Here’s How to Promote Responsibility in Your Child

If you want to promote responsibility in your children, here is one important thing to keep in mind: Never do something for your child that they can do for themselves.

When you want the young person to do something and he or she does not, oftentimes stress is the result—for the adult. The youngster is aware of your emotions and (nonconsciously) derives a sense of power from it. What he or she is doing—or not doing—is seen as directing your emotions.

Let’s assume the youngster has a number of things to do and is lackadaisical about doing them. You remind the youngster, to no avail. Time passes. You give another reminder with the same result.

Rather than become increasingly stressed, have a chat. The conversation should revolve around those things the child must do. After listing them, have your child establish a procedure for each. And I mean VERY SPECIFIC procedures.

For example, if the task is homework, the procedure lists exactly what and when preparations start and how the task will be handled. Make a list that includes starting time, location, and necessary materials.

If other activities precede homework, list those too—again including specifics. If the activity before starting homework is play of some kind, list the start time for cleanup and what criteria you will use to determine when cleanup is satisfactory.

Promote Responsibility for Less Stress

Always elicit the plan from the youngster rather than you dictate the plan. This ensures ownership. Of course, the adult can offer suggestions and prompt further reflection by asking questions. If the time for a scheduled activity arrives without movement toward it, the parent simply queries, “Have you checked your list?”

If there is not satisfactory progress, then elicit the consequence from the youngster. The child may show stress by becoming emotional. Do not respond to the emotional outbreak. If you do, you are sending the message, “Get emotional and you can have your way.” Redirect your attention to something else until the outburst subsides.

Tip: Stress is oftentimes a learning opportunity that promotes responsibility. And since the youngster is the one whose behavior needs to change, he or she is the one who should have the stress—not you.