Teaching your kids to be responsible shouldn’t give you gray hair. Read these 5 Easy Steps for Teaching Responsibility and be inspired!
It’s 8pm and the sink is full of dishes. You still need to help with some math problems, give the baby a bath, and make sure everything is packed for tomorrow’s field trip.
There’s a half-folded basket of laundry on the sofa and a pile of craft supplies left on the counter–someone’s masterpiece. You’re convinced that your house is a hopeless pigsty and maybe even that you’ve got the laziest kids on the planet.
I’ve got good news for you. Both of those things are wrong. Oh, and I’ve got a solution to the never-ending list of work around your house: it’s time for a team effort! It’s time to teach your kids some responsibility!
Why is teaching responsibility important?
Don’t panic. Teaching your kids responsibility will be the best thing you could ever do for THEM, not just for you! Why? When you teach your kids to be responsible around the house, you are also teaching them so much more!
Teaching your kids to be responsible prepares them to be adults.
And that, my friend, is what you are trying to do as a parent, right? Doesn’t it seem crazy for a parent to raise a child without teaching them the basics they will need for life, such as:
- how to take care of their own bodies
- how to prepare a healthy meal
- how to clean up the messes they make
- how to help others (like a future roommate or spouse)
And yet most parents don’t. It’s almost frowned upon to have kids do chores or help around the house. Our culture says they need to “enjoy childhood.” Plus, we put such a high premium on academics, we often do the work for them.
Your kids will move out. That expensive degree will NOT wash the dishes or cook dinner for them. They’ve got to learn to do that themselves! When you put all the emphasis on academics, you are truly harming your kids.
And yes, it’s also important to teach responsibility to your kids because you can’t do it all. Despite popular belief, moms are not superheroes. We need help, and God has given us helpers on purpose and with good reason.
How do you teach responsibility?
Probably the most common thing I hear moms say is that they struggle to get their kids to be responsible for school, chores, and, you know, just about anything.
I know you can relate because your kids are human. And humans aren’t naturally responsible. In fact, we’ve been blame-shifting since the beginning of time!
For real! Eve took the fruit and blamed someone else. Adam said, “Don’t look at me.” (Ok, not really, but that’s what he meant.) He wasn’t willing to admit that he was responsible for leading his wife, much less for eating the fruit himself.
The truth is, people aren’t responsible. We are lazy and kinda self-serving. Without Christ, we would stay that way. But the good news is we CAN have a changed heart through Christ.
And we CAN LEARN to be responsible. This goes for our kids, too. But it’s going to take some very intentional training!
Here’s the secret most people don’t realize: Teaching responsibility is a simple step-by-step process anyone can do. You don’t need a teaching degree or a special certification.
All you need is a willingness to help your kids succeed in life and the resolve to do what it takes to make that happen!
5 Easy Steps for Teaching Responsibility
Before I get to the specific steps, you might be wondering if we are talking about chores or academics here. Let me tell you a secret. It doesn’t matter what area your kids need help in, the steps are all the same!
1. Start with the right expectations
Teaching responsibility requires you to start with the RIGHT expectations. If you expect little from your kids, you’ll get little. If you expect much, you might not get all of what you expect, but you will find that your kids rise to the occasion more often than not.
Kids love a challenge from someone they know expects amazing things from them. And they will rise to the challenge if they know they can count on the support and encouragement they need to get there.
Don’t forget that kids learn more by mimicking what we are doing than by listening to what we say. You know what that means: If you want your kids to be responsible, you’ll need to model responsible behavior! (Trust me, I’m groaning along with you on that one, but we both know it’s true!)
2. Teach the process step-by-step
The next step in teaching responsibility is the actual teaching. You can’t tell your kids they are responsible for unloading the dishwasher every day without telling them exactly how you want them to do it.
If you fail to give exact instructions, your child will fail to meet your expectations every time–because they have no idea what those expectations are! One of the key ingredients of getting your kids to take responsibility for chores is a detailed step-by-step process.
