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Teaching kids responsibility

Teaching kids responsibility

We all want to raise kids who responsibility for their choices and their impact.

While we’d like the children in our care to be more responsible, teaching it to them may take a little longer for a child that’s experienced trauma or neglect, according to FACS psychologist Collette Irwin.

“Taking on responsibility at any age or developmental level is really important for achieving a sense of mastery and control,” says Collette but “the difficulty a child has experienced in their background will determine the degree of responsibility they are capable of taking on board.”

The key is providing the support and scaffolding they need to learn, says Colette.

Here's some easy ways you can teach your child responsibility and to be responsible for themselves.

Start by seeing responsibility as something positive for your child. All children want to see themselves as powerful and able to respond to what needs to be done. This is important for their self-esteem. Your child needs to feel like they matter and make a positive contribution.

Building routines and structure

Routine and structure give your child the chance to manage themselves, develop healthy habits, and learn crucial life skills. Focus on age suitable tasks and routines. Morning routines and cleaning up toys after play time for little kids, and shift to study habits and self-care as they grow. Your child will learn life skills by consistently doing household tasks such as laundry, walking and feeding the dog.

Clean up after themselves

Kids need an opportunity to contribute to the common good. Raise your child to understand that we clean up after ourselves and let your child help you, even when it’s easier to do it yourself. Help your child, until they learn it. Be kind and the learning will happen faster. Tell them, ‘everyone cleans up after themselves’, you’ll do it together; grab a broom and hand them a dust pan. If you avoid judgement and encourage them, they’ll want to help clean up and make things better.

When kids have consistent, friendly encouragement and a shared load, they become easier to live with and grow up to be better members of the community.

Create a blame-free household

Rather than blaming someone automatically. Blame makes everyone defensive, puts them in attack mode, and less likely to make amends. When we blame our kids, they’ll find a reason it wasn't their fault.

They won’t want to take responsibility and the problem is more likely to repeat. The best solutions come from acceptance, not blame. Remember, you’re teaching your child good habits, they’ll do as you do.

Forcing your child to apologise for hurting someone’s feelings doesn’t teach them to be responsible for their actions. Instead, try listening to their feelings and understanding why they lashed out.

Once they feel better, they may apologise. If not, chat about what they can do to make things better. Whether it’s helping the person they hurt solve a problem or doing something nice for them.

Your child will learn to repair damage they’ve caused and that how they treat others matters. They will know they can repair things their way and when they choose to, making them feel better about making this decision.

Teach them accountability

Teach them accountability for their interactions with others and don’t rush to save your child in a difficult situation. Be available for problem-solving, helping work through your child’s emotions, and ensure they follow through. Instead, let them handle the problem, whether it requires offering an apology or making amends another way.

Support your children to take charge of their life and learn. Teach them they have the power to contribute positively, so they want to do so. Your child will become motivated to take responsibility for themselves and their actions.

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Last updated: 11 Apr 2019