You want to do everything you can to raise responsible children. But how is that even possible with all of the challenges that modern parents face? What can we do to encourage our kids to be trustworthy and follow through on their word? Today we are sharing tips and advice to help you create a foundation of responsibility in your home that will benefit your children for a lifetime.
How to Raise Responsible Kids
For many of us, the ultimate parenting goal is to teach our children how to be successful adults.
This means that they will learn how to do what they say, and follow through on their commitments.
It’s also about learning how to be respectful and fair in their dealings with others.
Some common challenges facing modern parents include:
- All of the bad examples being glamorized on social media
- Not knowing how to set clear expectations for behavior
- Being compared to other parents who don’t value the character traits of responsibility
And I totally get it.
Even with decades of experience working with children in schools and being a certified discipline and guidance coach, I still wonder if I am doing everything right with my own kids.
Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet. There is no manual and it seems like each day brings its own set of new challenges.
However, even with all of those hills to climb it is still possible to raise kids with a sense of responsibility.
If you’re hoping to raise a productive member of society who takes ownership of their actions and words, then keep reading to see if you’re on the right track (or how to turn things around).
1. Be a Good Role Model
Kids listen to your actions more than they listen to your words.Lauren Tingley
One of the best ways to increase positive behaviors in your children is to be a good role model for them.
It’s important to set a good example for your kids by showing them what responsibility looks like and sounds like through your own actions and words.
When your kids consistently see you do the right thing and making good choices, they will be more likely to do the same.
Here are a few things you can do to show your kids what responsibility looks like in day to day life:
Follow through on commitments
Children learn more from what you do than from what you say.
If you make a promise, keep it. If you say you’re going to be there, show up.
No matter how many times you tell your child to “be responsible” if you’re not keeping your promises they will catch on very quickly and exhibit the same behavior.
Say what you mean and mean what you say
Responsibility is all about being truthful and authentic.
Admitting when you are wrong or taking ownership of a mistake will teach your child how to do the same.
When we are genuine with our kids, they learn how to trust us – and that is huge for developing responsible behavior.
Being impeccable with your word teaches children how to have integrity and to be someone who can be trusted by others; two major building blocks of becoming responsible adults.
Children learn how to treat others by watching how we interact with them.
If you are respectful to your spouse, partner, or friends – your children will likely follow suit.
Teach them how to have empathy and how to see things from another person’s perspective.
Take Responsibility for Your Own Actions
It’s one thing to apologize when you’ve done something wrong, but it’s another thing entirely to learn how to reflect on your own behavior and make changes as a result.
If you want to raise responsible children, this is a critical step.
We live in a society where we are quick to blame others for our problems.
It’s much harder to take a step back, assess the situation, and own our part in it.
But this is what being responsible looks like.
When we are able to take responsibility for our own lives and actions, we become more empowered to change things for the better.
2. Praise and Encourage Effort, Not Just Results
Developing a sense of responsibility doesn’t happen overnight.
It’s a gradual process that starts with making small steps in the right direction.
This is why it’s important to praise and encourage your children for their effort, not just their results.
If you only praise your kids when they succeed, they may become frustrated and give up before they ever get there.
Instead, acknowledge when they’ve made progress or tried their best even if the outcome was mediocre.
Verbally praise your child when they are being responsible to let them know that you noticed and that you appreciate their efforts.
This will help them feel good about themselves and encourage them to continue making responsible choices.
You can use phrases, like
- “Great job cleaning up your room! Thanks for being responsible for your space.”
- “I’m so proud of you for being honest with me, that wasn’t easy and it shows you know how to be responsible for your actions.”
3. Set Clear Expectations for Behavior
Setting clear expectations means your kids understand the type of behaviors that are expected of them and what will happen if they don’t meet those expectations.
Define what responsibility means to your family
As an elementary school teacher, I can tell you that it’s important to be very specific when dealing with kids. You want to leave zero room for ambiguity.
Before you can expect your kids to “be responsible” you have to make sure they understand what that means and looks like.
This will be different for every family, so take some time to sit down and define what responsibility means to you.
Some topics you may want to cover include:
- – Being honest
- – Doing your best
- – Following through on commitments
- – Being respectful of others
- – Taking care of your belongings
- – Helping out around the house
Establish household rules and consequences
Once you’ve defined what responsibility looks like for your family members, it’s time to establish some household rules.
