How can we teach our children to be responsible? It’s never too early for them to start learning. Focus on the Family’s Brett and Kate Ryan feel that we should not do things for our children that they can accomplish for themselves.
It’s easier said than done to instill responsibility, especially if we want things done a specific way. Our children will never match our competence or efficiency, but we should encourage them to try from an early age.
“In our household we work as a team,” says Brett. “Everyone has a part to play. We encouraged out kids to do things like keep their rooms tidy, help set the table and assist with preparing a meal. As they get older, you give them responsibilities that match their level of maturity.”
Kate says the trick is to be consistent. “That way, when our kids have their own household one day, they’ll take responsibility. Sometimes as parents we get frustrated and fill the gaps. But if we don’t do their chores for them, we’ll find a little bit of a pain for us may just motivate them to do it.”
Brett and Kate say that while our kids might not always be interested, the important thing is that they are learning skills. Our job as parents is to prepare them for adulthood, and make sure they take the appropriate amount of responsibility at the appropriate age.
“Parents often show their love by doing things for their kids,” says Brett. “But you’re actually doing them a disservice if you do everything. They need to learn how to make their lunch and put the washing away. Preparing them for adulthood means learning to do these things for themselves.”
Kate says she tried to make chores fun when her kids were little. “I’d say I’m going to hang the washing out, who’s coming out to help? When they couldn’t reach the clothesline, they just sat on the step and kept me company. But as they got older, I was teaching them how to hang clothes correctly.”
Brett says that teaching our kids shouldn’t be just hard work. Putting music on, or having a reward once chores are completed can make it a lot more fun. “It shouldn’t have to be a punishment to do a chore. It should be a privilege, because we have things in our homes that we need to maintain.”
Brett and Kate have put together a booklet called ‘Avoiding the Chore Wars,’ which can be found on their website, families.org.au The handbook guides parents through the difficulties of determining age-appropriate tasks for their children.
“It’s critical to encourage your children to help around the home,” Brett explains. “They are valuable contributors, not simply consumers.”