MEGASKILL FOUR: RESPONSIBILITY
Check yourself. When you hear yourself saying or thinking about your children, “Why are you always late?” “Where have you been?” “Why can’t you start acting more grown up?”, you are hearing the need to help your child become more responsible.
When you hear yourself saying about your children, “I can count on you,” “You are reliable & dependable,” “When you tell me something, I can believe you,” you are hearing yourself praise your responsible child.
The broad definition I have chosen for responsibility is “doing what’s right”.
Teaching children to be responsible involves finding ways to help children feel competent, to know what’s right & to do what’s right. If children need to wake up on time, you show them how to use an alarm clock & expect them to use it. If a child lies to you, you let your child know that lying is wrong & that it works to destroy the precious trust you share.
Helping Children Do For Themselves: Children need to learn to take care of themselves–even if parents have nothing to do all day but take care of them. When children hang up their clothes or wash their feet, it does not seem like schoolwork. But this practice in self-reliance carries over.
Body Beautiful–ages 4-9
For this activity, you need a marker, a pencil, & paper. Talk with your child about personal cleanliness & why it’s important. Talk about washing face & hands, combing hair, & brushing teeth. Include any other parts of the body that children tend to get dirty. Make a list of what needs to be done to be clean. Post a simple chart like the one below.
Sun. Mon. Tue. Wed. Thu. Fri. Sat.
To provide incentive, especially at first, you may want to think of a small reward. It might be a new brand of toothpaste that your child picks out or a new toothbrush or a special brand of soap.
Check the chart daily at first, then weekly. Pretty soon you won’t need a chart. The idea is to make good grooming your child’s habit.
Picking Clothes: With your youngster, put clothes together in places where they can be found. One way is to label the outside of dresser drawers. Talk about appropriate clothes to wear in different weather. Turn this into a game. Pick a thick sweater & ask, “Do you wear this on hot or cold days?” Do the same for shorts, mittens, & so forth.
Before children go to bed at night, ask them to think about clothes to wear the next day. Let them lay out these clothes in advance. Ask your child to check to see that the clothes are clean & ready. This can save time & stress in the morning.
Washing Clothes: Pick up any detergent box. Reading it together with your child will immediately broaden your child’s vocabulary with words like “formulated” & “cycle”.
Whether you are washing an item by hand or in the machine, with your child, move through the process step by step, preferably with one or just a few items, treating spots first, if necessary. Talk about separating colors, then talk about the temperature of the water, then the soap suds, then the machine instructions, then the rinsing, then the hanging up or the machine drying. Go through all the steps with your child watching & helping. It may take time to graduate to the washing machine.
Fixing Clothes: Sewing activities not only teach responsibility but also build children’s hand-eye coordination, an essential for learning to read & write. You need needle, thread, scissors, buttons, & children’s clothes that need repairing.
With your child, pick an item that needs a button sewn on. Together select the necessary tools. Look for a needle with a large eye. Show your child how to thread it. Take time to illustrate how to do all this safely. Then show step by step how to sew on the button.
Now watch as your child replaces a button on some old clothes. Don’t expect the job to be perfect, & resist doing it over. With some colourful fabric scraps, you can help children move to making gifts & other items around the home. Placemats, book covers, & banners are easy-to-do items.
A Special Place–ages 4-9
Here’s a responsibility builder for the early school years. It calls for setting up a special home-school box to help children keep track of their belongings.
You need a cardboard box big enough to hold supplies & some clothing. Add some magazine pictures, markers, glue, & scissors, & you’re ready to make a Special Place.
Children decorate these boxes with pictures, words, artwork, & their own names in big, bold letters.
Helping Children Do For The Family: Overall, responsibility means that we can “count on” our children & they can count on us. Here are some “count on each other” activities:
Promises! Promises!–ages 4-9
When asked to do a task, children often make promises. They will not fully realise what keeping these promises involves. Their intentions are sincere. They want to please. Here’s a way to get children talking about promises & consequences.
Talk about what happens when people don’t do the things they are responsible for. Examples: Plants that don’t get watered wilt. Animals (& children) that don’t get fed whine. Garbage that isn’t taken out smells.
Discuss the effects on others when tasks are not done. Is it fair? Is it responsible? Is that why carrying out promises is so important?
Taking Care of Things–any age
Children have been known to be careless about property–their own & others. Help children be responsible for caring for what they are supposed to care for.
A pet is a good example, it needs daily care. How much is your child willing & able to do? Write down what you have both decided on, & post this list in a prominent place.
Or you may be considering a home computer. These are fragile machines that need careful operators. Make sure that children know what is expected. Read the operating manual together. Go over the steps one by one. Children need to know not only how to run the machine but how to care for it.
Don’t Worry: You Won’t Be Late–any age
This activity helps teach children the importance of showing people that they can be depended on, rain or shine.
This activity helps kids learn to wake up on time on their own. You’ll need an alarm clock, paper bag & a piece of paper for each family member.
Write “wake up” on one piece of paper & “wake me up” on the others. Put the papers into the bag. Everybody picks one piece. The person who picks the slip marked “wake up” will do the job of waking up the others the next morning.
The “wake-up” person sets the alarm clock for five minutes before the wake-up time. You’ll find out the next day if the “wake-up” person was dependable. What happens if the “wake-up” person is late? Will someone be late to work or school?
Do your children wake themselves up regularly? If not, invest in an inexpensive alarm clock. Talk about how people worry when those they are expecting are late.
What do I do? Helping children think responsibly about choices & values: Children need to know what parents think, but moreover, they need to know how to figure out where they themselves stand. Children need to see a sample. All the lectures in the World will do no good if children see that it’s just “talk”. It’s hard also when parents seem too good to be true. Have we never been tempted to do anything wrong? It can help when we tell about a temptation & how we handled it.