As parents, we desire that our children will grow into capable adults. When our children leave home and go out into the world, we hope that we have given them the tools they need to function as responsible adults, and we hope that they have confidence in their ability to make good decisions without us. Giving our children age-appropriate responsibilities, that increase as he or she grows and matures, is a major way that parents prepare children for adulthood, as well as help children to believe in their ability to take on responsibilities. However, we don’t want our children to grow up too fast by taking on too many duties at the wrong time. So, how do we find the balance? There are many indicators we can use to let us know whether we are giving our children enough responsibility.
How does your child react to responsibility?
Does she cringe or accept it with a willingness to help? A child who resists responsibility may be overwhelmed with what you are already giving them, or simply not wanting more. This is an area where knowing your child comes into play. A child who readily accepts more responsibility when given it is generally being given the right amount. If your child is particularly resistant to all responsibilities, that needs to be addressed, but that is a topic for another blog post.
Is your child bored?
This can be an indicator that your child doesn’t have enough responsibility. Children, unless special circumstances are preventing it, enjoy and even seek a good challenge. They take pride in their accomplishments and look for more ways to replicate that feeling. If a child is not being challenged enough, they may get bored and act out. Often, a child labelled with bad behavior is just seeking fulfillment.
What are other parents doing?
Check in with a parent that you trust, and whose parenting style you respect. Compare notes and determine if your child is being given approximately the same amount of responsibility as the trusted parent’s child. Every family situation is different, so don’t use this input as your only method. However, you can get a general idea of what is and isn’t appropriate for a child the same age as yours.
Does your son or daughter ask to help out more?
Has your child asked for more chores, or been seeking accountability from you in some area? A child who feels an innate need for more responsibility may ask for it, which can be displayed by wanting more chores, or checking in with you even when you didn’t ask her to. Trust your child’s natural intuition and work with her to find a better balance.
Do responsibilities match privileges?
As your child grows and becomes more responsible, her privileges should expand to reflect that as well. And likewise, as your child grows old enough to receive more privileges, you will know that you can hold her accountable with more responsibility. As long as these two match, it’s a good indicator that you are on the right track.
There is not always an easy path to helping our children learn about responsibility. All children are different, and one approach does not fit all. However, we can use this list to give ourselves a general idea of whether or not we are giving our children enough responsibility, and setting them up for success in their future.
Be sure to catch next week’s blog where I’ll discuss a few simple ways you can introduce age-appropriate responsibilities to your children.