We all want to raise responsible children. But the fact is that being responsible can be hard; in fact it’s a life skill that many grownups haven’t managed to learn yet! So how do we encourage our children to be responsible for their own actions, as well as for the impact they have on the world around them?
We can sew school name tags on their clothes, but we can’t make them remember to bring them home from school. We can remind them to pick up their litter, but we can’t make them put it in the recycling bin. The key to raising responsible children then, is education and open communication, so that each child chooses to be responsible with minimal parental reminders. Here are some top tips for getting it right:
Encourage Your Children to Think for Themselves
On busy mornings, particularly on school days, it can be tempting to tell your children what you need them to do next so that everything runs smoothly. “Have you cleaned your teeth? Is your schoolbag packed? It’s time to put your shoes on! Have you got the right coat?” Instead of telling your children what you need them to do need, encourage them to think for themselves and take responsibility for their own morning routines. Ask questions such as “What do you need to do next? Is there anything else you need to do before you leave?”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t support your children, and there are plenty of things you can do to make this easier. Adding school name tags to their uniforms and equipment will help them to find it quickly, particularly if they have siblings with similar kit. Helping them establish a routine and providing structure to their morning will also give them a model that they can learn and follow. The goal is to get them to focus on their morning list and internalise it, until they are responsible enough to completely manage it alone.
Ask Your Children to Clean Their Own Messes
From a very early age, children should be encouraged to clean up their own messes and pick up after themselves. If they spill a glass of milk, a school aged child should be able to get a cloth and wipe it up. A toddler should be able to pick up their toys and put them back in a toy box once they’ve finished playing with them. Initially you should help your child, so that they can model their behaviour on yours, and to make the act of cleaning up a fun and collaborative activity.
But if your child sees you cleaning up their messes for them, they will begin to expect you to do this for them and will stop doing it themselves. Your approach to this should be positive and light hearted, rather than accusatory or aggressive, but it is important that you continue to remind your child every time they make a mess that they don’t clean up, so that ultimately, they will do this without needing your reminders. Once this lesson is ingrained, it is one they will keep for life.
Let Your Children Help
Young children are fascinated by their parents cleaning and doing chores and often want to ‘help’. In reality, this can create more work for you, but it is important that if your children ask to help you, you let them. Toddlers are often keen to try new things and master new physical skills and letting them help you is the first step in that process. Taking responsibility for their own actions begins by learning to do certain tasks and activities and learning new skills. Letting your child help you as you take responsibility for your family home will show them how to look after and respect their own property too.
Teach Responsible Interactions
As well as being responsible for themselves, your children should also learn to be responsible in their interactions with other people. You can do this by not forcing your children to apologise to others when they hurt them or hurt their feelings: they won’t mean a forced apology and it will serve no purpose. Instead your child should understand what they have done wrong so that they want to apologise. This is easier said than done and is a process that will take time. You need to help your child to process their emotions and be conscious of the way that they interact with others, so that they can be responsible for these interactions. This is a process that will take years rather than months, but getting your children to a point where they are able to choose to apologise and choose to repair relationships is an important life skill that will stand them in good stead for future relationships and interactions.
Top Tips for Encouraging Your Children to be More Responsible
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Being responsible can be hard; in fact it’s a life skill that many grownups haven’t managed to learn yet! So how do we encourage our children to be responsible? Learn more: