How to Raise Responsible Children

There is a secret and an art to raising conscientious kids

Most parents hope their children will grow up to be responsible adults. In reality however, making that happen not only requires ample parental patience, but also specific focus and planned opportunities for your child to develop new skills.

The Secret to Raising Responsible Children

So how do you actually go about raising responsible children? The answer to that question has may parts, but when it comes down to it, its all about taking it slow and understanding that it happens through reinforcing positive behaviors overtime. Responsibility has to be fostered and developed in children — it's not something that you can simply tell your child to do or be.

To make sure you're on the path to helping your child towards independence and encouraging responsible behavior during the preteen years, here are 5 ways you can raise a responsible tween.

Encourage Independence

When thinking about jobs for children, be sure you take safety into consideration.
Lawn mower, babysitter, and pet sitter are all possible jobs for children and tweens..

Teaching your children to be responsible often means taking a step back and allowing them to come into their own independence. You can encourage independence in the following ways:

  • Encourage independent play
  • Allow your tweens to problem solve on their own — this means don't always supply all the answers, encourage other ways to find answers to common questions.
  • Model independent behavior. Children learn from parents, so submissive or co-dependent behaviors between spouses can lead to feelings of helplessness and overt dependence on you.

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Assign Chores — Yes They Can Do It!

Allowing your child to tackle household chores will give your child the confidence to learn new things and learn problem-solving skills. Research has shown that practical household work promotes moral responsibility by creating an awareness of different social situations and also for the needs of others.

Be sure to assign chores and tasks that are developmentally appropriate for your child. They should be able to do the task with ease as assigning tasks that are too difficult to complete on their own can lead to frustration and feelings of inadequacy.

You can help your child tackle chores and other responsibilities by writing a chore contract. A contract lets your child know how important it is for every member of the family to ​pitch in and contribute.

But while you are at it, don't forget to cycle chores and give different options to your child. No one likes cleaning the bathroom all the time, so showing your child that everyone takes a turn at doing chores they don't always like helps the whole family — that's where they really learn to do pitch in and tend to the needs of others for the greater good.

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Help Your Child Develop a Work Ethic

Older children aren't too young to begin the working life. Just like doing household chores, getting work done on time, being punctual, doing a good job and earning a small amount of money each week can help your child learn new skills and boost his or her self-esteem at the same time. 

You can certainly help point your child in the right direction when it comes to job hunting but really encourage them to create flyers for their services and approach neighbors and friends to advertise their job hunt. Here are a few job possibilities that will help you raise responsible children who will grow up to be responsible adults:

  • Dog walking
  • Babysitting
  • Lawn mowing
  • Washing cars
  • Tutoring
  • Filing

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Highlight Positive Behavior

Instead of focussing on things that your child didn't do or all the ways they were irresponsible, only try to highlight the instances where your child demonstrated responsible behavior. It may be easier to point blame in many situations — but blaming someone else rarely prevents a recurrence of the problem and instead makes everyone feel defensive. If you catch yourself pointing the blame, just remember that it's the number one reason many kids lie to parents. When we blame kids, they are less likely to take responsibility and the problem is more likely to repeat.

This means complimenting your child on remembering to take the trash down from the bedroom for garbage day. Or give high-fives when you see a cup placed in the sink after they've had a glass of juice. But don't place blame on your child when the dishes are piling up in the sink or when the garbage failed to make it to the curb. Really think about each task and behavior and what the thought process may have been behind each one. 

When you are giving instruction, rather than simply giving orders try asking your child to do the thinking. Ask them why it's important that everyone take a turn at cleaning the bathroom each week.

Teach Accountability

Going back to when I said teaching responsibility didn't happen overnight... It takes time to teach your child that their actions affect others, but when it finally clicks for your child, all of the hard work is really worth it. Some of the ways you can do this over time is to teach your child accountability for their actions in the following ways:

  • Teach and support your child to help pay for damaged goods.
  • Keep promises to your child.
  • Don't make excuses.
  • Talk about the responsible choices you make on the daily, even if it's just to explain why you don't litter, or why you make it a point to visit grandpa every day when he's ill. 

Remember, if you don't model accountable and responsible behavior — especially when it comes to promises you have made to your child — why should your tween be responsible about keeping promises and agreements that they've made with you?

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