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Teaching Children Responsibility and Respect

Updated on December 3, 2013
denise.w.anderson profile image

Denise speaks from her own experience. She has had many trials and difficulties in her own life and seeks to help others through theirs.


What is Respect?

Respect is a feeling of esteem for another. It begins during the bonding process between infant and adult. The infant's earliest self esteem will be closely connected with how needs are met by the primary caregiver. Kindness is shown by a soft tone of voice. Love is demonstrated by a gentle touch. Hugs and kisses are evidence of unconditional love. All combined together lead the infant to esteem the adult as important and develop feelings of self-worth.

Start When They are Young

The old saying, "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime," is true. Teaching children responsibility seems like a never-ending task, but looking beyond the frustration of the moment and the difficulty of the teaching process, the end result is respectable, responsible adults. There is no greater blessing parents can give than to prepare their children for life beyond high school. Responsibiltiy and Freedom are two sides of the same coin, it is not possible to have one without the other.

Toddlers are wonderful helpers. They love to do things for their parents. Taking advantage of their eagerness to please, they can become a great asset to the busy homemaker. They are able to pick things up and put them where they belong, bring items from a cupboard or another room, hold something and then hand it to someone, sort by color/number/shape, fill containers that are empty, wash items in a sink or tub, stack plastic containers that fit together, fold small cloths, put clothing in a washer/dryer, or take them out and help put them away.

Toddlers need one-on-one time with their caregivers daily. Doing chores together gives the toddler a sense of importance and ownership in their own environment. Having them help make the bed, pick up clothes and put them away, and decide where toys belong, lets them know that order is an essential part of life. Helping them brush their teeth, comb their hair, and bathe also reinforces feelings of self-worth and belonging.


Teach Respect by Example

As the infant becomes a toddler, the respect relationship with the primary caregiver expands to a circle of adults who care for the child. These may be grandparents, aunts and uncles, or others who have close relationships with the family. When new people come into the child's world, it is necessary for the adult to demonstrate respect. Toddlers need to be introduced appropriately, with the adult modeling friendly behavior first, then the child will follow.

Teach Essential Skills

Children between the ages of 5-11 are able to do tasks independently that they learned as toddlers. They make their own beds, pick up clothing/toys, and take care of their personal needs. The problem, however, is that by doing these independently, they obtain no loving attention. There needs to be a time when attention is focused on them one-on-one for at least 15-20 minutes daily. During that time, teach additional skills or do an activity together, such as reading a book, playing a game, or cooking something.

Essential skills to be taught at this age are setting the table appropriately, cooking simple dishes or treats, taking care of eating and cooking utensils following a meal, emptying garbage cans, sweeping floors, dusting, sorting laundry, loading the washer or dryer, care of younger siblings with adult supervision, helping change sheets on beds, and putting things where they belong according to category. Creativity can be fostered by allowing them to do things differently, as long as they are completed within the required guidelines of the task.

A major part of the activities of children this age is learning to earn. Assignments may be given on a rotating basis that result in an allowance or points to spend and are completed before such freedoms as friends, computers, television, or time away from home. Additional funds or points can be earned by negotiating projects like helping wash the car, doing yard work, or making something for others to eat.


Teach Respect in Advance

Change is inevitable in the life of toddlers, whether a move, a new neighbor, different church, visit to the doctor, or advancement in the family. Talking about the change ahead of time helps the toddler know what to expect. The first time crossing the street, the first time at a stranger's home, and the first time in the grocery store will go much more smoothly if discussed and rehearsed ahead of time. Toddlers learn quickly, and will feel increased respect for their parents when they are prepared to face the world

Holding Children Accountable

Ages 12 and older are in the accountability years. Chores and essential skills have already been taught, now they are to be practiced regularly. Charts, graphs, point systems, learning to earn, and incentives for correct completion are needed to help children complete their assigned responsibilities. Setting goals and recording the results, working toward special activities, earning for a desired purchase, or planning special friend time helps them keep doing what is necessary.

Pre-teens and teens are capable of cooking full meals that are well-rounded and healthy; completing housecleaning tasks such as vacuuming, sweeping and mopping, taking care of a batch of laundry from start to finish, completing yard work tasks, being in charge of cleaning a particular room for a week, and taking care of pet facilities. The adult's responsibility is to provide encouragement during task completion, follow up to see that it is done according to the established pattern, and mark the appropriate chart/graph/points or meet out other incentives. The more responsibility shown, the more freedom is allowed. The less responsibility, the less freedom. The adult determines the responsibility standard and controls the amount of freedom earned. Allowing too much freedom before the teen shows adequate responsibility results in the teen making unwise choices that hurt themselves and others.


