Raising Responsible Kids

I think giving your children responsibility is one of the best things you can do for them.  In fact, I featured responsibility as #4 on my list of The Top 5 Most Important Things to Do with Your Toddler/Preschooler.

See my #4 post for some of the ways we personally have given L&L responsibility, even very early on.  This is a follow-up post listing even more ways we’ve given them responsibility.

Other ways we’ve given our children responsibility include:

  • asking them to help set the table for meals 
    • We use place mats that have the plates, forks, spoons, cups, etc. outlined on them to help the kids know where to place things.
  • expecting them to put their own dirty clothes in the laundry room 
    • We’ve shown them which bin to put their clothes into.
  • giving them certain clothing they are responsible for putting away when it’s been folded 
    • Luke is responsible for putting his PJs, underwear, and socks into his drawers. 
    • Lilah is responsible for putting her panties and socks into her baskets.
  • teaching them to dress and undress themselves
    • We help as necessary, but for the most part, they can completely dress and undress themselves.
  • expecting them to hang their coats and hats on a child-size coat rack, and put their shoes into their own shoe basket
    • I found the coat rack on Craigslist.
    • The shoe baskets are rectangular, woven baskets from Michael’s (40% off!) that are stored almost un-noticeably under chairs in the downstairs.
  • expecting them to find and put on their own shoes or bring the shoes to us to help them put them on when we’re going out
  • asking them to climb in the car and put their arms into their own car seat buckles
    • Of course we fasten and tighten them!
  • helping with clean-up of toys, rooms, etc. 
    • The other day I overhead Luke say to Lilah, “Hey, let’s sort your toys into your baskets so your room will be clean. That’ll make Mom happy!”
  • allowing them to help with meal prep
    • Let them stir, sort, scoop, transfer from one container to another, spread, pour, roll, decorate, sift, measure, cut with assistance, peel, etc.
    • We love the Learning Tower for allowing the kids to help safely and easily (we lucked out and got one off of Freecycle!)
  • putting out a basket of cloths for cleaning up spills/messes
    • Whenever it’s plausible, the kids are expected to clean up their own accidents and they know how to do this without even asking.
  • teaching them to empty their plates into the trash can and put them onto the counter by the sink or into the dishwasher
  • teaching them to fold their blankets
    • This is the equivalent of making their beds for us.  L&L have bunk beds with a fitted sheet on them.  We bypass the flat sheet since bunks are so difficult to make, even for me, and just give them a blanket to wrap up with.  They are supposed to fold their blanket in the morning.
    • Without being asked, the last 2 times Luke has slept at my parents’ house, he has made his own bed (which is made the regular way) upon waking — and quite nicely I might add! 🙂

What responsibilities does your child have?  How old is he/she?

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3 comments to Raising Responsible Kids

  • I have two girls, ages 4 and 17 months.

    A lot of people look at how I parent as being irresponsible I suppose, but everything I’ve read here sounds familiar. We didn’t go to extremes to child proof our home outside of absolute necessities (like making sure outlet plugs are covered when not in use, keeping the knife block far enough back on the counter so they can’t reach it etc). For example, I’ve refused to put my potted plants anywhere else other than where they love to live, and in some cases, the plants are right within reach of my girls. I don’t worry about it. They know that the plants aren’t play things unless they’re helping me water them, prune them, or repot them. This is just one example of how we do stuff around here.

    Generally, they do everything with me to the extent that it’s appropriate. They naturally do what I do, want to do what I do, and yeah it’s caused some minor accidents once in a while, but nothing crazy (maybe I’ve gotten lucky). And like you said, I don’t have to worry when we go places that aren’t child proofed. I don’t have any of the insane mess stories that a lot of mom’s have. Everything around our house is generally calm. We have a routine that we like. Honestly, compared to a lot of my friends, we’re pretty boring!

  • Thanks for taking the time to post, Anna! What you’re doing doesn’t sound irresponsible at all to me…quite the opposite! It sounds like you are spending lots of quality time with your girls and I’m sure they are learning lots from you! 🙂

  • AH! Moms that think in a similar way! I, too, did not baby proof my home- with the exception of the gate at the bottom of the stairs (preventing my son from successfully ascending before he was prepared to descend, when I wasn’t looking). My four year old has had similar responsibilities as was discussed- but he also is responsible to unload the silverware basket. (when he began at an early age 3, I removed the knives, but now he’s had enough kitchen exposure to safely put them away). He is also responsible to feed our cat- which requires him to keep the dry food bowl full as well as daily feed the cat her portion of canned food while I am preparing dinner.

    We have found that he LOVES having his chores- and contributing. He desires to be with me in the kitchen, and asked to help on his own. He loves making scrambled eggs, french toast and other breakfast dishes. And, though we had the cat long before our son was born, our son desires to get a dog. He recognizes that caring for our cat is preparing him for a dog that he will receive in the near future. I believe that he is learning there is a sense of joy and accomplishment in doing for others.

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