Monday, April 11, 2011

Encouraging Responsibility

I don’t know a parent or nanny who doesn’t place a high priority on building responsibility in children, but encouraging skills can be a challenge. Knowing how to incorporate building skills into the daily routine and what to expect from all ages of children are important considerations. We should start by defining responsibility; responsibility can be thought of as respect for the rights of others and personal accountability for one’s actions.

Responsible children need the opportunity to practice and learn skills from adults who are patient through the process. There are several areas where adults can make an impression in the area of responsibility.

• Model appropriate behavior – setting an example of respect for self and others. Children notice what you do and if it is consistent with what you say.
• Expectations and rules should be stated clearly and positively. The reasons behind these should be explained so that the child can understand – they should also get positive feedback when they act responsibly. A genuine “thank you” or a comment about being noticed for their behavior goes a long way to encourage children.
• Children need experience – allow them to set goals, make choices and problem solve whenever possible. They can practice by taking responsibility for household chores and participating in family meetings where family decisions are made. Using charts can help younger children visualize their progress for specific expectations.
• Allow for natural and logical consequences – along with knowing the expectations children should also understand that there are consequences for not acting responsibly. When children are part of the process of setting up rules and expectations they are aware of the consequences that go along with noncompliance. Don’t be surprised when children test the limits to see if the adults will follow up – so be consistent and clear.

Knowing age appropriate expectations can help parents, nanny and children develop a “Can Do” list. A “Can Do” list is a positive spin on a chore chart that works great for the younger children. The chart can continue to be helpful to older children if they know that there is a perk to earn. Many families tie weekly allowance, special activity choices or other motivational items to their “Can Do” chore chart. Expectations need to be age appropriate and specific to the maturity of each child. Here some general guidelines:

o Can usually clean up toys with some direction or assistance
o Expect independent play for short periods of time
o Make clothing choices and dress themselves with some help
o Household chores – help set table, sort laundry, pet care, etc.

Grade School Age
o Often follows rules of group games
o Can express anger without action most of the time
o Beginning to care for personal belongings – school items, toys, etc.
o Does simple chores independently – clear table, hang up coat, etc.
o Handles personal hygiene/dressing needs with little or no help/reminders

Intermediate School Age and older
o Completes assignments independently
o Organizes personal time to fit homework, free time, etc.
o Helps with household chores on a daily basis
o Respects personal property of others

Incorporating appropriate expectations, providing opportunities to practice and earn positive feedback, and observing adults’ modeling expected behavior sets the stage for building a responsible child. Like building any skill it takes time, patience and consistency, but there’s plenty of potential to make it fun and positive.

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