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Responsibility and Kids

Children are not born with a natural inclination to be responsible. It doesn’t suddenly appear at age 12 or in the first year of high school or when a teen gets a driver’s license. Children learn responsibility by being taught it, by practicing it, and by observing it in their parents. When we fail to teach responsibility, we are, in reality, teaching children to be irresponsible.

Already at two years of age, a child can be taught to put toys away, put dirty clothes in the basket, carry plates and cups to the sink after a meal. At this early age, children do not make a distinction between work and play. They are eager to do the same things that grown-ups do. But they don’t have the necessary skills, so a parent will have to do the activity with the child instead of just telling him or her what to do.

As children grow older, they can be taught to answer the phone properly, wash and put away dishes, clean up after pets, fold and put away clean clothes, and a lot of other common, everyday tasks. Children need to have jobs that are a part of their daily routine to learn the importance of routine and consistency. They need to learn that everyone in the family does a share of the work. Paying a child for routine jobs emphasizes materi­alism and does not provide an opportunity to learn the concept of serving. In giving children opportunities to do tasks around the house, the goal is not perfection or speed; the goal is learning responsibility. When a parent is more concerned about getting the job done right or getting it done quicker than about teaching responsibil­ity, it’s unfortunate. As children learn to be responsible, they also develop self-confidence because they are experiencing success.

Children also learn about responsibility as they observe how their parents handle responsibility. They begin to understand a proper balance between work and free time. A workaholic parent, by example, teaches an inappropriate lesson about responsibility. A parent who frequently complains about his or her job will send a negative message to a child about work. Conversely, parents who share the joys of their work with their children communicate a positive work ethic.

A child who learns responsibility benefits from a pos­itive self-image, but more important, the child and the parents share in developing their God-given gifts. After all, the ultimate reason for learning to become a responsible person is to give glory to God.

12N2026_patientparentingFrom Patient Parenting © 2006 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.