Building Responsible Children

Building responsible children means teaching them to be respectful, honest, and reliable. It includes the development of initiative and accountability for their actions. If you want them to learn these values, you must first model their behavior yourself. Assigning your children regular tasks will help them gain self-confidence, learn responsibility and will eventually develop habits to make them productive and reliable.

  • Do your best. Don’t be satisfied with a mediocre effort. When we point out mistakes, we are helping our children develop work ethic. We must acknowledge good efforts and hard work. “Catch” them being responsible and give them specific feedback about their behavior.  This will make it more likely to happen again. Communicate appreciation by saying “thank you”.
  • Responsibilities come first.Encourage task completion before you relax or do the fun stuff. This will give your child a sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done. Over time, this will be ingrained and will become its own reward.
  • “Expect” your child to be responsible. Keep your expectations clear and consistent. Give an acceptable time frame for getting it done, then let the child take it from there and believe it will get done.
  • Allow children to do it themselves. Although they periodically need help, inspire self-confidence by helping them identify and correct problems themselves. Increase the level of responsibility as they grow and mature.
  • Start young. Young kids have a strong desire to be helpful.  Even preschoolers can do things like pick up their toys, set the table, make their bed, take out the trash, etc. Encourage your child to prioritize school and to do their homework. 
  • Use natural consequences when children make mistakes.  If your child is constantly forgetting his baseball glove, let him deal with the consequences.  Maybe he has to ask to borrow one for the game, look in the lost and found or buy a new one with his own money. If you rescue children every time they make a mistake, they’ll never learn responsibility.
  • Don’t overwhelm a child with too many tasks.  Take into account the child’s ability and temperament. Creating opportunities for success and praise will motivate children to do more.  Overwhelming them can result in a sense of failure and destroy motivation. As children age and advance developmentally, so should their responsibilities.
  • Encourage older children to take on volunteer work or a part-time job.  In these settings children are required to be on time, to be pleasant despite how they may be feeling, and responsible for their duties. 
  • Teach your child that all family members are expected to pull his/her weight so they don’t feel entitled to money for any favor you ask of them. There is a difference between helping with family responsibilities and paid chores.
  • Start with a piggy bank when they are young. When children ask for something, help them determine how long it will take to save for it. Children should learn not to spend more money than they have. Don’t get into the habit of lending your children money whenever they want something and paying it back when they get more money.  This is poor training.  Encourage them to wait until they have enough of their own funds and not go into debt. This may be an opportunity to do extra chores to earn money faster.

Jodi Maspaitella is a parent coach and will come to your bay-area home providing education on ways to handle the challenges most parents face.  For more information about Jodi’s Home Education 4 Logical Parenting services call (707) 557-1423 or visit her website at