Raising Responsible Kids

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by Dr. Caron Goode
Responsibility is an emotional trait that society appreciates as dependability, and it helps a person control the flow of events in her life. Children learn to be responsible by making choices, completing tasks, and persevering through learning the how-to’s. The grounding for an individual who can take the burden of his responsibilities maturely and with panache starts at an age as young as 4 to 5 years.
To some it may seem that responsibility comes naturally to a few. However, on a closer look you may appreciate that in certain cases, responsibility is thrust upon an individual due to circumstantial situations. There are many children who grow up in a tough environment and naturally adapt to it by being more responsible. For example, a child of a single working mother knows and understands that his mother needs to go to work everyday and develops a responsibility for household chores. The tough times help hone that responsible behavior.  
However, one cannot leave the training in responsibility to chance and assume that some events ensure that the child learn to be a responsible person. One must consciously provide coaching in these qualities at the right time.
In the earlier stages, when the child cannot conceptualize abstract concepts, make sure that you set a perfect example in front of him. Make deliberate endeavors to be organized. Put your things in place after coming back from office. A child who sees his father leave his shoes near the sofa will do exactly that when he comes back from school.
As children complete certain chores or model after you, list these achievements on a responsibility chart. The list could include chores around the house or could be the development of social skills like politeness or respectfully listening.
With your child, set short term goals that could include making their bed or going to sleep on time. Monitor them through the week. Sunday could be the designated day when all these are reviewed. How you personally acknowledge your child’s responsible behavior depends upon your value system, and to acknowledge them is important for both of you.
Instruct them about the need to take care of their own material possessions. In case you find it difficult to have your children take care of their toys, let them face the outcomes of careless behavior. Don’t replace toys that have been lost, immediately. Take some time off and let them miss their favorite baseball bat.  The void will make them be mindful of the consequences of their actions.
In summary, building responsible actions starts with modeling responsible behavior at home. Children know that they are being responsible when you notice and acknowledge their actions with appreciation. We want our children to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. 

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