As children learn and grow, it’s important to start teaching them about responsibility.
For toddlers, this can be as simple as toy cleanup. As children get older, consider age-appropriate chores they can do without help. By getting children involved at home, they’ll learn about taking responsibility for themselves and begin to understand they are an active part of the family, which leads to a sense of empowerment.
For children to grow into independent, self-reliant people who will be able to make healthy choices for themselves later in life, adults must talk about and model good decision-making skills.
Making Good Choices
Giving children the opportunity to make choices is important for their development, but how do we help them make good choices?
Let them make mistakes. Encourage preschoolers and school-age children to make decisions even if they misstep. It’s okay to let your child fail sometimes. We all learn from our mistakes. By experiencing the result of wrong choices with low risk, children develop many higher-order cognitive skills, such as analysis, conceptualization, and critical thinking.
Reflect on consequences. Help your child look at decisions scientifically. Scientists make predictions, test their predictions, then reflect on the results to see if they were right. Help children think through the possible results of their choices ahead of time without telling them which choice you think they should make. Afterward, without saying “I told you so,” help them reflect on what happened and what they might do differently next time.
Model good decision-making skills. Make good choices in your own life and point out to your child when you are doing so. For example, you might say, “I was going to eat that snack now, but I realized it is very close to dinnertime, and I don’t want to ruin my appetite.” By narrating your thought process out loud, children learn that good decisions are not random or impulsive, but rather involve analysis and evaluation.
Start small to build confidence. Look for ways to weave opportunities for choice-making into your parenting. Some beneficial ways to give young children simple choices (and therefore a healthy sense of power) include:
Chores and Responsibility
Teaching children how to take responsibility is not easy and takes a lot of practice, but by doing so, your child is more likely to develop into a responsible adult.
Make the actions a habit. The earlier you start assigning responsibilities, the earlier they will become second nature. There are tasks that even toddlers can perform, such as picking up toys, helping to feed pets, and taking care of their own dishes after meals. Invite your children to help when it is time to do housework. Remember, it may take longer than normal in the beginning. Take the age of your child into account and manage your expectations accordingly. Make sure you praise the work they do and don’t criticize what is not done correctly. Their skills will improve with practice.
Create a list of chores. Teaching your children to take care of their things will help them to foster a sense of responsibility for their actions. As your children grow and mature, increase their level of responsibility. Create a list of chores or make a chore chart for the entire family. Rotate tasks so they can experience all household duties on some level.
Instill lifelong benefits. One day your children will be grown and ready to leave home. When this time comes, will they have the important life skills they need? One of the jobs and goals of a parent should be to ensure children are equipped with the tools they need to thrive on their own. Giving your child responsibilities and chores has many lasting benefits, such as:
Remember, this is a learning process that will take time! Be patient and know all your hard work will pay off as you continue to help your children learn and grow into responsible adults.