Who is the most accountable person you know?
A fifth way to expand your child’s world is to help them become responsible humans. Responsibility. Responsibility is doing your tasks, taking care of your belongings, answering to your actions, following through on your word, and showing others you are dependable. It leads to promotions in the workplace, better friendships, and far more functional family lives.
Responsibility is not easily learned. We start by teaching our child to pick up his/her toys, care for belongings, and then finish homework. Later we teach the child to tell the truth, return borrowed items on time, and apologize if necessary. At some point, your child needs to learn why these lessons are important, and start internalizing each one. In high school, teenagers should understand how to save, spend and donate money; how to treat their bodies in a way that promotes health; how to be a good friend and citizen; and how to be persistent in their goals.
Life Lesson: “Doing the right thing is hard sometimes, but you can do it.” It’s true, isn’t it? Doing what’s best is difficult. Doing the right thing requires bravery, strength of will, and knowing what’s right in the first place. It also requires a ‘get up and go’ attitude, and clear definition of tasks to be completed.
I took an ethics class in 2010. It gave clear examples of how it’s very difficult to know what is right in particular situations, especially across cultures. As humans, our values, traditions, non-verbal and verbal language, sense of fairness, age, maturity, security level, and much more, are all important factors to knowing what’s right.
Bravery and strength of will are developed through small triumphant trials repeated again and again. Catch opportunities to identify when doing the right thing may have been hard for your child, and praise him/her for it. Help him/her talk about how (s)he felt and decided to do the right thing. Do not chastise your child for making mistakes. Instead ask questions about how the child arrived at a particular conclusion and brainstorm better solutions (leading to better outcomes) together. What a fantastic communicator you will have one day if you discuss hard issues regularly!
Help your child avoid laziness by demonstrating you’re not lazy yourself. The use of appropriate rewards is a nice motivator too. Try to understand how your child is best rewarded: a gift, praise, a pat on the back, spending time together experiencing or doing [insert item], or getting a free pass to skip the task every now and again because of consistent performance. Make sure these rewards are age appropriate. For my toddler, all he usually needs to hear is ‘I’m proud of you!’, or ‘I knew you could do it, or ‘Look, you did it all by yourself!’
Finally, ensure you are giving clear instructions. We have all been in situations where we are unclear what someone else wants. Make your instruction specific and descriptive. Avoid ambiguous words. Break larger tasks into smaller steps while your child is learning the new skill. Assign achievable tasks. For example, consider the phrase: “I want you to clean up this room”. How does a child interpret that sentence? It’s better to say (to a toddler):
- “I want you to put your toys in their bins, please.” Wait for the child to do it, and then say “Thank you, good job! Now, please, put the bins on the shelves.”
- Wait for the child to do it, and then say “Thank you, good job! Please wipe off the table now”. And so on.
- At the end of the whole task, you can tell the child, “See, that’s how to clean up the room! And you did it all yourself! Great job listening!”
As your child matures, if you’re instilling a sense of responsibility, you’ll find yourself having conversations with him/her about being self-disciplined, planning, persevering, doing their best, thinking ahead of time, accountability, and role models, etc. Plant good seeds now.
How do you teach your kids responsibility in your home? Is there anything to add to this list?