How to Raise a Responsible Kid
In a previous article, we talked about 5 Steps to Teach Your Kid How to Be Responsible For Their Homework. If your kids are super responsible and never forget anything, then this article isn’t for you. If you are like the rest of us and want your kids to learn how to be responsible, then this article is for you.
Imagine you’re on a beautiful beach and you see a little sea turtle head pop out of the sand. You watch as this amazing little creature struggles to dig its way out of the sand and head toward the water. You think to yourself – this poor little guy sure has it rough. I’ll just scoop it up and and bring it to the water. Then you pat yourself on the back and feel amazing for saving a sea turtle.
Kids Learn Through Their Struggles
Baby sea turtles need to struggle in the sand on their own for so many different reasons. Struggling through the sand is vital for their “imprinting” which is how they know where to return to lay their own eggs. It’s the struggle that helps them grow strong and develop the habits they will need in the future. And, sea turtles are endangered and protected, so you would likely end up in legal trouble.
Helping your kid by removing their struggles can cause similar problems. If you want to teach your kid how to be responsible, just like the baby turtle, your kid is going to need to struggle on their own. It won’t work and they won’t learn if you swoop in and take those struggles away from them.
The old saying “No pain, no gain” is very true in this situation. The problem is, as a mom, our nature is to protect our kids from experiencing pain. So, what can we do?
Let Your Kids Learn Responsibility Through Experience
You want your kids to learn how to be responsible. They learn responsibility through experiences. Yes, they need to be taught about responsibility and why it’s important, but the real learning comes by doing things for themselves.
When your kid is a baby you take care of their every need. You feed, bathe, clothe, and soothe them all day long. As they grow and mature, you back off little by little until they have the confidence and ability to tackle responsibilities on their own. You wouldn’t expect a baby to tie their own shoes. You should expect a toddler to help pick up their toys or an older child to help with other chores around the house.
If you are looking to teach your kids responsibility by giving them chores, you can find a list of age appropriate chores in this article.
What is my role as a mom – as I help my Kids Learn Responsibility?
One of the best things I’ve heard is, “A lazy mom is one who does everything for their kids.” Now, we all know it is not easy to take care of a family. And any mom who is doing her best to raise kids is far from lazy. But, it does take more time, dedication and effort to help a child learn to do something on their own. It will always be easier to do something for a kid than be patient while they practice it on their own.
It’s not a great idea to tie your kid’s shoes until they go off to college. Or clean their room, because you don’t want to deal with their attitude. It’s also not the best choice to “help” your kid with all of their homework.
The best thing you can do for your kid is be their accountability partner as they learn to be responsible for their own life. Let’s look at 10 ways your can support their child as they learn to be responsible.
10 Ways I Can Support My Kids as They Learn Responsibility
1. Make them a priority
Set aside time for each other as often as necessary. Talk to your kid and really teach them what is means to be responsible. Show your kid how important they are to you and why they should be responsible.
2. Resist the Urge to Take Over for Them
Most of the time it is easier for you to handle a responsibility. You’ve had more practice with the task and know first hand the consequences of not completing the task.
Do not take these learning opportunities away from your kids. They may fail sometimes, but let them learn from their mistakes and become better in the process.
3. Be Consistent
Kids learn best when things are consistent. If they are responsible for making their bed each day, hold them accountable each day.
If things have slipped, recommit and start again.
4. Write Down Goals and Set Deadlines
If your kid is taking on a new responsibility come up with clear expectations, a goal and a deadline. Outline what the responsibility entails and when the responsibility needs to be completed. Post the written goal in a place it will be seen frequently.
5. Don’t Tackle Too Many Things at Once
Unless your kid is older, it’s best to limit your kid to one new responsibility at a time. It may be helpful to have a main goal and then set 3 smaller goals to help achieve the main goal.
Example goal: learning to load the dishwasher.
Mini goals #1: loading silverware.
When that responsibility is done consistently well, move on to the next goal
Mini goal #2: loading the top rack.
When that responsibility is done consistently well, move on to the next goal
Mini goal #3: loading the entire dishwasher.
The main goal is broken down into 3 smaller goals. As each mini goal is accomplished, your kid is one step closer to reaching their main goal.
Example goal: working toward first chair violin.
Mini goal #1: practice for a set amount of time each day
Mini goal #2: practice with a metronome
Mini goal #3: practice in front of family members to help with the fear of performing in front of others.
The 3 smaller goals can help work up to accomplishing the main goal.
6. Stay Positive and use Positive Reinforcement
Keep your conversations positive and use positive reinforcement. Kids will make lots of mistakes and have plenty of opportunities to improve. Instead of looking at what went wrong, try to look for things that went right.
Example of what you want to say: There are dirty clothes all over your room.
Example of what you could say: You did a great job making your bed. Let’s see how fast you can get all of your clothes into the hamper? Ready, set, go!
Example of what you want to say: It doesn’t even look like you tried to clean your room.
Example of what you could say: It looks like you had some difficulty getting your room clean, what can I do to help?
7. Give Subtle Reminders
Adults don’t like being told what to do. Kids are the same. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
But how do you give reminders without your kid feeling like they are always being told what to do?
Have your kid come up with ways you can give reminders. They may want to use a special hand signal as a subtle reminder. We have used a high 5 or the peace sign to remind our kids they have a responsibility that needs their attention. Kids are creative and will come up with great ideas.
8. Be flexible
It is very important to stick to the plan and work on the goals. But, every well laid out plan will encounter obstacles. Be flexible and know when to course correct.
9. Hold Your Kid Accountable
The goal is to raise a kid who is responsible. A kid who is accountable for all aspects of their life. We want them to complete their tasks, live their best life and be a contributing member of society.
No one is perfect. Kids do not deserve a punishment when they make a mistake or fall short of their responsibility. But, you shouldn’t take away the natural consequences that are a result from making a mistake.
Recently one of my kids needed to finish a project in the morning before school. He finished the project and was ready to walk out the door. In a moment of panic, he realized he had not made his lunch.
I told him, I’m sorry. You have money in your lunch account for situations just like this. You’ll have to buy lunch at school today. He is so anti school lunch that I thought for sure he would just go hungry all day. But, making his lunch is his responsibility. And, it is also his choice whether to buy lunch at school or go hungry.
I could have made a lunch and taken it to school. Or pulled him out of school and taken him out for lunch to celebrate him finishing a big project. Instead, I let the natural consequences happen.
When I asked him what he learned from this experience, he said he is more aware of time. He said if he would have made it a priority to finish his project the night before he wouldn’t have been short on time. If he didn’t have had so many things to think about that morning he would have made his lunch. He said he was going to work harder to get his work done on time. It’s amazing the lessons kids learn from natural consequences.
10. Celebrate Achievements
Some kids may only need to celebrate when they have mastered a new responsibility. Others will need to celebrate small wins each day. Either way, make sure the celebrations help reinforce the positive behavior and come from a place of love and kindness.
Learning Responsibility Requires Practice
Don’t quit. You may mess up and take over a responsibility. You may be decide the price your kid will pay if they make a mistake is too high and you’ll drop off a forgotten assignment at school. Don’t let it get you down. Don’t look at it as a problem or a failure. You love your kids so much. Recommit to try again and continue to do your best.