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Helping Children Learn Responsibility

Updated May 13, 2019
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Audrey Rider

SDSU Extension Early Childhood Field Specialist

Teaching children responsibility should start at a young age but is something that you have to keep working on throughout childhood. I am working with my 10-and-5-year-old girls to become more responsible for their school work and daily tasks throughout the day so I don’t need to be a broken record each day.

Here is How to Encourage Responsibility:

Notice and Narrate.

Draw attention to strategies that work and point out the positive things happening.

  • “You and your sister made up some great rules for the day.”
  • “Moving your Legos to the table instead of the floor will help you keep track of them.”

Ask instead of tell.

Support their independent actions instead of insisting.

  • Ask: “Where is a safe place to put your juice cup?” Instead of “Put your cup on the counter.”
  • Ask: “Why should we move the shoes by the door?” Instead of “Someone could trip on those shoes. Please move them.”

Put children in charge.

Ask them questions to help them solve problem and think of useful options.

  • “We need to find a better place to put our shoes afterschool so mom doesn’t trip on them.”
  • “We need to come up with a better plan in the morning to get ready for school so we aren’t late.”

Celebrate success.

Let them know you appreciate when they are being responsible and let them take pride in their contributions.

  • “YAY! Mom can walk into the kitchen without tripping and the shoes are picked up.”
  • “Thanks for keeping the garbage picked up afterschool. That helps mom not have so much to do.”

Remember that children need to notice what needs to be done and have an explanation of why it is important in order for them to take responsibility and pride in helping out.