Children love to help. From a young age, they try to pick heavy things up and carry them across the room or collect items in containers. As they grow, little ones see their parents and older siblings doing household tasks and want a role in those activities. Eventually, parents assign specific responsibilities to their children with the expectation that they will be completed. It’s a slow build to teach our children how to be responsible. Focusing on different aspects of this character trait from toddlerhood can help develop our children into capable adults.
Responsibility is a complex trait to teach, which is why we at Kiddie Academy focus on breaking it down into a few different concepts that include dependability, independence and diligence. Teach these elements together to create an overall sense of responsibility and build a strong base for your children to grow from!
Being dependable is showing that you are reliable and trustworthy and is a building block of responsibility. Model the value of showing up and following through for your children with your own actions.
Allowing your children to do age-appropriate things for themselves can help promote independence. While being independent can be daunting for your little ones, it is important to show them that they can do certain activities themselves, even when you are nearby. Incorporate a limited amount of choices into your child’s daily routine to give them a better sense of their preferences and how to make decisions on their own.
Practicing diligence with your children can ensure they are focused and thorough in their work. Help your children stick it out in situations they want to quit by offering encouragement and support. Like all the previously mentioned qualities, diligence can create helpful habits that will be vital to your littles ones’ understanding and development of responsibility.
When our children are young, they love being active. Ask your little ones for “help” filling a bin with blocks, pushing a basket across the floor or stacking plastic storage containers. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting a book away, placing paper in the recycling box, and helping take care of the plants or garden. Have them move things around for you or carry a light bag of groceries, and they will feel empowered and encouraged to help more in the future.
Reading is great at this age for instilling early values. “The Busy Little Squirrel!” by Nancy Tafuri, “The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!” by Mo Willems and “How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms?” by Jane Yolen all demonstrate responsibility and diligence and offer exposure from a young age.
Preschoolers want to show responsibility but sometimes find it difficult to follow through if directions are too long and unclear. Remember to be concise and give simple, easy-to-follow directions, and make it as fun as possible. A good rule of thumb is to keep the steps in your instructions equal to their age (like three steps for a three-year-old). Try letting your children help with simple tasks like picking out their clothing and getting dressed independently, assisting with meal preparation, brushing teeth with a timer, setting the table, picking up their room and helping to take care of the family pet.
At this age it’s important to assign your child as a “big helper” on a special project to show that responsibility can be both fun and rewarding. Puzzles are fun, too! An interactive way to practice diligence is by having family puzzle time because these projects take effort in both focus and thoroughness and create a responsibility to follow through.
Your school-aged children and you can take responsibility up a notch by setting goals. From aiming to clean up their toys each night to making sure things are in place for school the next day, your children can make plans to achieve their goals and learn how to be responsible for the implementation. Take a positive approach by affirming their efforts and offering guidance when they feel as if they have lost their way.
Appropriate chores/tasks for a 5-year-old include clearing the dinner table, making the bed, emptying the dishwasher, moving laundry from a dryer to a basket, folding towels or feeding a pet. Create a family chore list or chart and review it each week. Are there any changes needed? Were there any issues getting the chore done? Does anyone need help with a chore? Also include behavior-related responsibilities, such as treating others with kindness. Having visuals around the house like a list of chores to be completed or a family calendar with commitments listed is also beneficial for children who are learning to be reliable.
Practicing responsibility with your children is to teach them to do what is expected and accept the consequences of not doing those things. Showing your little ones the importance of making promises and keeping them will set your children up for success. Developing the aforementioned qualities of diligence, independence and dependability will surely allow your child to say, “I am responsible!”