It seems obvious, right? You are a parent; thus you have this amazing ability to gift your child with responsibility. Voila! Your child is a perfect individual wise beyond their micro-years, and ready to lead the world to awesomeness. Not yet? Find yourself still yelling, "Shut the door!" and numerous other tedious commands to remind your child of their household obligations and general societal norms that infer an ability to be responsible?
Take a deep breath and repeat after me, "It will be okay. I am not raising a savage, only a poorly programmed mini-me," or something else to free your mind of society's impending apocalyptic doom. Learning to be responsible is all about experience. Responsibility comes from progressive experiences of action and outcome. If you give a child enough of these experiences, the child gains both the skills and confidence necessary to take responsibility for their actions and decisions.
4 parenting tips to help your child be responsible:
As Abigail Van Buren said, “If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
1. Loosen the reigns.
Lighten up and lower expectations to give your child more control over their life and decisions. If your child is constantly guided by rules, they never learn the natural consequences associated with a decision or behavior. Within reason, allow your child to manage aspects of their life and also allow them to experience the natural consequence of their actions. For instance, if your child doesn’t want to study for a test explain that it’s up to them to study or not. If your child chooses not to study, outline the consequences for failing to do well on the test. Focus on the consequences of the test performance. Use this experience as a reminder for next time.
2. Test their limits before yours.
Give your child a chore or activity that has been off-limits. Children often hear, “You’ll understand when you’re older”, or “You can do that when you’re older.” Older seldom comes fast enough. Delegate a chore to your child that you’ve previously thought they couldn’t do. Allow your child to participate in an activity like chess club or theater even if you are worried the time demands will be overwhelming. Responsibility is learning about our limitations as well as our expectations.
3. Set an example.
As adults, we tend to place blame instead of admitting when we are wrong. Especially, when we are wrong about our children. Part of learning how to be responsible requires us to acknowledge when we’ve made a bad decision or when something was our fault. Your child will learn more about responsibility by seeing you take accountability for your decisions and act responsibly, than by any other technique.
4. Give your child something to care for.
Children are more motivated to improve and grow when they have something to work towards. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go out and buy a new puppy to teach your child responsibility. Instead, look at your child and think about their skills, interests and desires for inspiration. For instance, if your child loves to read but has trouble taking care of their books then set a goal of building their library by adding a new book for every week they keep their current library nice and tidy. If the reward naturally relates to the responsibility you will have an easier time keeping your child motivated.