Parenting In Focus: Teaching responsibility

Raising a child to be a responsible person doesn’t just happen. It starts with little things.

When your child understands simple directions, he is old enough to learn about responsibility. Make sure you recognize this age and give him simple jobs. He can bring you the newspaper or give a book to his grandma. Ask him to put a paper in the trash. Ask him to do these simple tasks then be certain to let him know he did a super job.

Give him lots of praise but even some hugs and kisses. Your child will likely beam when he realizes that he has completed a task that made you happy and were pleased with him.

This is an important beginning of your child learning to be responsible but it is only the beginning for your little one.

As he grows, start adding new responsibilities. Teach him how to make his bed and about putting the dirty clothes into the hamper or the laundry room. This is teaching not only responsibility but also how to help clean up around the house and to pick up his room. Even just teaching him to turn off the TV or lights is teaching him to be responsible.

In any way you can, make the task fun. You can make picking up toys in his bedroom a race and see how long it takes him when you time him. Actually it can be fun to have a stop watch and let him see if he beats his previous record. Even he will enjoy having a stopwatch.

Start simply

Think of simple and quick tasks you can give him to help him learn about being responsible. One tasks might be to be super careful with his library book so that is can be returned in good shape. Have him help set the table. It can begin with just putting out the napkins but eventually he can set the silverware and the plates, too.

Consider ways he can help with feeding and walking the dog. These are always fun tasks when animals are involved.

Be sure to let him see how much you appreciate his help. Tell Grandma about it on the phone when he is around to hear. Be sure to tell your partner or even his older sibling. Hearing what you were pleased with your son, cause his older sibling to try harder to make you pleased with her or his behavior.

When he hears how much you appreciate anything he has done, it makes a big difference to him. He even feels proud of himself. He wants to have you happy with him. That makes him feel good.

Your child hears when you are unhappy with his behavior. It is only fair that he hears when you are really pleased. Make sure you tell others when your child does something special like these kinds of tasks but make sure he hears it too. He wants you to be happy with how he behaves.

When you are happy with his behavior, it encourages him to try to do this kind of behavior more frequently. That is what you really need is to have the behavior repeated.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which published newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents.