You hear it all the time: “Kids today are lazy. When are they going to learn some responsibility? When I was young, I had to walk to school, uphill, in the snow.”
Now, I’m not here to argue these points. As a parent of young children, I’m probably a bit biased on the subject. However, one thing’s for sure: teaching kids responsibility is OUR job– it starts at home.
From the minute they’re born, children look us (their parents) for guidance and structure. Yes, we meet their basic needs, but our work goes far beyond that scope. We teach them language skills, how to interact with people, and how to be hardworking, accountable humans.
So, all this begs the question: How are you preparing your children to become dependable individuals in the future?
If you’re looking for a place to start, follow these suggestions to help teach your kids responsibility at home.
Begin with Childproofing
Chances are, one of the first things you worry about when you or your partner gets pregnant is how” baby-unfriendly” your home is. With a sharp corner here, exposed outlets there, and a whole lot of jam-packed cabinets that should NEVER get opened. It’s amazing you’re surviving in your own house, let alone with a child, right?
Your first step in teaching children responsibility is to go through the process of baby-proofing 101. You know the drill. It’s everything from closing up all the chemical-filled cabinets, securing the toilet seats, and installing those handy doorknob guards (if you’re not familiar with childproofing, this Wikipedia article will get you up to speed).
And then you wait. And wait. And wait. Until the moment when your children don’t need those safety features anymore. You set the standard. They know the rules. Your kids *should* now know that they aren’t allowed to access the cleaning supplies under the sink or walk down the stairs without help.
Watch how they act with the newfound freedom and respond appropriately. If you need to put some safeguards back up again, then do it. But, in almost all cases, you’ll be pleasantly surprised that your kids learned how to remain both safe and responsible as a result of your childproofing.
Elevate the Lesson with Simple Chores
Aside from safety lessons, another way to teach responsibility at home is to give your children simple lessons in “hard” work. Naturally, a good way to put this into action is household chores.
What chores are age-appropriate? Well, that’s completely up to you, since you know your child better than anyone else. However, there are a few simple chores that virtually any kid preschool age and up can do.
* Picking up toys every evening before bed
* Making the bed
* Helping put away dishes from the dishwasher
* Sweeping the floor and using the dustpan
* Dusting furniture
Instead of throwing a slew of chores at them, start your children out with 1 or 2 tasks to perform every day and note them on a chore chart. After a few weeks, these chores will feel more like a ritual than a “job.” And, over time, they’ll begin to feel responsible, in part, for helping create a clean home.
Remember, try not to do the job for them. If you kid forgets to make their bed, for example, gently remind them. If they ask for help, be on-hand to assist. But don’t let them off the hook. Stay the course.
Get Moving Outside
It’s a good idea to include children in house chores outdoors as well. Again, use discretion as you plan outdoor activities meant to promote responsibility in your young brood (i.e., wait until they’re strong enough before allowing them to use power tools).
With younger children, start with basics like picking up sticks and leaves, watering plants, laying mulch (untreated, of course), and planting seeds. As your kid gets bigger, gradually adjust their outdoor chores. Digging, mowing, and pruning are all reasonable tasks for mature kids.
For particularly arduous tasks, such as shoveling the driveway in the winter and mowing the law during a midsummer afternoon, consider giving your kid a small allowance. While it may seem like paying children to work is counterintuitive to promoting responsibility, it actually helps teach your kids to value money.
Regardless of how you mobilize your kids to become responsible adults, the key is to start somewhere. Set the standard by teaching your children how to respect the rules of your home with childproofing, and then evolve that lesson with targeted chores inside and outdoors. Over time, you’ll reap the rewards of building responsible little humans.