Regardless of their age, it’s never too early to teach your child how to be responsible. After all, responsibility isn’t magically learned — it’s taught by parents like you. That’s why it’s important to set rules for your kids and follow through on consequences when they’re broken. While disciplining isn’t fun, it’s a necessary part of the process.
This article shares tips that will help teach your child responsibility. From setting rules to offering praise when they follow the rules, here’s what you should know:
1. Use a Phone to Teach Responsible Behavior
There’s a great deal of conflicting opinions when it comes to giving children a cell phone. While a cell phone can be harmful, it also offers many benefits. For one, it enables your child to keep you informed of their whereabouts. They will also have to take care of the phone without losing it. Finally, they’ll be responsible for following the guidelines and rules you set for using the phone.
That said, you don’t want to simply hand your child a phone that gives them unfettered access to potentially harmful internet content. You want one designed with them in mind that offers kid-friendly capabilities and high-level security. Thankfully, you have options.
Troomi, for example, is a smartphone created especially for kids. It’s similar to a normal phone in the sense that your child can make phone calls and send messages. However, there’s no social media access or addictive games. You can, however, graduate your child to more mature apps and functionalities as they become more responsible with their phone.
2. Assign Age-Appropriate Chores
One of the easiest ways to teach your child responsibility is by giving them chores. Chores enable kids to learn basic life skills, which will help them later on in life. Children develop responsibility by being given chores and having to complete them by a specified time. Using chore charts from sites like Pinterest or The Spruce Crafts is a further way to help kids to take responsibility for their tasks.
When deciding on the right chore, pay attention to your child’s age. You want them to be able to handle the chore and understand the reason for it.
For instance, if you’re raising a toddler, having them clean up their toys when they’re done playing is an appropriate chore. It’s something they’re capable of, and it keeps their space tidy and their toys from getting lost or broken. If they’re almost a teenager, they can probably handle something more advanced like doing laundry or cleaning the bathroom. (Hopefully, the desirability of clean clothes and a mildew-free shower will be obvious to them!)
3. Show and Tell
While some chores might seem self-explanatory, they might not be to your child. According to the social learning theory, people learn by watching. This is especially true for children, considering how impressionable they are. Instead of just telling your child how to do something, show them.
Take the time to walk them through each task step by step. That might mean loading the dishwasher alongside them and showing them how to effectively wipe down counters with a dish rag.
During this show and tell, make sure you explain what you’re doing and why. For instance, maybe you’re using hot water because it cleans grease more effectively. Share this helpful tip with your child. Then, once you feel confident they know what to do, let them take the reins.
4. Set Clear Rules
Being responsible means knowing how to follow the rules. This is a skill you want your child to have. But the only way to teach this skill is by actually giving them some.
At this point, you probably already have rules in place for your kids. And chances are, you established these rules after reading parenting books or talking to your friends. For example, maybe you gave your son a curfew of 9 p.m. based on something you read on a parenting blog. Or maybe you don’t let your daughter play video games at night because your nephew spends a lot of time online, and it disrupts his sleep.
While having rules is great, you want to set them with your children in mind. If your daughter doesn’t like video games, what’s the point of constraining her game time? To encourage good sleep habits, you may need to limit Netflix watching or under-the-covers reading instead.
5. Have Consequences
Having rules sets expectations for your child and helps them learn what’s appropriate behavior and what’s not. Yet rules mean nothing if there’s no follow-through. After all, without consequences, children will grow up thinking they can disregard rules whenever they want and nothing bad will happen. As we all know, that’s not how the world works.
To teach your child responsibility, put consequences in place for disobeying rules and make sure the consequences fit the crime. If you catch them scrolling through internet memes after bedtime, you might take their phone away for a few days. If your child neglects to feed the dog, they can be put on poop-scooping duty for the week.
Once you have your rules and consequences figured out, communicate them to your child. Make sure they understand exactly what’s expected of them. After that, don’t fail to follow through on those consequences when necessary.
6. Give Praise
Your child isn’t going to become responsible overnight. And chances are, they are going to break some rules more than a handful of times. Do your best to keep your cool in those moments.
Tell your child when they mess up and give them a negative consequence, but don’t overreact. You want to come from a place of authority, so screaming at them won’t help the situation. Instead be constructive with your criticism. Explain what they ought to have done and why.
The opposite is also true. When your child follows a rule or completes a task, give them praise. Make sure they know you’re proud of them and be specific. Say, “Great job putting your toys away” or “Thank you for cleaning your bedroom.” The more children feel appreciated, the more willing they’ll be to take responsibility.
Teaching responsibility is an everyday affair. Kids learn it by following your rules, but they also absorb it by watching you fulfill your daily responsibilities. Every time you go to work, put a meal on the table, or tuck your child into bed, they see responsibility in action. By integrating the tips above and modeling responsibility in your own behavior, you’ll help your child become a more responsible individual.