Three Ideas for Building Responsibility in Children

by Shari Steelsmith

In order for children to be responsible, they need to be able to think creatively and solve problems.

Parent educator Kathryn Kvols, author of Redirecting Children's Behavior, points out that you will only be comfortable giving your child responsibility if you feel he stands a good chance of handling it. One way to encourage responsibility in children is to build thinking and decision-making skills. She recommends asking your child questions to get him in the habit of thinking about problems and solutions. A child who can predict possible consequences of his actions is more likely to choose well.

Teach Your Child to Rely on Herself

It's your child's job to learn how to make herself happy, not yours. Parents who entertain their children, take care of all their needs and fix their problems give children the mistaken impression that others should make life exciting and comfortable for them. A child needs to learn to think about and discover what makes her genuinely happy and busy. The classic child statement "I'm bored" is really a request for someone else to be responsible for entertaining her. Kvols advises not giving suggestions for activities, but asking, "What will you do?" in a friendly, interested way.

Encourage Your Child to Give 100%

Most of us learn to get by in life without investing much of ourselves. This does not particularly lead to responsibility or fulfillment, whereas giving 100% (or putting in extra effort) brings achievement and pride in oneself. Help your child set goals and make plans to achieve them. Kvols suggests emphasizing the child's personal best rather than comparing their achievement to another's. Ask, "Did you do your best?" rather than, "Who won?" or "Were you the best?"

Give Your Child Responsibilities in the Family

Many parents only give children chores related to their own belongings, such as picking up their toys. However, if you provide your child with opportunities to contribute to the family, he will value his participation and others' that much more. Make sure your children are allowed to do some of the more "prestigious" chores (like planning and cooking a meal) as well as the lower-dignity ones (like scooping up dog messes).

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