As a parent, one of the essential skills we hope to teach our children is how to be responsible. Understanding the value of accountability and actively making responsible choices can help them reach their full potential when they’re older.
That sounds fantastic, but how do you help your children learn to be responsible?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to teaching responsibility, there are a few strategies you can use to help them learn as they grow and mature. Here, we provide a child-friendly definition of responsibility you can share with your kids and five ways to teach them to be responsible.
What is Responsibility?
The concept of responsibility can be challenging for kids to comprehend. To make it easier, we’ve narrowed it down and created a quick and easy checklist to help kids understand what it means to be responsible.
In its simplest form, a responsibility definition for gradeschool kids goes like this:1
- Being trustworthy
- Making thoughtful decisions
- Taking ownership of your actions and promises
If you teach the basics of responsibility to your children, hopefully, they’ll be able to check off all three boxes as they grow. Having all of those qualities can help set them up for personal, academic, and financial success in the future.
When it comes to preschoolers, responsibility may take a different form. Since preschool children are still in the early stages of learning and adapting to their surroundings, responsibility can be as simple as teaching your child to clean up their toys after playtime.
Teaching Responsibility to Kids
When you’re teaching responsibility, think of you, and your child as a team of turtles rather than a couple of hares—slow and steady wins the race. It’s not done all at once but rather over a period of time.
Try to begin when your children are young, taking baby steps to teach them the importance of personal responsibility. You can do this in a few different ways, including:
Modeling responsible behavior
Remember the expression “monkey see, monkey do”? It applies perfectly here. In order to learn how to become a responsible child, it can help to act like a responsible adult around them.
Your children learn so many of their own behaviors based on how they see you interact with the world. Exude the responsible qualities you want them to learn by setting an example.
For instance, if you don’t want them to litter, always remember to throw your trash away and explain why it’s important to do so. Elaborate on the why behind the what. Explain why throwing your trash away is not only important for the environment but also a responsible choice for yourself and others.
Allowing them to demonstrate their understanding
Learning responsibility doesn't have to stop at acting as a good influence around them. While modeling responsible behaviors can set the groundwork for your little one, it’s essential to allow them to show you they can also be responsible. We know it’s scary giving them responsibility at a young age, but they can’t truly learn how to be accountable unless you let them get their feet wet.
Rather than throwing their trash away for them, let them throw it away on their own. Be sure they know why it’s the responsible choice. Before you know it, your child may clean up after themselves without you asking.
5 Ways To Teach Kids Responsibility
If you feel like now’s the time, go ahead and rip off that bandaid. Let them dip their toes in the waters of responsibility. Show them the water’s warm and inviting.
Don’t just drop them into the deep end, though—they are kids, after all. You can help ease them into completing responsible tasks by choosing one of the activities below and following these guidelines:
- Give them simple instructions to set them up for success.
- Be available to help when they need it.
- Check in regularly to monitor their progress.
Here are five activities that’ll help teach your children the importance of personal responsibility (be sure to choose one that’s age appropriate for your little ones):
#1 Let Them Care for a Pet (If You Have One)
If you’ve got a furry friend at home, this is the perfect opportunity to let your little one become their primary caretaker. Take them through the basics:
Show your child how much and how often to feed them.
Once they’ve mastered the feeding schedule, add on other pet-related responsibilities like walking or cleaning a fish bowl.
- If your child shows a real aptitude for pet care, introduce them to the fine art of training.
If you live in a pet-free home, you can always opt to buy them a pet fish. They can feed them and make sure the water stays clean.1
#2 Teach Them The Value of a Dollar
Money can seem like a mystery to kids who haven’t yet had to buy and pay for things themselves. You can help them to learn the value of money by including them in a few small errands or tasks each week where money is involved. For example, when you’re at the grocery store, tell your kids you want to spend a certain amount of money on an item—such as veggies or cereal—and ask them to help you find the one you’ll buy. Doing so can help them to grasp the idea of a budget, even if they’re not ready to build their own just yet.
#3 Plan and Follow a Schedule
These days, children have jam-packed schedules. From soccer practice three times a week to tests in multiple subjects in one day, it’s a lot to remember. You can teach them organizational and time management skills by writing and following their weekly schedule. Consider making a visual schedule for your child and help them fill out their to-do list each week, having them check off activities each day as they’re completed.2 Following a schedule is also a great way to help establish a morning routine for kids––but it’s also easier said than done. Keep in mind that it’s okay to take small steps in creating a routine. Don’t forget to take a deep breath to help clear your mind and focus on you and your family’s top priorities for the day ahead.
#4 Instill a No-Blame Policy at Home
Part of being responsible means being accountable for your actions and accepting the consequences. What better way to teach this than to lead by example? Next time something doesn’t go your way, try these steps:
- Take a breath.
- Decide how much of the situation you’re at fault for.
- Verbally own your part in it.
- Articulate the actionable steps you’ll take to resolve it.
This will let your kids know you can come up with more responsible solutions if you’re not blaming others.
#5 Give Them Age-Appropriate Chores
Household chores for kids are an excellent way to teach the value of responsibility. From toddlers to high schoolers, there’s an age-appropriate chore for everyone, like putting away toys or setting the table. Giving your kids chores shows them you’re entrusting them with something important, which can make them feel valued and boost their self-esteem.
Make the Responsible Choice—Teach Your Children Responsibility With Slumberkins
Learning how to be responsible takes time and practice. That’s why it’s essential to model the fundamentals of responsibility when they’re little. This way, when you’re ready to give them their own responsibilities, they’ve got a solid foundation to set them up for success.
There’s always an opportunity to teach kids responsibility. Whether you’re discussing responsible behavior or engaging in other important conversations with your younger kid or older child, Slumberkins is here to support you. With fuzzy friends (like our unicorn plush and bigfoot plush) and helpful books for every occasion, we’ve got the tools to help your children understand important topics—from self-esteem and conflict resolution to self-expression and building connections.
Check out our collections and and watch our Slumberkins show on Apple TV+ to open up a whole new magical world of communication for you and your little one.
- Farnsworth Finn, Jamie. "Developing responsibility in kids: Here's what to know." Today. 1 February, 2020. https://www.today.com/parenting-guides/developing-responsibility-kids-ages-8-11-t179128
- "15 Tips to Raise a Responsible Child." Aha! Parenting. https://www.ahaparenting.com/read/responsibility