The Experiential School of Tampa Bay addresses one of Shorecrest’s five Core Values and how it relates to young students.
Responsibility is taking care of people and things, and doing what is right and needed. Being truly responsible is more than just completing a task correctly, it’s about the attitude when taking action and the feeling of satisfaction when doing it well.
The first step in teaching children to be responsible is in modeling it ourselves. They need to see us fulfilling our responsibilities and doing so in a positive manner. To teach them this desirable trait, we need to find balance in the appropriate amount of reminders and assistance to help them learn and feel the satisfaction of being responsible and the confidence of capability. Taking care of their own things and helping within their family and/or school community and environment should be expectations for which children should be held accountable and and recognized. Recognition for fulfilling responsibilities, however means acknowledgment and praise for efforts made, rather than rewards, lest rewards become the sole reason for efforts.
Holding children accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities is not always easy, but it accomplishes several goals.
- When they fulfill responsibilities, children feel capable and accomplished.
- When they shirk responsibilities and are given logical consequences, they learn cause and effect. Consequences differ from punishment as they have a logical relationship to what happened; e.g., if you don’t finish cleaning your room quickly, there isn’t time left to play outside.
It is a fact that it is often easier to do things for children than to get them to do it themselves. We can clean their rooms or get them dressed in a fraction of the time and with much less stress. However, doing things for them that they were expected to do and are capable of doing for themselves teaches children that they do NOT have to be responsible. It does not allow them to master skills, and it does not allow them to feel the satisfaction of a job well done and develop a sense of value, capability and accomplishment. Therefore, give your children responsibilities and hold them accountable for completing the jobs.
Dressing themselves, helping to set the table by putting out the silverware, feeding a pet, cleaning up their toys, clearing their plate or putting clothes or towels in the laundry room hamper are reasonable expectations. If they have not had any of these responsibilities before, it will take your children time to get used to new expectations. Start with one or two jobs, give honest praise for their attempts and their successes, and use consistent, logical consequences for not making an effort.
Don’t give in, give up or lose patience; keep your expectations constant and remember that by doing so you are giving your child a lifelong gift.