The Responsible School-Ager
Brandy Southard (Guest Blogger) @ Kids Matter
I have officially entered into the, “mother of a school-ager” phase of my life! I never saw myself as such, yet, here I am. I often think, “How in the world am I going to survive this?” After a few deep breaths, I realize that I am totally equipped to do this job. I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education for almost 20 years. Recently, my husband and I needed to make a change in how our daughter would contribute to the household. She needed to have more responsibilities around the house, but also needed reinforcements for them. We came up with a chore chart and reward system that fit our family needs. It has become quite successful! She now has a clear expectation of what her responsibilities are and what the rewards will be if she completes the tasks. This has helped teach her lessons about being accountable for her decisions. She can choose not to complete a task on a certain day, but she also knows that by choosing that, she is also choosing the consequence that goes along with it. In the beginning, this was a painful process for everyone in the household; as she became more responsible, it became much easier. Truthfully, we are all happier now with the clear expectations that have been set! She has even come so far as to help with things not on her chore chart, because she likes to contribute to the family!
I imagine many parents and child care providers have the same overwhelming feeling when it comes to helping their children become more responsible. It is important to say that children need responsibility! Responsibility is a trait all individuals need, to be successful in life. By giving children responsibilities, it shows them they can be trusted to make their own decisions as well as to answer for their own behavior. Assigning responsibilities for your child must be individualized based on where they are developmentally. You want to set them up for success by defining responsibilities that they are able to accomplish. If you find that they are becoming frustrated with a task, take a look at how you can simplify it for them. For example, asking them to keep their bedroom clean may be too broad and become overwhelming for them. Break it down into smaller tasks for them. Keep books stored on bookshelf, toys go in the toy box, dirty clothes belong in the hamper, bed must be made, etc. This can seem much more achievable for them and the end result is: their bedroom will be clean. As you see them handling the tasks with more ease, you can add a little more to them. This will help them continue to develop into more responsible children. It will do wonders with their self-esteem and self-worth. They will feel like an important member of the family.
We all know that you catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. The same goes for children! Be sure to give them specific praise on chores they have accomplished verses giving them negative feedback for what they didn’t do. By saying, “I really appreciate how you fed the dog his dinner every night this week,” you will encourage them to continue to uphold their responsibilities. If you have clear guidelines about what happens if they choose not to complete a task, then they will already know the outcome for the choices they make.
Another wonderful benefit to having a responsible school-ager is that they will be more successful in school! They become more organized and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. This helps push them to want to learn and achieve more from school. As I stated earlier, it helps them become successful later in life and want to contribute positively to society.
Another important way to teach children responsibility is to model responsible behavior for them. Sounds super easy, but it can go such a long way! If children see that the dishes and laundry are piling up, the lawn has become a jungle, and stacks of papers are everywhere; they see this as acceptable and have no motivation to keep up with their own responsibilities. It is good to talk with them about a few of your responsibilities and what the consequences might be if you don’t follow through with them. They need to see that there are even consequences for actions, even as an adult.
For more information and ideas on helping your school ager with responsibilities, visit the following websites:
Duke TIP Responsibility: Raising Children You Can Depend On
Brandy Southard is a STAR Quality Coordinator, in the Quality Enhancement Initiative in Kentucky.