Teaching Responsibility


I think it’s really important to teach out kids about responsibility.  Not only is it a characteristic that will serve them well in life but as a member of this family, each one of us has certain responsibilities that must be met for the family to function.  Obviously, me and the hubs share the majority of the responsibility but I want each member, no matter how young, to feel like an equal part.  Part of that equality is taking care of their responsibilities.


We have tried two different methods – one that seems to be working and one that never even got off the ground.

What didn’t work (for us, at least)

Six months or so ago, we instituted a Chore Chart with a corresponding reward system.  M had a few tasks to be done each day and if she earned a certain number of stickers each week she was allowed to choose a “prize” from a basket of goodies I had picked up at the dollar store.  We printed a chart for the refrigerator and got special stickers that were earned each day.

Even with the lure of a prize, it took a lot of encouraging to get M to focus on her chores each day.  Since she’s still so young, we weren’t asking her to do anything crazy.  Her chores included going to sleep without fussing, being nice to her little brother, cleaning up her toys, helping to empty the dishwasher, and brushing her teeth.  M lost all interest in this after a few weeks and to be honest, I let it go because I never really loved the idea of linking chores with earning prizes.  I think there are things that need to be done as part of a family (no prize required) and things that are considered extras or go above and beyond (worth rewarding).

What is working (knock on wood)

But recently, M has started acting as though she were unable to complete even the smallest of tasks.  Knowing full well she was capable of the things we were asking, I knew it was time to try again.  This time, I approached it from a different angle.  Instead of giving her a chore chart, we explained that she had responsibilities as part of the family and it was up to her to complete them.  I could see something clicked with her as we talked about this.  Hearing about how her responsibilities were so important to our whole family, she seemed to take it a bit more seriously.  She also realized that each one of us has our own set of responsibilities – mommy usually cooks dinner and daddy takes the garbage out.  Daddy works to provide for our family and mommy stays home with her and her brother.

M's chart the second time around
M’s chart the second time around

Like last time, we printed a chart and used stickers to mark her progress.  This time though, we listed out the activities by the time of day to be completed (morning and evening).  I think this really helped her to process when she was supposed to do each item.  We also never mentioned any type of reward and she has never asked for one.  We worked on the chart for 2 weeks until it was clear she didn’t really care about marking it off anymore.  Instead, she seems to remember what to do on her own and if not, we gently remind her.

What I learned

It’s always funny to me when I learn something myself while teaching my children.  Working with M on her responsibilities has taught me to take a step back and give her the chance to do something on her own.  In the mornings, M is responsible for getting dressed and putting her pajamas in the hamper.  Simple enough tasks that she is capable of doing completely on her own, however I found myself helping her to speed up the process.  Sometimes we are in a rush and assistance is unavoidable but I try to remember this and encourage her to start getting dressed well before I know we need to leave.

Another one was cleaning up after dinner.  As part of her responsibilities, we asked M to help us clear the table after dinner but sometimes it’s easier for me to let everyone else go play while I quickly clean up after dinner.  I’m still working on this one but am trying to remember to include her even if it takes a little longer.  Most times, she loves being included and rushes to help clear dishes and put containers back in the fridge.

Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t always want to do her jobs but she now seems to understand they are part of something bigger.  She still needs reminding but will usually respond with a “oh yeah, I forgot!” instead of “but I don’t want to!”



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