How To Teach Kids Responsibility

Helping rinse off the raspberries...and loving it!

In my recent Lake County Kids Column I explained how that because of a divorce, I had the opportunity to raise responsible kids. 

As a stay at home mom for the last couple years of my marriage, my little ones got pretty spoiled. 

Mom did it all, house cleaning, bed making, toy organizing, cooking, shuttling, grocery shopping, bathing bottoms and all my kids had to worry about was putting away toys they were done playing with and brushing their teeth. 

They had it all...and honestly, I didn't regret a thing.

But, after my divorce, I quickly realized that my Supermom cape had been shredded to smithereens and my energy had bee zapped; every day was like a nightmare of constant duties, since now I was taking care of the lawn, dump runs, etc., on top of being a mom.  

Without a partner to do some of this, a parent can get wiped out. Then there's not much energy left for the kids. So, without much hesitation, I began making the kids be more responsible for themselves and things around the house.

My youngest at the time was only a year old. The other two were four and eight, and yes, I had them all pitch in.

My April column tells more behind that whole story. But for today, I'd like to elaborate on how I encourage independence, team spirit and responsibility with my children.

My divorce might have been why I started this, over six years ago, but I am so grateful today that it happened.

Now, my children enjoy participating in making meals, setting the table, clearing it off, cleaning the bathroom, doing their laundry, dusting, vacuuming, changing their bed sheets, preparing their own lunches, washing dishes, packing their clothes for trips, purging and organizing their stuff, participating in yard sales and donations, helping each other with homework and holding themselves accountable for their actions.

That last one might not seem like it's a factor in responsibility, but it really is actually the first key.

If one does not recognize his impact on his surroundings as well as those around him, he cannot fully understand what responsibility really means.

Don't wait until something forces your children to help out or chip in. Make a decision to incorporate family chores and individual lists of responsibilities, so that your kids can learn that Mom and Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, Auntie, etc., may not always be there there to do it for them.

Here are some tips on what types of chores to give to different age groups from my house:

1 yr: - getting their own diapers, wipes, putting toys in toy box, putting shoes away, saying sorry even if it's done with an arm rub, hand shake, hug or kiss.

2 yrs. - putting sippy cup or bottle in sink, put trash in garbage; they are old enough to understand this and repetition will show them where things go. Get them to keep their shoes in closet or under bed. Show them ownership = responsibility. (They like to be like you, so show them good habits.)

3 yrs.-  getting out snacks which are safe like plastic peanut butter container, yogurt out of fridge, or their cup and bowl out of drawer (I use low cabinets and deep drawers for the little one's dishes).

4 yrs.-Helping to feed animals

5 yrs.-Wiping down cabinets

6 yrs.-Helping take out the trash

7 yrs.-Trash duty, cleaning and purging own stuff/room, keeping backpack clean/neat, homework organized. Library books in same places all the time to easily find.

8 yrs.-Helping to groom animals, folding own clothes and putting them away,

9 yrs.-helping to put lower dishes away, setting table, sweeping

10 yrs.-vacuuming, emptying dishwasher, animal care helping brush/feed/etc.

11 yrs.-Cutting out coupons, making a meal, preparing grocery list for items which are used up, which are needed for recipe.

12 yrs.-Doing own laundry (includes running machine, measuring soap), taking out the large trash outside

13 yrs.-Grocery shopping- if you have two mature siblings you trust to take a carriage around the store, split your grocery list into two halves and have them shop too. (Helps cut down shopping time while teaching.)

14 yrs.-Dishes after dinner (not every day-2-3x wk is fine), animal care, some babysitting (not too often because then it becomes like you are taking advantage, volunteering or working p/t as a babysitter or for you at home to make up for the trips they want to take out.

15 yrs.-Babysitting on a regular basis, helping with younger ones, and volunteering or working on a permit to get ready for the 'real working world'.

16 yrs.-Washing cars, lawn work, house cleaning, ironing, laundry, etc.

17 yrs.-They ought to be bringing cars to be serviced if they drive them, helping with household duties.

18 yrs.-They ought to be sharing grocery shopping, mowing lawns and keeping common areas clean. 

College or older living at home: you are not their maid, grocery shopper or servant. Though it might feel good to help them, don't do them a disservice by doing too much for them. They will need to learn how to do things on their own, for themselves, eventually.

Obviously, there are several more things in between these, which kids are able to do, just look around. You are only human. You don't have to be Super-Anything. They eat it up, mess it up, dirty it and wear it out, make them know it's part of life to pitch in.

It's best to start small; kids are never too young to learn.

Want to see more? Ages 2-18 , All Ages.

What do you have your children do at home which teaches them how to be responsible?

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