Teaching Responsibility Matters!

“I forgot my homework folder at home.” “I forgot to bring my lunch today.” “I forgot a coat to wear for recess.” I might hear any number of these from my students on a typical teaching day. Children are still learning to be responsible, and it takes time and practice. Even adults struggle with remembering items and completing to-do lists! 

The truth is, children need to learn that their actions have consequences. If they forget to be responsible, they might not receive the outcome they would like. For instance, a forgotten coat might leave a child cold while playing at recess. However, these natural consequences serve as a lesson to children, reminding them in the future to take better care of their responsibilities. As adults, they will need to be responsible: keeping track of their finances, families, and careers. The sooner we can teach children responsibility, the more ingrained these skills will be to better serve them in the future. 

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Benefits of Being Responsible

When children are asked to be responsible for themselves, they feel empowered and gain a sense of independence. When adults do everything for children, we rob them of the opportunity to learn how to be self-sufficient and capable children. 

Acting responsibly affects children in many positive ways. For instance, research shows that children with a willingness to accept responsibility experience higher academic achievement and a better attitude toward schoolwork. Even more, studies show that helping at home increases intrinsic motivation (behavior that is driven by internal rewards). The three basic needs that increase intrinsic motivation include: competence, autonomy, and a relationship with others. 

Start Teaching Responsibility Early On

Research found that parents who included their 18 to 24 month old toddlers in a cooperative clean-up activity after playtime had children who were later more likely to help another adult. When we teach and expect children to be responsible early on, they carry these habits into later childhood and adulthood. 

Being Responsible at Home

Children feel motivated to help around the house, because being helpful allows them to grow social and emotional bonds with their parents. Participation in domestic activities strengthens a child’s relationship and identification with the family and the community. 

Effective Ways to Encourage Responsibility

Parents reinforce young children’s helping behavior by thanking and praising them. In fact, verbal encouragement and social approval are more successful than offering material rewards.

Another helpful tool is creating goals for your children. Setting a goal for children when completing household chores is more effective than simply telling them to do chores. Children love working towards a goal! It allows them to feel successful and proud of their accomplishments.

Remember, offering material rewards once the goal is complete is not as motivating as social approval. With your child, think of a reward for completing chores that includes a social aspect, such as a special family outing together! 

Being Responsible at School

When children are responsible for completing their homework on their own, they gain work habits (such as discipline) that benefit them in adulthood. While you might think you’re assisting your child by chipping in for that class project, you’re in fact taking away from your child’s learning and disempowering them. When adults do a task for children that they are capable of doing themselves, we are basically communicating to them, “I can do this better than you can.” Instead, let’s encourage children to try their very hardest and do their best work, even if that work is full of mistakes. Children learn from mistakes and build resilience when they make them. 

Being Responsible to Our Community and World

Children might think their only responsibilities exist at home and at school. We must teach them that we are all responsible to our communities and the world as well. In our communities, we can be helpers by donating food and supplies to local shelters, serving food at a soup kitchen, and writing letters to people at senior centers and hospitals. We can help the world by picking up litter and planting trees. When we all chip in, the world becomes a better place for ourselves and future generations!

Check Out Our Product On Responsibility!

Coming soon in January 2020, we have a RAISE product all about Responsibility! With kid-friendly, hands-on activities, your child will learn the benefits of being responsible as well as how to be responsible at home, school, and in the community! We’ll also provide charts and goal checklists for your child and family to use. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the know when new products launch!

Children’s Books on Responsibility

What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick 

But It’s Not My Fault by Julia Cook

I Just Forgot by Mercer Mayer

The Berenstain Bears and the Blame Game by Stan Berenstain 

Works Cited:

Carbonero, et al. “Program to Promote Personal and Social Responsibility in the Secondary Classroom.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 2 May 2017, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00809/full.

Power, Thomas J, et al. “Assessing Children’s Homework Performance: Development of Multi-Dimensional, Multi-Informant Rating Scales.” Journal of School Psychology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1950125/.

Waugh, Whitney, et al. “Early Socialization of Prosocial Behavior: Patterns in Parents’ Encouragement of Toddlers’ Helping in an Everyday Household Task.” Infant Behavior & Development, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417400/.