Teach Respect Through Supervision

Unsupervised children make unsupervised choices. They choose whatever they want, not what the parents want. When left to themselves for long periods of time, children end up with bathroom language and unclean actions. They fight, quarrel, and are rude to those they play with as well as their parents. Unchecked, they will continue the same type of behavior as teenagers and adults.

Respectful children do not happen by accident. Repect is taught by the adults in the child's world. They treat the child as important by being kind, considerate, and explaining things before and when they happen. In turn, the child will do the same for the adult, treating them with kindness and consideration as well.

Allowing Young Adults to Fly

Prepare teens for the time when they will leave home. See that they are adequately prepared to take care of their own education, living quarters, financial obligations, medical care, and vehicle maintanance. Once they have mastered these skills, they will be ready to leave home and go forward with their own future. Young adults well schooled in the responsibilities of life will be ready to enjoy the freedom of self-sufficiency, knowing that they will be able to make it on their own. Allowing them opportunities to work away from home, be at a college in a different community, or live with others and help care for their children gives them experience in making independent choices before they start families of their own. Then, when the wings of freedom are finally attached for good, they will be ready to fly away!


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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, DemiT! Being a mom was my full-time career for many years. It was only after my children were in school that I realized that there was a whole world out there that I would like to experience. Now, as I watch my children raising their children, the lessons come back and I want to help others. Best wishes to you!

    • DemiT profile image

      DemiT 5 years ago from Greece

      Denise, you are so right in every word you wrote! I felt that I was listening to my mother giving me advice as a child but also as a new mum! You have the most important job in the world and you have done it with excellence!

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, Wisie Daily Wisdom. Responsibility is something that begins with children when they are very young. They learn as they grow that there are some things that can not be replaced, and that relationships are more important than things.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for your kind comments, teaches12345. Raising a family has been a large part of my life and I learned much in the process. Now, I have the joy of grandparenting as I help my own children with the challenges of being a parent. It has brought back many memories of when they were young.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Denise, you have great wisdom in raising children. I love your suggestions and advice here. I can't think of anything more rewarding than helping children to become responsible citizens. God bless you.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, SharkFuel. I appreciate your comments. Parents are in the best position to teach these things to their children.

    • SharkFuel profile image

      SharkFuel 6 years ago

      It is extremely important for parents to teach their kids from the very beginning of their childhood. And of course it is necessary to do when they are young. Responsibility is a very important quality of people. So, parents have to do the best to raise highly responsible kids.

    • WisieDailyWisdom profile image

      WisieDailyWisdom 6 years ago from Atlanta

      Very true. A sense of responsibility has to be gradually built up, right from when the toddler learns to play with toys, flip through books and struggle with the spoon and the food on the plate.

      This article very lucidly lists the tasks you can give to your children and encourage them as they grow up so that they start valuing and appreciating the things they have. If your child carelessly breaks a toy or loses a book and finds that you replace them in no time with new ones, he/she will start taking things for granted.

      If we don't help our children learn to understand that everything they get in life has a value attached, they will grow up to be indifferent, callous and self-centered. In later years, these traits can be very difficult to change. A sense of responsibility ingrained in the psyche from the tender years helps our children grow up to be loving, caring, affectionate and kind.

      Great article! Looking forward to more such insightful articles from you.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That is the goal, to have our children become adults who can care for themselves and others. We had that in mind when we raised our children, and now are reaping the rewards. It is wonderful to see them raise their own families!

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 6 years ago from Orange County, California

      Great article on teaching children to be responsible! We raised four daughters who always had chores. Today they are responsible, capable adults.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Yes, homework does need to be done! It is difficult to have teens help on school days. They are so busy! What seemed to work best at our house was to have rotating cooking responsibilities during the summer. I made sure that they each knew how to plan a menu, cook a full meal, and clean up afterwards. That way, I knew they would not go hungry if for some reason we were not at home. It was very rewarding to have our 19 year old son come to visit and cook a meal just because he wanted to!

    • zanin profile image

      zanin 6 years ago from London, England

      Denise, you are so right that, 'Pre-teens and teens are capable of cooking a full meal'. My husband and I always prepare the meals. I think the time has come to get the teenage boys to help, and do a full meal. They just always seem to have homework! Some great suggestions - voted-up. Nina