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Five Keys to Raising Responsible Children

Posted 7/22/2016 by UHBlog

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Five Keys to Raising Responsible Children

Teaching your child how to be responsible is one of the most important tasks of a parent. But “responsibility” is not simply a code word for chore.

“Responsibility has to do with being reliable and being someone who can be trusted,” says clinical psychologist Carolyn Ievers-Landis, PhD.

And while being a responsible human does mean you have to take out the trash, it also means understanding that one’s actions – or inactions – have effects.

“Part of being responsible is believing that it matters,” says Dr. Ievers-Landis. “Sometimes being responsible isn’t fun or it isn’t what’s the best for yourself. When you teach your child about responsibility, what you are really doing is setting the groundwork for their moral development.”

According to Dr. Ievers-Landis, responsibility is something that you can begin teaching to children as young as 2 years of age. To help in the process, she offers five tips to help your child become more responsible.

  1. Make it easy to be honest. Everyone makes mistakes. Accepting responsibility for those mistakes is the hard – and life-changing – part. Your child will be much more likely to own up to mistakes if you give compliments for honesty and bravery in coming forward instead of yelling about slip-ups or failures.
    “If children don’t feel supported, they are more likely to lie or try and cover their tracks, which is the opposite behavior you are trying to instill,” Dr. levers-Landis says.
  2. Manage your expectations. A lot of chores that adults think nothing about – loading a dishwasher or making a bed, for example – require higher-level thinking that takes time to acquire, she says. If you ask your 6-year-old to make his bed, there’s a good chance it won’t have perfect hospital corners. Praise your child for his initiative, then show him how to smooth out the sheets later.
  3. Work on chores together. Kids are more likely to learn the importance of pitching in if they see the whole family participating.
    “If your family is able to work on chores together, it makes the tasks more fun and (they) seem less overwhelming,” she says. It also helps break down stereotypes about gender roles and responsibilities.
  4. Let your children face the natural consequences for their actions. Everyone likes being the hero, but when your child forgets to put his dirty clothes in the laundry and then doesn’t have his favorite shirt to wear, it’s best not to swoop in to rescue him, says Dr. levers-Landis.
    “If it’s an infrequent occurrence, then I would think you would help your child out," she says. "But if it’s something that’s happening more and more often, I wouldn’t rush in to save your child.”
    Instead, she recommends sitting down with your child and trying to figure out what is causing this reoccurring issue. But in order to be motivated to change a behavior, your child may first need to feel the impact of their actions.
  5. Don’t nag. Children hate nagging almost as much as you hate doing it – and it almost never results in a positive change, Dr. levers-Landis says.
    “If you feel like your child is forgetting to do something or just not following the rules and you don’t know why, instead of nagging, ask him, ‘What can we do instead so you won’t keep forgetting?'” says Dr. levers-Landis.
    The answer might be a note, text message or verbal reminder. By talking through the issue, you will also help your child learn important self-assessment tools – a key part of becoming a responsible adult, she says.

Carolyn Ievers-Landis, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Ievers-Landis or any other doctor online.


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