Most of us want to teach our children to be more responsible, but in the busyness of day-to-day activities, sometimes it's hard to know how. Here, you can uncover a number of ways that other parents have learned to help their children grow in responsibility:
"Sit up straight," I whispered for what seemed like the 100th time. My 12-year-old son looked annoyed by my request.
Later I heard him tell his 10-year-old sister, "Sit up straight."
"You don't have the right to tell your sister what to do," I said, "not until you have proven yourself responsible." Then I had an idea. "If you can sit up straight for one week, I'll make you the posture police. You can be in charge of everyone's posture for our whole family, even mine."
The tension between us broke. He grinned and said, "I can do that." And he did. Even his siblings were impressed. As promised, I gave him full responsibility over posture in our family.
A surprising side effect of this little experiment was that his siblings willingly accepted his correction. But then they wanted to be in charge of something, too. So now we have the vegetable king, a tooth-brushing boss and the queen of organization.
—Rachel M. Schmidt
Teaching Time Management
My daughters are visual learners, so I bought a 20-minute sand timer as a way to teach them time management. It has revolutionized everything my girls do! Twenty minutes is a perfect chunk of time for reading or cleaning up bedrooms. I don't have to nag, and they can monitor their own pace.
Clear Directions for Kids
We had instructed our daughter to do a few tasks before bedtime, but 30 seconds later, she was already in her room — with damp hands, ready to be tucked in. Since we knew there hadn’t been enough time for the full bedtime routine, we asked what had happened. She replied, “I couldn’t remember everything you told me to do — so I just washed my hands!”
We soon noticed that this "do the last thing" became the norm when we asked our daughter to do multiple tasks. She would head in the right direction, but then … well, we weren’t sure what sidetracked her.
Some children are easily distracted; others are simply not auditory learners. For our daughter, we made a few changes to give her a better chance of following our instructions:
- limiting the directions or tasks to just one or two.
- having her repeat the directions.
- requesting that she report back for a high-five.
Since we began streamlining our requests, we noticed another benefit: Our daughter is rewarded with that great feeling of accomplishment.
My 9-year-old son, Jude, is capable of cleaning his own room, mowing the yard, packing his lunch for school and doing his homework without constant supervision. Unfortunately, possessing the capability to carry out these duties doesn't mean that he actually accomplishes any of them. Given the choice, my son would probably play video games all day.
Hoping to encourage a little more initiative and personal responsibility, my wife and I recently came up with a plan: We told Jude that the privilege of playing video games now had a price. Each week started with Jude not allowed to play video games, but he could "purchase" small blocks of game time by taking more responsibility for his schoolwork and helping out with chores around the house. My wife came up with a little system that awarded different amounts of minutes for a variety of assignments.
Jude didn't love this plan, of course, but for him it's been a relevant way to see an important life principle in action: Personal responsibility leads to desirable outcomes. The lesson seems to be sinking in — he has begun doing his homework without any badgering from Mom or Dad.
Meanwhile, because he spends less time in the virtual world, Jude has been reading more on his own, playing with his little sisters and becoming more engaged in the everyday life of our family. We hadn't anticipated these side effects, but we've certainly enjoyed seeing these big steps toward maturity.
—Jason T. Morris
Teaching Responsibility With Grace
After a few too many phone calls asking me to bring a forgotten item to school, I gave each of my boys two "saves" for the school year. Each "save" allowed my kids to call home and ask for forgotten homework or permission slips. I would remind them that they had used up a "save" and accommodate their request. Once their "saves" were gone, though, they knew they would simply have to deal with the natural consequences of their forgetfulness. It was a good mix of responsibility and grace.