The Art of Teaching Responsibility

Parenting is no easy task and one of the questions many parents have is in regards to children doing chores around the house. My belief is that you can start very early in a child’s life, however, it helps to understand a child’s capability and developmental age when assigning tasks. For instance, it’s perfectly OK for infants who are sitting and playing with a ball to put it in the basket when done, or for a toddler to sweep up the cereal she spilt. Of course, at this age the adult works with the child and is modeling the appropriate behavior.

            According to analytic theorist Erik Erikson preschoolers struggle to resolve the emotional conflict of initiative verses guilt. Children this age are still very ego-centric, and are developing a sense of self but are also developing an understanding that they are a part of a larger society (K. Berger: The Developing Person, 3rd ed.). During this time children are full of energy and enthusiasm for purposeful work. When they are successful and/or their efforts are met with encouraging words from the adults in their lives they become more confident for the next attempt. Conversely, when they are unsuccessful and/or are criticized they struggle with feelings of guilt and are less likely to want to try again. Giving children tasks that are important and meaningful allows them the opportunity to build confidence as well as develop new skills.

            Karin Klein, Administrator of Red Hill preschool in PA says that, “Every child who carries some consistent responsibilities around the house gains from the experience. The child who has jobs to do feels fore a part of the family. He feels important, even competent, and yes, bigger. Responsibilities help a child gain independence and self-reliance by learning to do a job and taking credit for it.” In fact studies have shown that taking on responsibility as a young child will help with success in later years. French scientist, M. Joussemet published one such study in the October 2005 issue of the Journal of Personality. In this study Joussemet measured the level of responsibility and autonomy given to 5 year olds by their mothers and the results showed that the children who were given more responsibility and autonomy were better adjusted 3 years later regardless of their socio-economic status, gender, or IQ and the children whose mothers supported their autonomy performed better on reading achievement tests. Joussemet also went on to state that the study showed that praise and rewards had no associative effect on adjustment in later years.

            You can see that giving a child meaningful work has many positive rewards, but a child’s enthusiasm may wane as time goes on so it is a good idea to follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Always be encouraging…don’t criticize.
  • Work with them until they have learned the necessary skills to be successful at the chore.
  • Model positive behaviors.
  • Talk with children about the chores and allow them to give feedback.
  • Allow for natural and logical consequences: if they don’t put their toys away, they aren’t allowed to play with them the next time they want to.
  • No lectures or threats
  • Be consistent, children don’t do well when parents are indecisive
  • Remember you are the parent and the one in charge.

2 comments to The Art of Teaching Responsibility

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>