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My best friend’s daughter makes her bed everyday without being asked. My neighbor’s son has been putting his dishes in the dishwasher since he was 2 years old. My child? Not so much. I’d like to map out some expectations so my child can start showing some responsibility. How can I do that?

One of the things I love about your question is that you would like your child to “start” showing responsibility. That’s right. It will be a start. Creating responsible habits doesn’t happen instantaneously. They must be practiced and expected over time so that they become second nature.

So here are some ways to help your child learn and show responsibility:

(1) Start now: Don’t wait until your child is older! When we start to teach our children responsibility when they are young, it becomes part of their natural routine. If you wait until your child is a teenager, you will encounter a great deal more resistance and the stakes will be much higher!

(2) Praise them for responsible actions: When they make the effort, make sure you are specific with your praise and gratitude. For example, say; “Thank you for clearing your dishes off the table. It makes cleaning up much easier for me and shows that you are growing into a responsible person. I’m proud of your choices.”

(3) Allow them to be your assistant: It may be messier and take longer, but when you are cooking, cleaning or doing another job around your home, let your children help you! They want to help and love feeling “big.” So allow them to wipe off the table, help you prepare dinner or sort the laundry. These chores will teach your children responsibility but it will also be nice time spent with your children.

(4) Provide routine: Do first things first. When your child knows that every morning he must get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush his teeth and pack his bag before he is able to watch TV, read a book or play a game, he will start to learn responsibility. While the “fun stuff” is not a reward for showing responsibility, it is something that can happen once the “jobs” are completed.

(5) Teach cause and effect: When our children put their stuff away, they can find it when they need it. When they finish their homework, they get to play outside. In the same way, when they forget to pack their equipment for class, they can’t participate. They need to learn that responsible actions mean desired effects!

Here’s to your success!

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