We throw that word around a lot.
Why can’t you be more responsible?
When will you learn some responsibility?
Perhaps a closer look at the meaning of the word responsible would help us get some perspective.
…answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management.
In other words, we can only expect our kids to be responsible if the thing they are being responsible for is truly within their power, control, or management. That leads us to the first step in teaching kids responsibility:
Step 1: Assign your child tasks you know he can fulfill. Now that may seem like a no-brainer to you, but if you really think about what you are asking of your child, you may have to admit that often you demand something that is too difficult for him. It’s okay to stretch him, to challenge him to do things that may seem too hard for him. But when teaching him responsibility, you must give him things that he can control. And then, when he does fulfill his responsibilities….
Step 2 : Celebrate the successes. Whether you reward him, pay him, praise him or just give him a pat on the back, make sure he feels good about being responsible. Don’t just brush it off as him doing his job and well, we all have a job to do and it shouldn’t be such a big deal when he does it. He’s a kid, for goodness sake, a kid that needs to learn about being responsible, a kid that needs to be taught good habits, and that is only going to happen through positive reinforcement.
Step 3: Let there be logical consequences for blowing it. Not punishment, consequences. Your child’s irresponsibility is a result of him being forgetful and distracted–you know, kid-like. It is not because he is intentionally defying you. When he purposely disobeys you, that is a whole different matter. But if he is just being irresponsible, then let the consequences of his irresponsibility play out. He can’t play video games until the room is clean, he can’t watch TV until the garbage is taken out or the homework is done. When logical outcomes become the “punishment”, the message gets heard loud and clear.
Step 4: Rinse and repeat. Teaching your kid responsibility is not rocket-science. In fact, the logic of it is quite simple. But it is demanding and exhausting. Assign manageable tasks to your child, praise him for fulfilling his responsibility, let logical consequences play out. Do this again and again and again and again.
And again and again. Until one day, you will look at him and be grateful for the responsible young adult he has become because you were responsible in your parenting job.