“If you take responsibility for yourself, you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams.” – Les Brown
Responsibility means being dependable, making good choices, and being accountable for everything you do. A responsible citizen looks out for the wellbeing of others and understands that we all have a part to play in making the world a better place.
It is a universal truth that parents dream of raising children who are helpful, kind, and compassionate. The first step towards fulfilling this dream is to help kids understand responsibility at an early age. Children instinctively understand that their primary community is their family. And have a natural inclination to want to contribute to it. That is why giving them age-appropriate responsibilities will give them a sense of pride which, in turn, will help build their confidence.
Teaching children responsibility early on will make them resilient too. And, as they grow, they will be better equipped to approach life head on and take on tasks and challenges with joy.
Here are four easy ways to integrate responsibility into a family structure with ease.
1. Don’t underestimate the power of extrinsic motivation.
Some experts argue against tying rewards to task completion because they believe it discourages internal motivation. While intrinsic motivation is important to cultivate, there are times when external motivation is the right choice for a child. As an adult, you can probably think of the many times when you found motivation to get out of bed by imagining the taste of your morning cup of coffee. Or perhaps a great podcast has gotten you through mopping floors or putting away dishes.
Matching simple rewards with essential tasks can sometimes be the most effective combination. For children, putting away toys could be rewarded with an episode of a favourite television show or a visit to the park. Whenever possible, though, try to avoid using sugar or treats as a motivator, as this can potentially complicate a child’s feelings about food in general.
2. Keep directions simple and concise.
When helping children complete chores, clarity is key. Try to keep your instructions short—perhaps only a simple sentence or two. If the task has multiple components, just tackle this one at a time. Asking a child to “clean up the room” can be too abstract sometimes. Instead, you might give specific, singular instructions, such as: “First, I’d like you to pull your blanket to the top of your bed,” or “All the toys on the floor can go into this toy box.” After the task is complete, reward your child with excitement and praise. A hug and a kind word can mean so much to your little one.
3. Make cleaning into a game.
Mary Poppins was on to something when she started to sing while the kids cleaned up the nursery. There are several ways to make cleaning a game for little ones. First, the right tunes are totally essential. Blasting the soundtrack to your favourite children’s movie will get almost anyone motivated. If you need even more of an incentive, try timing the task to get it done quickly. Siblings can take turns timing each other, seeing who can set a personal record for putting away clothes or making beds.
4. Chore charts are a family’s best friend.
Using a chore chart to track responsibilities can take a bit of time to set up and maintain, but the visual cues and feedback it provides can be so worth it.Using stars, stickers, or magnets to track completed chores can be very exciting!
The real benefit of teaching kids responsibility is the realisation that we are raising future adults and letting them get comfortable with taking feedback. Making them believe that they have the capability of rising to expectations. And that they will come up with their own creative ways to meet those responsibilities.