Teaching responsibility early on encourages children to form habits that establish self-confidence, overall well-being and motivation for personal growth and development.
Parents play the most important role in helping kids develop responsibility, on both a personal and interpersonal level.
Teaching responsibility from an early age helps children to form habits that establish self-confidence, overall well-being and motivation to pursue ongoing personal growth and development.
Acting responsibility also means considering the impacts of their everyday choices, actions and treatment of others.
Responsibility develops 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 fun and engaging activities you can do at home to nurture your child’s responsibility.
Create a Responsibility Chart
Before you get started, your child should understand what it means to be a responsible person.
Start by writing six responsible behaviours on a sheet of paper and ask them 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 ‘Being the best carer for my cat or dog’. Your child may come up with examples like ‘Cleaning my room when I say I will’, ‘Using less plastic to help the environment’ or ‘Playing with the dog for 20 minutes each day’.
Once they have thought of some examples, have a discussion about responsibilities with the whole family. What are each person’s responsibilities at home? You can also discuss things that benefits others outside of the home, such as using less water and energy to help the environment or buying free-range eggs instead of cage eggs.
Create a responsibility chart together, based on the things you’ve talked about, and put it up on a wall to help keep track.
Gather some paper and pens to create promise coupons for special tasks your child can do to help others. Talk about the importance of including tasks they don’t do regularly, and remind them to only make promises they are able to keep.
Help your child decorate the coupons and write down each task. Some of them could include, ‘Help dad tidy the garden’, ‘Let my sister borrow my special pens’ or ‘Bake a special cake for grandma’.
Ask your child to present their coupons to each person they intend to help. Your child should aim to fulfil each promise within a given timeframe (e.g. in the next week or month). Afterwards, talk about how each person reacted to these helpful tasks, and how these positive reactions made your child feel.
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 your family’s rubbish. Talk about why it’s important to reduce our waste in order to help the environment. Write down your plan, and give your child the responsibility of being the ‘Rubbish Robot’ over the next two weeks. It will be their job to help other household members reduce the volume of rubbish thrown away. Encourage them to talk about their plan at the family dinner table to let everyone know.
Some helpful tips include reducing food waste by packing leftovers or composting (see link below), bringing reusable bags and containers to shops and restaurants, buying items made of recycled material and buying in bulk to avoid individual packaging.
Find some great tips about turning your kitchen scraps into healthy compost for the garden here.
Positive role models play a powerful role in influencing the behaviour and attitudes of young kids. At home, you can plan a regular ‘Hero Week’ where you read or learn about a person in history, fiction or in the local community who demonstrate character traits your child admires.
Start off by choosing a hero to focus on, and talk to your child about what they have done to earn ‘hero’ status. Prepare some reading material, videos, interviews or images about your hero, and ask your child to write a short summary of what they think makes that person a true hero. Then ask them to choose one trait they can emulate for that week.
For example if they chose Jane Goodall, they might choose the trait of ‘speaking up for animals’. If they chose Malala Yousafzai, they might choose ‘speaking up for what is right’. They can make a pledge to do this during the week by choosing to stand up for someone at school against bullies or telling five people about a cause they care about.
More tips to teach and nurture responsibility:
- Be a good role model. Children pick up good behaviour from others around them. Try your best to keep the promises and commitments you make
- Allow them to solve their own problems. Let your child handle small problems on their own while letting them know you’re there to guide them
- Don’t give in too easily. If your child does not want to fulfil a chore or responsibility, encourage them to persevere, even if it becomes difficult
- Praise the good, forget the bad. Acknowledge your child’s mistakes but focus on positive reinforcements instead. 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.