Again, be specific and make sure everyone is on the same page.
It’s also important to establish consequences for breaking the rules.
This will help your kids understand that there are real-world implications for their actions.
As a teacher and parenting coach, I tend to recommend natural consequences.
For example, if your child refuses to do their homework, a natural consequence would be that they get a lower grade in the class.
This is more effective than an arbitrary punishment like grounding them from TV for a week because it’s directly related to their behavior.
Of course, there are times when natural consequences aren’t possible or practical.
In those cases, you can use logical consequences.
For example, if your child doesn’t clean their room, you may take away their toy box until they are able to show that they can be responsible with their belongings.
The key is to make sure the consequence is related to the behavior and that it’s something your child can reasonably control. You just want to make sure the consequences are appropriate and consistent.
Put expectations in writing and post them in a visible place
When trying to instill responsibility in your kids, written expectations can be very helpful.
This is especially true for younger children who may not be able to understand or remember all of the rules.
It’s a great idea to schedule a family meeting where you discuss your goals as a family and post them in a visible place, like on the fridge or in the playroom.
Reinforce expectations regularly
Here’s the thing with good parenting: Discussing a topic once is never enough.
You have to keep the lines of communication open and reinforce your expectations regularly.
This doesn’t mean nagging your kids or getting into arguments every time they make a mistake.
Instead, have regular and candid conversations where you can discuss how things are going and see if there are any areas that need improvement.
On the car ride to school or to and from practice tend to be a great time to share with your kids what they are doing well, and if there is anything they did that was irresponsible.
Just remember that if kids feel like they are being nagged or berated, they will not be open or receptive to what you have to say, so be sure to keep things positive and constructive.
4. Give Choices When Possible
If you want to raise a responsible child, give them choices.
When children are given choices, they feel like they are in control and learn how to make good decisions.
This can also encourage them to accept responsibility for the outcomes of their choices.
For example, if your child is fighting with their sibling, instead of telling them to stop, give them a choice between two options.
“Do you want to go to your room to calm down or stay here and talk about what’s going on?”
You can also give them choices when it comes to consequences for their actions.
If they break a rule, you can give them the choice of how to make up for it.
5. Provide Opportunities for Practice
Responsibility is a skill that takes practice to develop.
This is why it’s important to allow kids to experience independence on a daily basis when it comes to decision-making and real-world situations.
And you don’t have to wait until they are teenagers to do so.
Even young children are capable of handling simple tasks and responsibilities.
Here are a few ways parents can provide safe opportunities for kids to gain some experience while they still have you there for support and help if they need it.
Another great way to encourage responsibility is to assign regular chores that are appropriate for their age and abilities.
This can be something as simple as setting the table or feeding the pet.
Over time, you can gradually increase the difficulty of the chore or give them more tasks to do.
The following is a great list of possible age-appropriate tasks:
- Age two and three: put away toys, help with simple meal prep, dusting, feed pets
- Age four and five: load the dishwasher, fold laundry, rake leaves, help clean up their own messes
- Age six to nine: mow the lawn, cook simple meals, help with grocery shopping
- Age ten to thirteen: babysit younger siblings, do complex meal prep, wash the car
- Age fourteen and up: all of the above 🙂
A simple chore chart or checklist is an easy-to-follow tool for kids of all ages.
Handling money responsibly:
Another way to give kids some experience with responsibility is to provide opportunities for them to handle their own money.
I typically recommend that children only earn an allowance for household chores that they do above and beyond what is normally expected of them.
I also suggest teaching them how to budget with the money they earn and setting up three jars or envelopes labeled “spend,” “save,” and “give.”
This is a great way for kids to learn about financial responsibility and how to budget which will help them immensely when they are out on their own and have to start managing their own finances.
Taking care of belongings:
As a teacher, I am shocked by how frequently parents replace items that their child has misplaced or lost at school.
When you are quick to provide a replacement, children never learn how to take care of their belongings or how to deal with the natural consequences that come from losing something.
Instead, teach them how to take care of their things by making them responsible for putting away their own clothes, packing up their own school supplies, and keeping track of important items like jackets, hats and equipment.