Even if this seems really simple or obvious to you, it’s NOT simple or obvious to your kids. Teaching responsibility is, um, TEACHING. Haha. Seriously, we all forget how important this is because we are busy. But we can’t afford to miss this step!
For each chore, I give my kids a description of the step-by-step process I’m expecting them to complete in order to finish the job well. I print the description on a card and put it in a plastic sleeve they can write on with a wipe-off marker. You can get this FREE editable printable chore chart here.
3. Create a checklist and teach your kids to use it
I begin to EXPECT my kids to be responsible for things long before they can read. By four years old, we start this morning checklist printable perfect for teaching responsibility. Of course, I don’t expect my kids to do it alone. I’m just setting the tone for what I do expect they will learn to do on their own as they grow! I want to start creating good work ethics while they are young!
Of course, you can use checklists for chores, school, and habits you want to develop. It’s a great way to accomplish the tasks you want to get done each day and get help around the house.
I have found this to be especially true when it comes to completing schoolwork. We think our kids should just know they need to do math, science, and reading every day. But it doesn’t work that way. While they might know this, a list gives them the power they need to actually follow through with completing it. Otherwise, we will constantly hear, “Oh, I forgot to do that.”
In our homeschool, the above checklist is literally the ONLY way we get things done. I work full-time and homeschool four kids. Plus, we travel 8,000-10,000 miles every spring, speaking at homeschool conferences. We desperately need checklists to help us track what has been done and what needs to be done.
Recently I asked my kids to tell me why they like the checklist we use and how it helps them. I loved their responses.
This checklist is a part of our Student Record & Planner that helps organize your homeschooler’s academic life. It’s super easy to use and even gets rid of the need to keep daily lesson plans (cue the angelic chorus)!
4. CHECK the checklist
Ok, so a checklist is clearly the ONLY way to go, but maybe you’ve tried that and failed. If so, you’re not alone. Many parents use a checklist, but fail to actually hold their kids accountable for doing the things on the checklist.
Teaching responsibility FAILS if you don’t CHECK the checklist.
Guess what? If we fail to check, we can expect our kids to fail to do it. We ALL need accountability. As we get older, we start to understand natural consequences like losing a job or paying the $25 late fee for not getting the bill in on time.
Kids don’t have those kinds of consequences hovering over them like we do, so they don’t really understand the value. We have to help them understand this by making the effort to follow through and hold them accountable for doing the things on their checklist.
I set alarms on my phone to remember this. For chores, I have an alarm set both to remind the kids it’s chore day and to remind me to check them. For daily chores, we put them on our school checklist to make sure they are covered.
For the school checklist, I again have a daily alarm to help me remember to check. I also have the kids pile their schoolwork on the table so it forces me to get to it before we eat dinner. Learn more about our process in the IGTV below.
5. Give appropriate praise and practice
So you set the right expectation, you taught your kids specific ways to do it, you created a checklist, and you remembered to check the list. The final step in teaching responsibility is to give feedback. If your child did an awesome job, make sure they know it.
If they tried really hard, make sure they know you are proud of them.
And if they failed to accomplish the task (whether they tried or not), YOU need to help them practice. This isn’t a punishment. This is you coming alongside them and helping them understand how to get their tasks done.
If you do that several times and the child is still missing the mark, do more training! The only time I give consequences is when a child is blatantly disrespectful to me (basically, if they refuse to do something). Then a creative consequence is in order! Otherwise, help them learn. Be their encourager.
That’s it! Here are the 5 easy steps for teaching responsibility to your children again:
- Start with the right expectations.
- Teach the process step-by-step.
- Create a checklist and teach your kids to use it.
- CHECK the checklist.
- Give appropriate praise and practice.
You can totally do this! I’m praying for you and rooting for you. Try this process and then come back and let me know how it goes!
Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.