilities that will come later in life.

You must understand that their responsibilities are important now because their future responsibilities will be even more important later.

Instilling responsibility in your child will help them to become independent adults who are reliable and accountable.

They will have more success with their future families and careers if they learn to be responsible while they are young.

Step 2: Lead by Example

“Do as I say, not as I do,” does not work when it comes to responsibility. In fact, that old adage is rarely helpful when it comes to parenting.

Your children learn more from your actions than they do from your words. In fact, recent studies show that they learn most by copying their parents.

This explains why a child might love toy versions of household supplies like brooms, vacuums and kitchen sets.

You might not love cleaning up around the house, but your child watches and emulates you.

It is harder for a child to be responsible when they are raised by irresponsible parents.

Your children will certainly notice if you don’t meet their needs. However, they will also notice if you don’t meet your own.

Do you make your bed each morning? Do you floss? Do you exercise regularly?

Your child will notice if you ask them to do these things but you don’t do them for yourself.

Responsibility also extends to your community. For some people, this means being actively involved in religion.

Others might volunteer with a local non-profit or your school’s PTA. Don’t have time for organized volunteerism?

Pick up litter around your neighborhood or offer to help an elderly relative. Even small acts of kindness can be considered your responsibility.

Step 3: Start With Patience and Flexibility

A child will not begin life understanding what it means to be responsible.

Babies are entirely reliant on their parents.

If they are not allowed to grow, they may remain reliant on their parents far past the time they should be finding their own independence.

Without independence, a child cannot embrace responsible living. That doesn’t mean your toddler needs to file income taxes and take out a mortgage.

No, responsibility is a gradual process that must evolve as a child grows.

As parents, we have to be very nimble as we are teaching our children.

You must be willing and able to recognize if your child becomes overburdened with responsibility and when they are ready for more.

At a young age, your child’s lessons in responsibility will be limited to watching you. As they grow, they will be ready for responsibilities of their own.

Step 4: Assign Age-Appropriate Tasks

Your child will begin to learn responsibility when they are given chores and goals. Age-appropriate chores can begin as young as age two.

Toddlers can be responsible for picking up their own clothes and toys. Preschoolers might help care for pets or do light housework.

These early tasks set the tone for future responsibilities that are more intense, like yardwork, cleaning dishes and helping with laundry.

Around age five, children will begin new responsibilities that help them take care of themselves instead of others.

They will start tying their shoes, practicing the alphabet and counting.

These activities should be considered part of their responsibilities so that they understand the importance of learning.

Once they complete these tasks, they will feel a sense of accomplishment that will encourage their continued growth.

Step 5: Let Consequences Happen

Well-meaning parents may try to limit or even remove natural consequences.

Instead of understanding the outcomes of their actions, they are given the ability to repeat mistakes without the aid of learning from them.

Some refer to consequences as forms of punishment that are ineffective and may lead to psychological damage.

Others say that children who have no consequences eventually have no boundaries.

You may have your own opinion on the matter, but mine is hopefully very clear. All actions have consequences, both good and bad.

Responsible actions hopefully leave to good, rewarding outcomes. Irresponsible actions almost always lead to negative outcomes.

In both instances, children learn.

Step 6: Teach Decision-Making Skills

Responsibility includes the ability to make decisions. These decisions may be very difficult. However, like consequences, they help children learn.

Very young children may not be able to make good decisions on their own but they will benefit from your guided choices.

Getting dressed is a good trial decision.

Explain the day’s weather to your child, and then let them know what type of clothing would help them to be most comfortable.

As they grow, they will be able to make the right clothing choices for themselves.

Decision-making skills will translate to real-world experiences sooner than you realize.

At many elementary schools, children have choices for lunch. They will need to be able to make the best choices every day.

Just a few years later and they will be making choices about which colleges they apply to, their majors and their future careers.

Step 7: Use Praise Wisely

Praise your children when they make responsible choices. Praise them when they behave in a responsible manner.

Let them know that you are proud of them. When children make mistakes, ask them what they have learned. If they gain valuable knowledge, praise that as well.

Many psychologists believe that children receive too much praise.

A child that is praised for a non-achievement or who is given false praise over a menial task may grow desensitized to these acknowledgments.

This is one time I disagree with the experts.

While I don’t think we should ever lie to our children, I don’t believe there is any harm in letting your children know that they are special, they are loved and they always will be.

However, that must be balanced with the ability to let your children know when they have erred.

Step 8: Remember Patience

Every child is unique.

The steps to raising a responsible child may work perfectly with your oldest child but backfire with child number two.

You may have to use different methods or tweak the existing ones for your child to learn. This takes three things: patience, patience and more patience.

Key Takeaways

Raising responsible children is extremely challenging. However, it is also very rewarding.

Do you have any additional tips to share for raising responsible children?

Do you have any questions to ask our readers? Please share in the comments!

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