Teaching kids responsibility

"Young people respond best to motivators ..."
"Young people respond best to motivators ..." 

Are your early mornings punctuated by a barrage of reminders for your school aged-child? “Put your uniform on”, “eat your breakfast”, “brush your teeth and where are your shoes?” Do you often leave the house carrying your child’s school bag, hat and reading folder? If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably asked yourself and your child why these simple tasks are such a hurdle. It may be time to rethink how to teach your child or children to take on more responsibility.

From your child’s perspective, taking on new responsibilities is best done without lecturing and without pointing out incompetence. Focus on what your child or adolescent has managed to achieve in terms of independence and build from here. Teaching responsibility requires planned incremental, achievable challenges overtime. Young people respond best to motivators, so highlight the priveliges which often accompany greater responsibility and suggest a time and place to discuss the new plan in a comfortable location in the absence of siblings - a commitment from your child is likely to last longer if you nurture your relationship first.

Sit down together and acknowledge your young person’s milestones, in terms of independence and responsibility. For toddlers, this may include ‘ learning to pour the milk’; for adolescents it mat be recognition around ‘hosting successful sleep-overs’. Most children would like to do more things for themselves and will take pride in their independence. Ask your child what else they would like to do on their own; “Ride their bike to school?”or for adolescents, “Learn to drive the car?”. Use art supplies and butcher’s paper to map out a sequence in order to accomplish these new goals. Remember to subtly suggest your own ideas but ensure each step is developmentally appropriate.

I find visual diagrams work well to engage children in discussions about independence and I typically draw a beanstalk for younger kids and a skate ramp or similar for older kids to map out a vertical sequence of challenges, with the simple tasks at the bottom and the more challenging tasks at the top. You may like to pencil in some ‘bonuses’ along the way when incremental challenges are achieved to maintain motivation and commitment. If your child is having difficulties with any particular new task, break it down into smaller more achievable goals.

Many young people and adults struggle to take on greater responsibility. Feeling comfortable with the current load, may result in resistance to new roles and responsibilities. Relate the situation from home to the work place. What are the advantages of taking on a senior management position in comparison to a junior position? More freedom, more choice and, in theory, less scrutiny. Try to take a step back and allow some of these advantages to motivate your less enthusiastic family members. It may also be helpful to stop doing the tasks, if they are no longer assigned to you and allow for ‘natural consequences’.

Teaching responsibility requires planned incremental, achievable challenges overtime.

Working together and leading by example are two of the key points in teaching young people responsibility. Keeping the message consistent between home and school is also essential. Some children invest a greater effort when their teacher has been made aware of the new challenges they are facing. Bedtime stories with similar themes or particularly independent characters may also be useful. Changing your morning routine may refresh the situation for your entire family. Have a family meeting and think of ways to make the mornings better for everyone: Think outside the box!

More resources recommended by Quirky Kid include:

1. The children’s books (for six to 10-year-olds) teaching kids about responsibility, I’ll do it It! and I don’t care .

2. Tickets - A tool to tame behaviour - A pocket-sized kit for three to eight-year-olds.