The shield of armor that many parents place around their children in order to safeguard them from the ugliness of real life often have kids today lacking responsibilities. Even children at a very young age can benefit from having responsibilities of their own and from realizing that consequences exist if they decide to shuck them. The question most parents have is at what age a child should be given responsibilities and what sort of things should they be held accountable for. The answer always depends on the individual child, their level of maturity and the structure of your family. Yet – as soon as your child can put their plate in the sink after dinner, or pick up their toys – they should be introduced to the world of having responsibilities.
Responsibilities allow children to build character. Most importantly however is the fact that a child who is given responsibilities develops self-confidence and learns that they are capable individuals at a young age. This can blossom into high self-esteem and the ability to make good decisions in their young lives. Giving children responsibilities is a tool of empowerment and it lets your children know that you trust them. This trust helps them learn to trust themselves. As they become teenagers, it is obvious how these traits are important and can be life altering. Unfortunately, many parents wait too long to give their child responsibilities and commence in a life where they start, finish and end every sentence of their child’s life should the need arise. What kind of teenager will this make?
As soon as your child is able to toddle around, they can be given responsibilities. One of the easiest ways to start is by getting young children to clean up after themselves. Have them pick up their laundry and throw it in the hamper, their toys after they have been playing. When they take their shoes off – tell them to put them in a safe place where they will find them later and trust where they decide to put them. Give them certain responsibilities after dinner, perhaps helping dad put things away and allow them to help you put groceries away and do other errands around the home and yard. Obviously, they will not do these chores up to YOUR standards and you will often have to redo them. If you do, don’t let them see you do it. Instead, withhold your type-a personality long enough that you redo it at bedtime. Otherwise, your child will pick up on the notion that they don’t do things properly.
When you give your child responsibilities, you don’t have to necessarily reward them. Being quick to reward them will cause them to think that in order to take care of something they deserve to get something in return. Instead, use a sticker chart and praise to show that you are proud of how well your child handles their tasks. If its time to leave and they have misplaced their shoes (after they put them away), try to be patient and explain to them why it is THEIR responsibility to put away their shoes. Withhold the sticker but don’t act demeaning to your child and chances are next time they will remember exactly where to put their shoes for easy access later.
Past toddler hood and through the elementary years it is critical to your child to give them responsibilities. First of all, you can’t keep up with every aspect of their life. Second of all, as they enter the real world of teachers and other children, others will not cater to your child the way that you do. Do you want your kid to be one of those who can’t help themselves? Are you raising your kid to drive other adults and teachers crazy? Is your child under the belief system that the world revolves around them? Children as young as 5 can help with laundry, dishes, vacuuming, dusting, keeping rooms clean, washing the car AND should be able to remember and organize their school responsibilities as well. Obviously, you will have to put a system in place that makes it easier for them and teach them how to stay organized – BUT – you should let them have some ownership over their tasks. In other words, BACK OFF MOM…and let your child do it. Even if you know that something is NOT going to work, allow your child to make the mistakes and empower them to be partly responsible for the ‘clean-up.’
Lots of parents whine that their children are just too busy. They claim that they have hours worth of homework and extra activities and are just too busy to handle things. So mom does it for them. Big mistake. If your child has so much going on in their life that they can’t feed their own fish, or clean up their own room – then they need to slow down. Life is about balancing responsibilities and recreation and the younger children learn this, the more successful they will be. Plus, a family isn’t about parents instructing and dictating everything that goes on. It isn’t about doing everything for the people in your home. Instead, it is about working together. If each person under your roof takes care of their own responsibilities and respects what they should and need to do – the family unit will work better. This will give you more time to enjoy together, rather than feeling overwhelmed by doing everything for your kids. Plus, your kids will be rewarded with a real picture of what life is about and what is necessary to ‘take care of business’ so to speak. The older they get, the better off they will be. Giving children responsibilities that are tailored to their abilities and age – and expecting them to be handled properly, is one of the best things that a parent can do for their child and for their family.