Activities and Tips to Teach Children about Responsibility at Home
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” – Denis Waitley
Parents play the most important role in helping their children develop responsibility – interpersonally, personally, and in the local and global community.
Our children deserve to learn important life lessons from us and build habits that will help them grow up to be responsible individuals in the future. We want them to maintain their own well-being and pursue ongoing personal growth, while also considering the impacts of their everyday choices, actions and treatment of others.
Responsibility includes developing the following:
- respect and compassion for others;
- honesty as a matter of course;
- courage in standing up for our principles;
- self-control in acting on our principles;
Here are some activities you can do at home to foster your child’s responsibility:
Create a Responsibility Chart
Your child must first understand what it means to be a responsible person. Start by writing six responsible behaviours on a sheet of paper and ask your child to think of a few examples of each one. Some behaviours can include, ‘Being trustworthy’, ‘Not putting things off’, ‘Thinking about how your actions affect others’, or ‘Answering for your own actions’. Your child may come up with examples like ‘Cleaning my room when I say I will’, ‘Using less plastic to help the environment’, or ‘Saying sorry when I forget to put away my toys’.
Once your child has thought about a few examples of responsible behaviour, have a discussion about responsibility in the family. What are their responsibilities (other than chores), and what are your responsibilities at home as parents? Then discuss what things you can do together to take responsibility for others, such as using less water and energy to help the environment, or buying free-range eggs instead of cage eggs to help chickens.
Create a responsibility chart together, based on the things you’ve talked about, and put it up on a wall to help you and your child keep track. You can download a free template here.
Gather some paper and pens to create coupons for special tasks that your child can do to help others. Talk about the importance for them to include tasks that they don’t do regularly, and remind them to only make promises they are willing and able to keep. Help your child decorate the coupons and write their name and special task on each one. Some tasks could include, ‘Help dad tidy the garden’, ‘Let my sister borrow my special pens’, or ‘Bake a special cake for grandpa’.
Ask your child to present their coupons to each person they intend to help. Your child must fulfill their promises to each person within the next month. Afterwards, talk about how each person reacted to these helpful tasks, and how these positive reactions made your child feel.
Together with your child, count how many bags of rubbish your family throws out each week. Help your child keep a tally over seven days, including general details of rubbish items (e.g. food scraps, plastic wraps, foil).
Sit down with your child and come up with a plan on how you can reduce the family rubbish. Explain to them why it’s important to reduce our waste in order to help the environment. Write down your plan, and assign your child with the responsibility of being the ‘Rubbish Robot’ over the next two weeks. It will be their job to help other family members reduce the amount of rubbish thrown away. Encourage them to announce their plan at the family dinner table, write a checklist and put it on the refrigerator door, and continue monitoring the amount of rubbish you throw away. Some helpful tips include reducing food waste by packing leftovers, bringing reusable bags and containers when shopping, travelling or packing lunches, buying items made of recycled material, or buying in bulk rather than individual packages.
Positive role-models play a powerful role in influencing the behaviour and attitudes of young children. At home, you can plan a regular ‘Hero Week’, where you read or learn all about a person in history, fiction, or even in the local community, who demonstrate positive character traits.
Start off by choosing a hero to focus on, and talk to your child about what they have done to earn ‘hero’ status at your house. Prepare some reading material, videos or images about your hero, and ask your child to write a short summary of what they think makes that person a true hero. Ask them to then choose one single trait that they can emulate for that week. For example, if you chose to focus on Malala Yousafzai, your child might choose the trait of ‘speaking up for what is right’. They can then make a pledge to do this at least once that week, either by standing up for someone at school against bullies, or maybe telling five people about a cause they care about. Later on, they can start picking their own heroes to focus on and follow in their footsteps. Through stories we tell about the people we look up to, we can inspire children and remind them of the qualities we believe are important.
Some more tips for parents:
- Be a good role-model for your child. Children pick up good behaviour from others around them. Keep your promises every time, even if you get busy.
- Allow them to solve their own problems. Let your child handle small problems on their own while making sure you are there to guide them.
- Don’t give in too easily. If your child does not want to fulfill a chore or responsibility, don’t allow them to give up, even if it’s difficult. Be encouraging and supportive. This is an important lesson in perseverance.
- Praise the good, forget the bad. Acknowledge your child’s mistakes but don’t turn it into a constant reminder. Focus on positive reinforcement and let them know that by fulfilling their responsibilities, they are playing an important role in the family.
- Be firm and consistent. Avoid taking over tasks, which only lets your child feel that you don’t believe they can handle it.
- Be specific. Tell your child exactly what you would like for them to do, and when you acknowledge good behaviour, be detailed in the way you praise. “I know you don’t like putting away your toys, but I appreciate that you have done it without being asked”.
- Notice effort. Keep an eye out for when your child is carrying out their tasks, and comment on their progress regularly.
- Help your child plan ahead. This helps them develop organisational skills and keep on top of what they need to do. Make a list of tasks or create a chart.
- Remind yourself of the importance of teaching responsibility. Sometimes it’s helpful to stop and remind yourself why you’re giving your child responsibilities. By completing tasks on their own, they are becoming stronger and more self-confident, helping them become happy and successful individuals.