Teaching responsibility to students inside and outside the classroom is one of the most important things teachers and caregivers can do for kids.
We’ve all known adults who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. They arrive late to meetings or gatherings. They have trouble with money and relationships. They don’t fulfill their commitments. They just don’t seem to have it together.
Worst of all, they may get defensive or angry when confronted about their behavior. Unfortunately, these folks probably didn’t learn the importance of responsibility when they were young.
Teaching kids responsibility is a gift they will carry throughout their lives.
It starts with chores at home. Research shows that kids who participate in household chores from a young age have better student success and success in careers and personal relationships.
A well-known longitudinal study found that the best predictor of young adults’ success in their mid-20s was whether they started participating in household tasks at age 3 or 4. By contrast, kids who didn’t start participating in household chores until they were teens were less successful as adults.
Kids want to be involved. They want to feel like they’re contributing, and they want to feel connected to what’s going on around them. Age-appropriate responsibilities help them grow.
Still, there’s bound to be some protesting. If you find kids complaining about tasks they don’t want to do or don’t enjoy doing, try asking them “Who will care?” if they don’t do it. For example:
Who will care if you don’t take out the trash?
Who will care if you don’t do your homework?
Who will care if you don’t clean up after yourself at home?
Who will care if you leave your bike in the driveway?
Who will care if you don’t take the dog for a walk?
This exercise helps kids see beyond themselves and think about the consequences of their inaction.
Keep in mind that the type of task matters. Holding kids accountable for cleaning their room and studying diligently cultivates self-sufficiency. Asking kids to prep food for family meals, wash dishes, or vacuum cultivates empathy. It’s important to balance responsibilities between those that benefit self and those that benefit others.
Benefits of Teaching Kids Responsibility
Here are some of the benefits of teaching children to be responsible:
They learn how to “adult.”
Goal setting and accomplishing tasks on a deadline prepares students for the demands of college, career, and life in general.
They learn how to fix problems.
Kids need to learn how to resolve issues and solve problems on their own. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer guidance and support or step in when necessary. But encouraging kids to problem solve is crucial for their development. Parents who constantly step in to solve a child’s problems (sometimes called “helicopter parents”) do their children a disservice. These kids are more likely to burn out and have a harder time transitioning to life on their own.
They learn how to handle criticism.
Offering feedback and constructive criticism (within limits) can help kids develop resilience to the inevitable criticisms they will face as adults.
They learn how to care for themselves.
A popular proverb says “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This principle is relevant when it comes to kids. When you teach kids and teens to cook, clean, manage finances, and handle everyday tasks, you’re setting them on course to become confident, responsible adults.
Guide Students with the Right Tools
Teaching kids responsibility from a young age will help them grow into confident, capable adults. Responsibility is one of the core principles of the Honorable Character Classroom and Home Systems. Learn more about this highly effective ready-made tool to promote prosocial behavior in students.