Have you ever wondered how your sweet 4-year-old will ever become a responsible adult? Do you struggle with how to raise responsible children? You’re not alone! This is one of the biggest areas of concern for parents. We want to raise responsible sons and responsible daughters who can conquer the world! (with compassion, of course)

The opposite of being responsible is being entitled, and none of us want to raise entitled children. So how do we raise children that are not entitled and thinking the world owes them something, but raise children that become loving, responsible adults?

Let’s start with answering the question, “what makes a responsible child?” I love this definition by Rutgers Character Development Lab.

“Responsibility involves making decisions, being trusted, and learning to take credit for one’s actions—whether good or bad.”

Owning Their Decisions- Good or Bad

We want our kids to become more and more confident in their own decision making. We want them to begin to see the link between good decisions and good outcomes and also bad decisions and bad outcomes. In order to do this we have to give them the room to own their decisions. 

My sister called me this morning after a rough morning with one of her boys. He left his backpack at home after being reminded to make sure it got into the car. Because he made the decision to neglect that reminder, he is at school with no backpack. Was he upset? Yes! But by letting him experience that, instead of fixing it for him, the lesson is his own! She gave him room to take responsibility for it, and he had responsibility for the outcome. 

If you let your child own their decisions, they grow. If you always own the decisions they cannot learn and they cannot become more confident in their own ability.

Let’s say your 4 year old wants to try the monkey bars for the first time. You could say no because of the potential for scraped knees, or you could say I think you might not be ready for that, but you decide. The scraped knee or the victory belongs to the child! Of course, you get to be there to get the band-aid or celebrate the victory, but the child gets to own it!

I am, of course, not suggesting putting your child in any danger, but letting go of the smaller decisions that we constantly make for them is one way we get to help our children on the road to responsibility.

The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.

Dennis Waitley

One of the key things we can do as parents change our perspective on the things we would call bad outcomes. These are opportunities for our kids to learn and grow and accept more and more responsibility! That is exciting.

 

Modeling Responsibility to Our Children

Like most things in parenting, we can’t teach what we haven’t learned. Do our children see us taking responsibility for our actions when we have wronged someone? Do they see us being responsible for our time or the things that we have been blessed with?

Children do more of what we do than what we say. They are influenced day in and day out by watching what we do and responding to situations. We have to be good models of what we are hoping for them to become. Children should see their parents changing and growing as we learn, just like we expect them to do.

Levels of Responsibility for Children

Kids are constantly learning new things — they are moving from one level of maturity to another, and their responsibilities should grow with them. One way we know our child is ready to move to a new level of responsibility is they comfortably and quickly handle their current responsibility load.

The first level of responsibility that children learn is managing themselves and controlling their impulses. For example — we teach them not to hit. They choose whether to hit or not, but they learn quickly that hitting isn’t an acceptable response and they have to control that impulse. Here is a great article on teaching your kids self-control.

Responsible Children Level Up

My oldest daughter is 9 and loves to be in the kitchen. She knows how to scramble an egg or make a salad, and she loves baking with me. Last week her grandmother had surgery, so my daughter decided she wanted to make brownies to take to her. She politely asked if I would leave the kitchen and let her do it on her own. I was happy too! She had enough confidence in repeating the skills she already had and believed she was ready for more!

Bring your children into your own household tasks as often as possible! This is a great way for them to learn new things and to spend time with you. But be patient. When you first teach your 5-year-old how to sweep, don’t expect the floor to look like you swept it. These skills take time and repetition to master, but working on them is a great way to let your children contribute to the household.

Everyone Takes Responsibility for Something

We all contribute! That is a big part of what makes a family. We are all working together for our communal health and well-being. It is not a burden for children to be expected to take responsibility for the home they get to enjoy. It is a gift. We all know how meaningful it is to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Family life is the first opportunity for that.

Each of us is also responsible for how we treat others. I have to take responsibility if I say something unkind and hurt your feelings. I yelled at my kids the other day. Normally, I do not raise my voice with my children. There are other, better ways to get their attention. But a few days ago, I had had it with the bickering, and I yelled. This obviously hurt their feelings.

So after taking a minute in my room to take a deep breath, I went to each of my children and apologized for the way my actions had hurt them. They were quick to forgive, and we moved on with the evening.

The point is that I want them to know that our actions have an effect on the people around us, and it is important to take responsibility for that. In our home, we spend a lot of time making things right with each other, and it is such great practice for adulthood for my children.

The Balancing Act — Accountability and Compassion

We do not want to coddle our children, but we also do not want to be harsh or unfeeling. This is the balancing act that each parent has to carefully walk. We want to parent with both accountabilities, teaching our children to own their mistakes and take increasing levels of responsibility for their inner and outer lives. We also want to parent with compassion; we want to come alongside them and encourage them when they face difficult challenges (not solve their problems) but let them know we are on their team.

A great question to ask yourself when your child faces a challenge is, “Am I walking them through this with accountability and compassion?” It is a great question to ask even when dealing with yourself and your own challenges! We all need both of these things to thrive!

Responsibilities According to Age

Every child is different, but here is a list of great ways for your kids to begin taking responsibility around the home!

Ages 2-4

  • Pick up their toys and put them where they belong.
  • Wipe off sinks and counters
  • Clear their own dishes from the table
  • Dusting

Ages 5-7

  • All of the above
  • Put away clean folded laundry
  • Unload Dishwasher
  • Set and clear the table
  • Make their own bed
  • Clean toilets
  • Help care for family pets
  • Help prepare meals

Ages 8-10

  • All of the above
  • Put away groceries
  • Do their own laundry start to finish
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Sweep and mop floors
  • Vacuum
  • Cook a few things independently ie. Scramble an egg

Ages 10 and above

At this point, if you have been giving your child responsibilities as they grow, they should really be able to perform most household tasks pretty well. Establish expectations early so you are on the same page as to what the finished task looks like. This is a great time to add some responsibilities that just require some muscle like mowing the lawn or shoveling snow.

Work is part of Life

We want our kids to grow up with this reality. We don’t want adulthood to slam them in the face with it. Work is a big part of normal everyday life. We get to work! This family gets to have a home to keep clean! All of us get to take responsibility for our own actions and our own lives. Speak about these things positively in your home. Let your kids hear you talk positively about your own work; even the unpleasant parts. This begins to form a thinking about work and responsibility that will serve them their whole life!

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Positive parenting tools for every parent 

Games:

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a blue book with camera in front of it

Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL, and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to feel free to share their questions and emotions, all without judgment. 

We even offer an "Exemption Time" for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences. 

Screen Time Protection and Teaching Moderation

I've recently partnered with Bark, a software to supervise, manage, and protect your child's device use on the go. Use the code WORDBIRD at checkout to get an additional 1-month free trial after your first initial 7-day trial!

Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids - FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below. 

Book List for Kids and Parents

Check out my recommended books for parenting

Journaling for Kids

When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves in a free and comfortable way. Check out our Kid's Printable Journals -- created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination. 

Chores for Kids

Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge

Implementing chores and structure in your child's daily life is a VERY helpful tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their own progress, and keep you from having to constantly remind them of their daily tasks. 

If you're looking for something a bit more simple, this is also a good option. 

Chore Chart Printable - Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer

If you're looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly "missions."

Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids

Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!

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Author

Meet Sarah - mother of four gifts, wife of a poet, lover of words. She writes about faith and family and everything that goes with it. She loves skipping the small talk and jumping right into the deep end.

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