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5 Ways to Teach Your Child Responsibility

Updated on November 29, 2019
angela_michelle profile image

Angela was a foster parent for eight years and has four daughters. She has taken many courses to help her better understand children.

You can teach your children responsibility by having them join clubs, teams, or sports that promote leadership and responsibility skills.
You can teach your children responsibility by having them join clubs, teams, or sports that promote leadership and responsibility skills. | Source

#1 Give Positive Discipline

Discipline is an integral part of raising children. Not just the consequences you give your children for bad behavior, but the attitudes and behaviors you instill in them as well. You need to be well-disciplined yourself if you want to teach your child responsibility. An example is one of the best ways to show your child how to live their lives.

No parent wants to make their child cry, but sometimes we have to let them fail in order to teach them to succeed, even when teaching responsibility.
No parent wants to make their child cry, but sometimes we have to let them fail in order to teach them to succeed, even when teaching responsibility. | Source

#2 Consistent Consequences

Consequences are essential, whether it is a consequence you give your child for bad behavior or allowing your child to have the natural consequences. They are some of the most effective tools in teaching responsibility, which holds true, whether a person is two or in their teens.

Adult-directed consequences, also known as punishments, need to be given with a calm demeanor, yet telling your child exactly why they are receiving that punishment. Yelling at a child to be more responsible is not effective. It is more effective if you tell your child calmly that because they were a half-hour late, their curfew is now a half-hour earlier for three months until they can prove they are responsible enough to be home on time.

It's helpful to find a punishment that fits the crime. It needs to be uncomfortable (not necessarily physically uncomfortable) to be effective. For instance, you do not take away TV privileges from your child who doesn't watch TV nor a toy that is not important to the child. These repercussions for their actions will speak much louder than your voice ever could, although some of the more potent consequences are the natural ones.

Natural repercussions are the consequences parents often want to shield from their children. Sometimes, you need to let your child fail. I know it is hard not to run to their classroom with their homework every time you realize they forgot it. Still, sometimes, if you are finding they have a pattern of forgetting their homework, it is time to let them handle the aftermath for their irresponsibility. Give them a warning, say, "You need to be more responsible. I understand that sometimes we forget things, but it is becoming a pattern that you are not taking responsibility for your own things. The next time you forget your homework/band instrument/etc. I will not be bringing it in for you." Sometimes this is all they need to hear. Sometimes, they need to get an 'F' to understand, which is very hard to follow through with, but we need to make sure we are raising children who are self-sufficient, conscientious, responsible people. By bailing them out 100 percent of the time, we are setting them up for failure as they get older. Fortunately, these types of consequences for most children do not need to be given too many times before the behavior is corrected.

Playing board games with money themes is a good time when to discuss value of money and why being responsible with your money is very important.
Playing board games with money themes is a good time when to discuss value of money and why being responsible with your money is very important. | Source

#3 Teach Them Money Management

One area that even the most responsible parents will forget to teach their children about is how to manage money. Teaching children about money is essential. Some people may teach through example. Others may choose a more active approach.

My husband and I have chosen to pay our daughter for the work she has done. She can earn up to ten dollars per week. To us, donating ten percent of our money is essential; we also feel saving some is important as well; therefore, my daughter must take ten percent of everything she earns and donate it. She then takes what is left, divides it in half. Half she puts in her purse; half she puts in the bank. The bank money, she is not to use until she has something she needs. Since she is at an age that my husband and I take care of all of her needs, she will not be using that money until she is responsible for her own needs.

The money in her purse is for her to spend. That does not mean she can spend it on her every whim and desire. She discusses with us what she would like to buy. Her last big purchase was an electric scooter; her smaller purchases were rubber bands for her bracelet making endeavors.

Before she makes a purchase, we often ask her at least one of three questions. "Will you actually play with this or use it?" Many times, the answer is no. She, of course, will initially say yes, but sometimes she realizes it's a no, once we discuss it further.

