February 2020 | Modern Mummy

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

How To Teach Children To Be Responsible

We’d all like to keep our kids close to us where they are safe forever, but that stops being possible as they get older and become more independent. When this happens, the best way to keep them safe out in the world is to teach them to be responsible. Children can start learning responsibility from a young age if you give them the tools and skills to be used out in the world when they’re ready. If your children are responsible, it means you can worry less about them when they’re away from home, whether they go out with a friend’s family or are walking home from school alone. Read this guide on The Best Ways to Give Your Kids More Freedom to find more ideas to help them manage without you.

Set Age-Appropriate Tasks 
Even very young children can help a little around the home. Think of something that your child can manage without too much difficulty, and give them clear instructions on what you want them to do. For example, ‘tidy your room’ can seem daunting to a child and they not know where to start. A clearer instruction like ‘put your toys back into the toy box when you’re done playing’ is easy to understand and achievable for even young children. As they get older, you can give them more challenging tasks like making their own bed, helping you to wash the car, or loading the dishwasher. Having chores to do teaches independence, responsibility, and helps your child understand what goes into keeping a home, which helps to keep family life smooth and happy.

Show And Tell 
When you do set your child tasks to complete, show them how to do it and explain it in simple terms. If you find it takes more than a few minutes to explain to them what to do, the task is probably too complicated for them. Instead, break the task down into smaller parts and ask them to take care of one part. For example, if they find setting the table confusing, ask them to put out the placemats, while an older child does the rest of the task.

Work Comes First 
Children have short attention spans, but they can learn that work has to be done first before they can do something fun. As a parent, help them to learn this by approaching it in an honest and fun way. For example, if they’re asking to go to the park, tell them that you want to go too, but first, you’ll both have to tidy up the plates from lunch. This approach isn’t bossy and instead helps them to understand that you’re asking them to be responsible in the same way that you are. Admit that you prefer the fun stuff too, but that sometimes these jobs need to be done first so you can enjoy yourself properly.

Make Chores Fun 
Even adults don’t like chores very much, and we all enjoy them more if we can make them fun or sociable. Find ways to make chores more enjoyable for your children. Young children just like being with you, so try and find chores you can do together. Make chores into a game, such as making a race out of putting the toys away. You’ll both enjoy the task more and the job will get down much faster. 

Avoid Threats 
It’s important to set clear rules, but it’s more effective to explain these rules in a positive way instead of turning to threats or ultimatums. Instead of saying that they won’t be allowed something or will have a toy taken away if they don’t complete a chore, phrase the thing they want as a reward instead. For example, instead of, ‘if you don’t tidy up your toys, then you can’t have a biscuit after lunch’, say ‘when you’ve finished tidying your toys away, you can have a biscuit.’

Set A Good Example 
The best way to show a child what it means to be responsible is to model that behaviour yourself. Take care of your own things and space, such as putting dirty clothes into the laundry basket instead of draping them on a chair, and doing the washing up straight after dinner instead of leaving it. Explain to the kids why you’re doing these things, such as telling them you’re putting things away so you can find them again or keep your home looking nice, or getting a task done before you’re too tired later.

Focus On The Effort, Not The Results 
Children may not approach a task in the same way that you do, and it’s easy to get frustrated and just step in and do it yourself. Try not to do this, as the only way for them to learn is to keep trying until they get the hang of it. If you criticise or take over, the child is less likely to want to help next time. 

Let go of details that don’t matter. For example, if your child’s task is to set the table for dinner, they may forget to put out spoons or get the knives and forks the wrong way round. If this sort of mistake happens, try breaking the task up into smaller parts, so they can learn each stage and get the hang of doing the job in the way that you want. Help with any difficult parts, and then let them do the rest. 

Praise their effort, and suggest any improvements in a positive, encouraging way. For example, say ‘thank you for setting the table. Why don’t you put out some glasses for everyone too so they can have a drink with dinner?’ They feel encouraged and have a clear, easy way to correct their mistake without feeling as though they have done something wrong.
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