Responsibility Training

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:  

Posture Police

"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.

—Jennah Mitchell

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.

—Merissa Ramantanin

Rewarding Responsibility

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.

—Karen Gauvreau

"Responsibility Training," the compiled article, first appeared on in May 2016. "Posture Police" first appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. "Teaching Time Management" first appeared in the June/July 2016 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. "Clear Directions for Kids" first appeared in the January/February 2012 issue of Thriving Family magazine. "Rewarding Responsibility" first appeared on in December 2010. "Teaching Responsibility With Grace" first appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

"Responsibility Training," this compiled article, is copyright © 2016 by Focus on the Family. "Posture Police" copyright © 2017 by Rachel M. Schmidt. "Teaching Time Management" copyright © 2016 by Jennah Mitchell. "Clear Directions for Kids" copyright © 2012 by Merissa Ramantanin. "Rewarding Responsibility" copyright © 2010 by Jason T. Morris. "Teaching Responsibility With Grace" copyright © 2015 by Karen Gauvreau. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: What to Do when Your Kids Are Irresponsible

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