Children are quite competent at handling various responsibilities, and at this age, they are developing a sense of how some chores, like picking up litter in the park, can benefit an entire community. Most kids don’t have internal motivation to be responsible, so yours may still need occasional reminders and motivation. At this stage, it is best not to overload your youngster with lots of tasks. Your grade-schooler can make his bed every morning, load the dishwasher, or sweep up the kitchen floor. You can also help him learn to plan ahead if you ask questions such as, “What will you need in your backpack tomorrow at school?” A grade-schooler can also learn about responsibility to the community. So bring him along to a park cleanup day, or get involved in a community flower-planting project. Visual evidence works well with this age group. Try using a wall chart that lists chores, and add a sticker every time your child does his. When he’s earned ten stickers, he gets to watch a special video or invite a friend over. This kind of record-keeping acts as an incentive but not a bribe. It also provides concrete proof of his efforts and boosts his pride in them. Patrick Dwyer learned that rewards like this, help to improve the sense of responsibility in children.
Start young and easy
You can’t suddenly spring responsibility on a teenager and expect he will know how to follow through. Handing out responsibility to kids needs to start early. Children learn responsibility gradually, the same way they learn to walk and talk. A light switch doesn’t suddenly get flipped when they realize the virtues of being responsible. At the age of 3, children can learn some self-care, like brushing teeth and washing their hands after using the toilet or before eating a meal. They can also put their dirty clothes in the hamper, start putting toys away when it’s clean-up time, and turn the lights off when they leave a room. Another great tip for this is to let your kids participate in the planning of which jobs they will be responsible for, make a schedule that is easy for them to follow, and then stick to it. It’s easier for your child to be responsible if the job is defined.
Teach by example
If you have promised to take your daughter shopping for some cool new bedroom decor, make the trip to the mall this weekend instead of pushing it off again. Be on time when it is your turn to drive the carpool to soccer practice rather than making a sheepish excuse about having to work late. Promise to set aside some time to volunteer at school or at a local community event, then actually do it and involve your child, if possible. It’s difficult to teach your children responsibility if you are not demonstrating it in your own life. It is much easier and more effective to encourage your child to make his bed if you do the same when you wake up. Show how you do it first, then take him to his bedroom.
Praise the effort
When you notice your child’s efforts to mimic you and act responsibly, don’t forget to heap praise on those efforts. If your 5-year-old is feeding the family pet every day as one of her chores without being asked to, let her know you’ve noticed and how appreciative you are that she’s taking her job so seriously. Kids love to help. They want to help. Keep up positive vibes by offering specific praises for actions. “You hung your coat on the hook and I’m proud of you!” Or, “Thank you for emptying the garbage in your room!”
If your kid is always being rescued when he forgets his homework or when he forgets his gym clothes, he is not going to learn that irresponsibility has consequences. For example, if he forgets his Spanish book and calls home only to learn that you are not available to bring the book to school, and he has to stay after school that day to make up the assignment. A clear message that “Mom is not going to bail me out any longer” is being delivered. Learning to take care of his things also helps a child develop a sense of responsibility for his actions. To get your son to clean up after an art project, inform him that he won’t be able to play with his crayons and scissors until the next day if he leaves a messy table. Then you need to follow through and take away his supplies if he shirks his responsibility. The more you enforce the rules, the more likely he is to clean up without being asked.
Put structure over rewards
Save rewards for tasks that go above and beyond what you expect to be your child’s normal household responsibilities. Instead of offering rewards to get them to meet responsibilities, set up a morning routine with a positive end result. Your son must brush his teeth, eat breakfast and get dressed before watching TV. In this example, the TV is not being offered as a reward, it is just the result of finishing the routine. Allowing children to create a healthy structure will give them the tools to one day develop strategies for getting homework done without you.