I’m lucky. My mom taught me the importance of personal responsibility (by words and actions) since I was a little girl. As a divorced mom of five kids, I saw how she took responsibility for holding our family together – often working a couple of jobs at a time without complaint. As such, I try to teach this important quality to my kids by example.
As such, I’m happy to be able to share the following six recommendations to instill responsibility in children from Rick D. Niece, Ph.D., author of The Side-Yard Superhero and president of the University of the Ozarks.
1. Build Work Ethic
When I was nine-years old, I took over a newspaper route, a route I kept until I entered college. I was proud to be a miniature entrepreneur. My 72 customers waited anxiously for me to deliver their daily newspaper. My customers depended upon me, and if I let them down, I let myself down. That newspaper route helped me grow into being a responsible adult with a strong work ethic.
2. Assign Household Chores
Responsibility can begin at an early age. Assign children routine tasks to complete around the house. The following chores involve nothing unreasonable or barbaric: make the bed; tidy the bedroom; carry out the trash; empty the dishwasher; mow the yard; rake leaves; dust, sweep, and mop (not mope).
3. Encourage Saving Money
When children earn money, insist they save some of it. The savings can be for short-term purchases like video games and clothing, or toward long-term goals like summer camp and college. When children save their own money, it gives the purchase special meaning.
4. Adopt a Pet
When something depends upon us, we become responsible. Pets—from goldfish to golden retrievers, turtles to gerbils— require regular and reliable maintenance. But lessons of responsibility are not
learned if Mom or Dad becomes the one who cares for a neglected pet.
5. Foster Reflective Thinking
The power of reflective thinking dates back to Socrates. The concept is a simple one: the more we think, the better we learn. Children make good decisions and bad decisions. As adults, we can help them think about why they did what they did, and how the consequences affect them and others.
6. Model Values
We are children’s role models. We are models of honesty and truthfulness, examples of ethical behavior and integrity. We are the superheroes of ordinary life, and our heroics are as powerful and protective as our fictional counterparts. We teach that dishonesty and deception have unpleasant consequences, that unacceptable behavior is unacceptable. But we cannot be worthy examples if we do not model proper values ourselves. Be diligent. Children are watching.
(Do you have any other practical guidelines in regards to teaching your kids to be personally responsible?)