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Responsibility begins with personal accountability…
Learning responsibility is a life process which parents introduce to children. Children have limited awareness for responsibility and are just starting to learn skills necessary to be a responsible person. Children who are given responsibilities for tasks appropriate for their age have greater sense of family belonging. Also, thus they develop belief about significance of their contribution in life.
Learning responsibility means considering feelings of others, treating people fairly, telling the truth even when it means admitting a mistake, doing the right thing even when it is not the way you have imagined and even if it means not getting what you want. Learning responsibility also means developing self-control, appreciating yourself and your accomplishments, being pleased with your own behavior and possibilities and achieving new goals.
Children learn from experience the best, especially by imitation. Most of the time the child will miss to hear what the parent is saying but will imitate parent’s words and behavior unmistakably. By doing what we want our children to do, we make sure they have the best example possible. That is why you need to find a way in your everyday life to show them how the responsibility looks like and how to practice it. Teach your child to accept the responsibility for his or her doings, good or bad. Discuss what you think you do well and what you need to improve.
When you make a mistake, admit it and tell the child what you could have done better. Encourage him or her to take praise for good doings and accept accountability for mistakes. Show the child you trust its ability to accept responsibility. Personal responsibility means that I am responsible and accountable for what I do, feel and want.
By taking child’s responsibility and resolving its ”battles”, we are not sending messages that it is capable to make its own decisions and to have responsibility. Almost always children will do what parents expect of them. It the parents do not expect responsibility and if they do certain things instead of the child, the child will comply.
To teach the child responsibility we need to let it do things that it is capable of. Let him or her cry when sad or angry (which is a perfectly normal reaction) because that is the only way to learn to deal with sorrow or anger. Let him or her dress when competent because that is the only way to learn how to dress him- or herself. If the child says it will do something, let it. It will make mistakes, certainly. But only when it actually makes a mistake can the child learn to set it right.
What to do to help children succeed in carrying out their responsibilities:
Chores, tasks and expectations need to meet their age and stage of development. Children cannot do the tasks they are not ready for yet.
To successfully carry out a task, children need help and constant reminders. Most of the children will not be able to completely fulfill everyday chores like putting the clothes on without reminding them or supervision until ten years old.
Tasks need to be doable and bigger tasks simplified and broken into steps so child can easily understand and learn.
Children will have difficulties learning responsibility when:
- They do everyday chores out of fear of punishment or detention.
- When they are not allowed to face the consequences of their own actions.
- When they are often ‘saved’ from uncomfortable situations, even when it is not really necessary.
- Children that lose focus easily will perhaps need longer to learn to fulfill their duties.
- Children will willingly help in new and unfamiliar tasks but may lose interest in repetitive tasks.
Assigning them real chores that help the family can encourage them to do even more. It also provides them with the sense of accomplishment and competence.
Learning responsibility is a process. Be persistent!
Prepared by prof. Mihaela Čunčić, pedagogue
Velika Mlaka Primary School, February 2013
Translated by Martina Horvat
“Young Boy Holding Alarm Clock”- Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Mother Playing With Daughter” - Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net