We all hope to have kids who are caring and responsible. It seems like some of our kids are born with some kind of responsibility gene, while most people have to learn to be responsible. And teaching responsibility can feel like a big battle for parents. Even though these kinds of parenting jobs do feel like battles, it’s pretty important that we take on this fight. Responsible kids can take part in caring for their homes. And this takes some pressure off for us parents. When our kids are responsible, they tend to make better decisions. And now that it’s summer and they have some flexibility in their schedules, it’s a great time to teach our kids some responsibility!
We don’t have to do it all
As parents, we often feel like we have to balance all of our home responsibilities. And for a while when our kids are young, we do have all of the responsibility. But as our kids grow, we can teach them responsibility. Even the youngest children can help in some way. At first, it does take more work from us, and that’s where part of the battle comes from. We think that it’s just easier to do it ourselves. This isn’t true in the long run though.
When my oldest child was a baby, I started teaching him to clean up his stuff. After he played with his toys, I handed him a toy and carried him to his little bin of toys. He learned to drop the toy into the bin, and then we would go back to get another toy. As he became more mobile, I could do less and less for clean up until he could do all of it himself. So I had a toddler who could quickly clean up his toys. This was extra work up front as I taught him to hold onto the toy and drop it into the bin. But it served me well later. In fact, this work with my oldest duplicated itself, as my younger children learned from watching my oldest.
So let’s look for ways we can involve even our littlest children in everyday tasks. This alone is a great step toward teaching responsibility. For some fun help in inspiring our kids, check out the Signing Time Season 2 show, My Things. It teaches the signs for some children’s things and how to put them in the right place.
It’s their home too
As our kids grow older, let’s continue to help them understand that this is their home too. They live here, and so they have a share in taking care of this place that we get to live.
One way to do this is to assign chores. We’re all pretty familiar with how this works. Our problem is being consistent and being willing to fight this battle with our kids. There is no system that takes away our human tendency to want to get out of doing work. And we parents can grow weary of the yucky attitude that hits us when we ask our kids to help. There is no easy answer for this. Parents, we have to armor up and be the grown-ups. Be ready for the push-back, address it with kindness and authority, and do your best to require your kids to do their jobs. We don’t have to react with attitude ourselves (although the temptation is strong here, isn’t it?).
Be ready for push-back
While the push-back will likely never go completely away, our kids’ expectations will change. When we hold our ground and continue requiring that they fulfill their responsibilities in our homes, they learn that push-back doesn’t work. And so while there still is a bit of attitude, they will become more willing to give that up quickly. Just this morning, my teenager did several small jobs around the house, and after each one, he came and asked me what to do next. He’s learned that if he just disappears or tries to get out of it, he’ll have to come back in the middle of whatever he’s doing. So he decided to check and make sure he finished everything. Ah, responsibility. And I didn’t even have to battle this morning.
It does get easier. So let’s be strong and be willing to do the work up front to teach our kids some responsibility.
A few ways to teach our kids some responsibility
Little ones can’t reach the sink to rinse their dishes, but you could rinse dishes and hand them to your child to place into the dishwasher.
Have a child help with some part of the meal. Really little ones can just sit on the counter and watch. Young children can help with peeling, pouring, and stirring. Kids can help clear the table and wipe it off. They can sweep the floor or dry dishes. Always helping to prepare or clean up from a meal is another great way to teach our kids some responsibility.
Ask your kids to look around for one thing that needs to be done or three things that need to be put away.
Play a game to pick up everything red. Then pick up everything that is blue. Keep going through colors until they have finished cleaning up.
Play an I-Spy type of game for little ones to help them find the thing that needs to be cleaned up.
Thank your kids for their help
Teaching and requiring responsibility around our homes are important, but it’s just as important to honor our kids’ efforts and help. So let’s thank our kids for their help around our homes. Let’s help them to see how we have more time and mental energy to have fun with them because they helped. Let’s notice when they do a job without being asked. When we notice our kids’ help and express our gratitude to them, they are encouraged to keep being helpful. We all need to be honored and encouraged in our responsibilities, and our kids are no different.
So even as we’re teaching responsibility, let’s be kind and thankful in the process. We can say, “Hey, thanks for keeping me company!” to the child who just sits on the counter while we work. When our kids not only empty the dishwasher, but take a minute to put the dirty dishes into it, let’s make sure we notice and thank them for making such a responsible choice, for helping our family like that. Don’t forget to appreciate their effort and growth, and to let them know it.