As adults, we know what responsibility is - after all, we wake up every morning with a household to take care of and bills to pay. Kids, on the other hand, get to play all day, act silly whenever they want to, and - last but certainly not least - they can nap. As their parents, we don't want to take the fun out of childhood...but we also want little kids that grow up into big kids who do their homework, help without being asked, and care about their future. So how do we help our toddlers and preschoolers turn into responsible grown ups? Here are 5 easy tips you can start today:
1. Start Young
Have you ever heard the term, "it's easier to build strong children than mend a broken adult"? Here's where we start building strong children, and you can start when they're toddlers. You can't suddenly spring responsibility on a crabby teenager and expect them to be open to it. Teach your toddler and preschooler how to get their own snacks, and you'll end up with a pre-teen who helps make dinner.
Photo courtesy ThreeIfbyBike on Flickr
2. Let Them Help You
Having a small child help you with the laundry or the dishes definitely makes it take longer, but it's worth the extra time. When kids are invited to participate in jobs around the house, they think it's fun - and they feel a major sense of accomplishment when they're done. They'll want to help with all sorts of tasks - and eventually they can take ownership of smaller tasks like setting the table.
3. Put Them in Charge of Themselves
Kids learn responsibility (and gain self-esteem!) when they know they're trusted to perform age-appropriate tasks on their own. Toddlers can get themselves dressed, set the table, and get their shoes ready in the morning. Preschoolers can do all that, plus go potty, brush their teeth, and set the table. The only problem is remembering what to do (and in what order). Set them up for success with a Routine Chart, like this cute magnetic one from Mighty and Bright:
4. Praise Them
Kids - especially little kids - love to help. And even more, they love to please you. Give them lots of positive feedback in the form of "I'm proud of you!" and "Thank you!" Make sure to praise them for specific actions, like replacing the toilet paper roll or setting out silverware at meal time.
5. Teach Common-Sense Consequences
Rather than time-outs, teach consequences that make sense to a kid. For example, institute rules that you can easily enforce (and stick to them!), which will help your child develop a sense of responsibility for his or her actions. For example, if your child wants to take out another project or toy, he or she must clean up the last project first. If they don't clean up, playtime is over. It's hard at first (oh, the tantrums!) but the more you enforce the rules, the more likely your child will clean up without being asked (or at least without whining about it too much).
No one is perfect - especially not little kids, who are just learning. But with patience and a commitment to the task, one day you'll end up with a kid who brings you breakfast in bed. Or at least, one can hope!
Featured Image courtesy Donny Ray Jones on Flickr