Teaching your kids to be responsible shouldn’t give you gray hair. Read these 5 Easy Steps for Teaching Responsibility and be inspired!
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 your kids, too. But it’s going to take some very intentional training!
5 Easy Steps for Teaching Responsibility
Let me tell you a secret. Most parents search the internet for help with chores or getting their kids to do schoolwork. But few realize that it doesn’t even matter what area your kids need help in, the steps are all the same!
Teaching responsibility requires the right expectations
Before we can get to the practical part, we need to talk about attitude. You see, attitude is king when you are a parent. 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.
Be the parent who EXPECTS much, but supports and encourages along the way.
Oh, and one more thing. 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, too! (Trust me, I’m groaning along with you on that one, but we both know it’s true!)
For example, 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!
Teaching responsibility requires teaching
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 contained in a plastic sleeve they can write on with a wipe-off marker. You can get this FREE editable printable chore chart here.
Teach responsibility with a checklist
You probably knew I was going to bring this up, didn’t you?! If we want to teach our kids to be responsible, we need to give them a LIST of the things they are responsible for. Even if you hate lists, they are still the most effective way to make sure you accomplish something.
Of course, we use checklists for chores, school, and habits we want to develop. It’s a great way to accomplish the tasks you want to get done each day.
I have found this to be especially true when it comes to completing schoolwork. We think our kids should just know that they need to do math, science, and reading every day. But it doesn’t work that way. While they do actually know this, a list gives them the power they need to actually follow through with completing it. Otherwise, you 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 liked the checklist we use and how it helped them. I loved their responses.
Teaching responsibility FAILS if you don’t 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.
Guess what? If we fail to check, we can expect our kids to fail to do it. We ALL need accountability. As you get older, you start to understand natural consequences like losing your 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.
The success of teaching kids responsibility depends on your praise or 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:
- Have the right expectations.
- Teach the process step-by-step.
- Use a checklist.
- 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.