This week I had all sorts of things on my to-do list: Schedule an oil change for my van. Set up daughter’s online banking access. Run these errands. Text certain people. Have kids mow the grass. Order a birthday cake. Get paint off the dining room table. Do laundry.
Yes, that’s life. But it’s also being responsible. It’s a lesson I definitely want my kids to learn. I want them to take care of their hygiene, their mental health, their physical well-being, their spiritual lives, and even their belongings. While documenting real life, I want to teach them real-life responsibility.
Teaching kids about taking care of things is an important life skill that should is taught throughout the years at home before they have homes of their own, where I’m not going to make morning routine lists and chore charts or offer incentives for being responsible.
At our house, two of our kids have routine lists to go through each morning and evening. It’s certainly not a perfect process, but it helps me remind them of what they need to do every day. Included in their routines are cleaning up after themselves. I want them to care for the house we have and the things that belong to them. I want them to clean up their dirty clothes so I can wash them and then they can put them away.
Encourage kids to take some ownership. Let them put away the silverware, even if it’s messier than you’d do it. (Yes, I’m totally talking to myself here!) Give them chores they can do regularly.
Teach value of belongings & people
There are many ways to teach children about the consequences of being (or not being!) responsible. My husband and I have tried all sorts of strategies in this area – some more successful than others. Recently, my son broke his Gabb Watch. Honestly, not being able to communicate with him when he’s not with me is a little inconvenient for me, but I’m not replacing this broken item. Taking care of this smartwatch was his responsibility.
It’s okay for our kids to do without luxuries when they have all they truly need. Their toys, extra clothes, band instruments, technology devices, and sweets are all treats.
More important than things are the relationships within our household. I want my kids to value each other. The other morning one child was calling another child mean names, so the consequence was to clean two of the toilets. Our home is a safe place so sometimes people’s reactions are unfiltered, but I still want us all to strive to love one another well.
Lead by example
My oldest child, who is a sophomore in high school, recently opened a checking account. I want to teach her how to balance an account, have healthy spending habits, and understand the value of earning money before she’s living on her own. Teaching responsibility like this is important while children are still under our roofs. In our house, we talk about money in a context that hopefully helps our children understand God has been gracious to us, my husband works hard, saving is important, and belongings and experiences have a monetary value. They know about grocery shopping, eating out, and sharing what we have with others. Experiences, like being part of a soccer team, also encourage character traits, including responsibility.
My husband is an entrepreneur and his ideas have rubbed on me after 20 years of marriage. And now my oldest daughter has started her own business, Backroads & Blooms Photography. She’s been selling some flower photographs she took. I’m helping her promote it online, but she does the printing of photos and ordering frames. She keeps track of income and expenses on a spreadsheet. So many lessons on real-life responsibility right there!
My husband and I want to live these ideas out in our own lives so our children witness responsible living. We do our own chores around the house, but we’re always grateful to include them – in both the lessons and the work!
Purging items is good
When it comes to being responsible for items, another important lesson is purging is good! We can’t hold on to every piece of paper that comes home from school, shoes that don’t fit anymore, or toys that they have outgrown. Sometimes we throw things away; other times we give them away to someone who can use them. When my children were younger, I would rotate toys in and out of their closets so they would often feel like they had something new to play with on a rainy day. We wouldn’t open every new birthday toy on the same day, but wait for another day to spread out the joy.
Sometimes when children are having a hard time figuring out what to play with, try taking away some of the clutter in their room and see if that helps. It’s important that parents help their children develop their creativity by giving them space to play and explore. Plus this helps them appreciate what they already have.
How do you teach responsibility in your home?