Another question we often ask is, "Would you rather save your money for something bigger." When she was saving up for her electric scooter, she often came up to us asking if she could buy a candy bar or a Barbie, which is when we would ask her that question. I sometimes would help her realize what the consequences were if she chose that Barbie instead, such as, "You could earn your scooter if you did all your chores for three more weeks," or however close she was to her desired item, "If you buy this item it will take you six weeks to earn your scooter." When it is put in those terms, she can see that impulse buying is not a wise decision.

The final question we often ask her is, "Are you sure this is what you want to spend your money on?" Sometimes when she says yes, and our intuition says it's not a wise decision, we will say, "Okay, then this weekend, if you still want it, remind me and we'll try to make it to the store." Often she forgets because it was a spontaneous desire and not something she truly wanted. If she does remember, no matter how trivial I think it is, we will make it to the store, life-permitting.

Through our efforts, our daughter has ended up buying things, and later came up to us telling us that it was not a wise decision, because "it's not really that fun to play with, I should have bought... instead," or "I wish I didn't buy this, I could have had my... by now." There are those natural consequences again. My daughter was six when she first made this kind of mistake and now is much more responsible for how she spends her spending money.

Try to keep chores age appropriate.
Try to keep chores age appropriate. | Source

#4 Assign Household Chores

Children need to realize the effort of taking care of a house. Giving children age-appropriate chores is an excellent way to teach this, plus it teaches children how to be responsible for their things. It will provide them with confidence that they helped contribute to having the household run smoothly.

Chores do not have to be a set item they do each day but could be things you assign them as needed. For instance, "Tommy, the garbage is full; please take it out." This is a chore. The child is responsible for the well-functioning of the home.

In our household, my daughter has set chores she is expected to do each day. She earns money for doing her chores: a dollar per day. To make that dollar, she must do it with a good attitude and completely. In the workplace, you will not get far if you complain through your duties, do not allow complaints from children.

When I nannied, I often would make the children come back to me when they complained as I sent them off on a duty. They knew if I called them back to me, I would send them off on their duty a second time; this time, they were to leave with a good attitude. If my daughter complains, she loses her pay for that day, plus the end of the week bonus. The method I use with my daughter cured the attitude problem much more quickly. She rarely has a bad attitude when I send her to do her chores.

Another lesson they need to learn is that a job needs to be completed well. We are preparing our children for the real world. Do not let them get away with only half-hearted attempts at a job. For instance, my daughter must feed the dogs. If she chooses to only fill the bowl half full, the dish will be empty before the next day; that does not count as having done her chores. She will not earn money for that day. Keep in mind their age and capabilities, as well. Do not expect a toddler to complete a job efficiently.

We choose to give rewards for hard work. If she has had the right attitude, has done her chores well, and completely for all seven days of the week, she gets a three dollar bonus. Therefore, she can make up to ten dollars a week. A bad attitude or missed chore for one day; she only receives six dollars. We are careful not to call the money she has earned through doing her duties as an allowance. She is not entitled to it; she earned it. Rewards are an essential part of raising children, whether it be thoughtful praise or a material thing.

#5 Use Reward Charts

I am a huge fan of charts. We often make charts for my daughter's chores, which reminds her of what is expected. Also, there is a sense of accomplishment when you can check off each box in the row.

Reward charts are beneficial for the younger ages, although they can be utilized for older children as well. There are many ways you can use reward charts to help a child learn responsibility, such as charts that track:

  • Good attitudes
  • Good behavior at school (for children who may have trouble not talking at school)
  • Chores
  • Eating their vegetables
  • Potty training

Part of a reward chart is that there should be some incentive. For little kids, placing a sticker on the board may be incentive enough. As they get older, maybe allow them to have a piece of candy from the candy jar if they complete a row on their chart. Keep the prizes small, so a reward chart does not become a bribe.

Learning responsibility is not going to happen by mistake; it is a deliberate thing parents must instill in children. Whether parents do this unconsciously, it is vital to give them consequences, direction, and support when teaching them how to be responsible individuals.

© 2014 Angela Michelle Schultz


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