If they do lose something, help them to understand how they can take steps to prevent it from happening again in the future, and how they can earn the money to replace the item.
Showing responsibility at school:
Demonstrating responsibility at school is just as important as being responsible at home.
All too often, parents are quick to jump in and rescue their child when it comes to school work, projects and supplies.
Instead, take a step back and allow them to experience the natural consequences that come from not being prepared for class or doing their best work.
For example, it should be your child’s responsibility to remember to turn in their homework or bring their lunchbox home every day.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should never help your child with schoolwork or projects, but it does mean that you should allow them to take the lead and only step in when they are truly struggling or need some assistance.
I promise you that they will learn to be much more responsible if you allow them to experience the natural consequences of their actions or forgetfulness.
Being a good sport:
Last but not least, it is important to teach kids how to be good sports.
This means being able to lose gracefully and win without gloating – in all aspects fo life.
It also means being a good teammate, classmate, family member or coworker by sharing, taking turns, and cooperating.
All of these skills are essential for children to learn in order to be successful in life and grow up to be responsible citizens.
What are some fun ways to teach responsibility?
When attempting to teach responsibility it’s important to keep things fun and creative.
One way is to turn everyday tasks into games or competitions.
For example, see who can brush their teeth the quickest in the morning or who can put away all of their toys before bedtime.
You can also use points, stickers, or charts to track progress and reward good behavior.
Another fun way to teach responsibility is to give children opportunities to help out in the community.
This could involve volunteering at a local shelter, food bank, or nursing home.
Not only will this help them to understand how important it is to be responsible, but it will also give them a sense of pride and accomplishment for making a difference in the lives of others.
Whatever method you choose, just remember to keep your expectations realistic and praise progress over perfection.
Children are much more likely to embrace responsibility if they enjoy the process and feel like they are succeeding.
Final Thoughts on Raising Responsible Children
Raising responsible children can be challenging, but it is definitely worth the effort and intentional parenting.
In order to raise children that will become successful adults and productive members of society in the future, you need to set a good example and teach them good habits right from the start.
Structure, work ethic, and time management are all basic life skills that support the importance of responsibility.
Teaching kids how to manage money, and allowing them to be in charge of important tasks gives them valuable experience at a young age. It is also an effective way to teach important lessons that will have a positive impact and your child’s life for years to come.
Finally, being a good sport is an essential skill for kids to learn as they grow up.
If you instill these values in your children from an early age, they will grow up to be well-rounded, responsible adults, and you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
You might also like: How to Raise a Grateful Child [12 Practical Parenting Tips]
Childhood Responsibility FAQs
At what age should I start teaching my child how to be responsible?
It is never too early to start teaching your child how to be responsible. However, it is important to keep developmental milestones in mind.
For example, most experts agree that children under the age of five are not developmentally ready to understand the concept of responsibility.
That being said, children learn so much from the behavior they see modeled by adults long before they can articulate what they are learning. For that reason, it’s important to demonstrate what responsibility looks like no matter how old your children are.
How do I get my child to be more responsible?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.
It will vary depending on your child’s age, personality, and unique set of circumstances.
However, some general tips that may help include: breaking down tasks into smaller steps, using positive reinforcement (such as praise or rewards), setting clear expectations, and being a good role model yourself.
What are some common signs that my child is ready for more responsibility?
Some common signs that your child may be ready for more responsibility include: expressing interest in helping out around the house or taking on new tasks, completing simple tasks without reminders from adults, demonstrating empathy towards others, and showing an understanding of basic rules and consequences.
Of course, every child is different so it’s important to trust your instincts and observe your child’s behavior before making any decisions.
Your best bet is to start simple and steadily increase responsibility over time.
What are some signs that my child is not being responsible?
Some signs that your child might not be being responsible include:
– frequently losing or misplacing their belongings
– forgetting to do their homework or turn in assignments
– Often run late for school or activities
– Refusing to clean up after themselves
If you notice any of these signs, it might be time to talk to your child about what responsibility looks like and how they can start making improvements.
***Please note: These behaviors may also indicate a need for additional support, trouble with executive functioning or a behavioral disorder that your child has no control over, so if you’re concerned about your child’s development, please talk to your pediatrician.***