Teaching Kids Responsibility

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It seems that toddlers are always willing to help. If you are cooking, cleaning, or otherwise working on a project, chances are a small voice will say, “Can I help?” Of course, it’s when they’re very little that they most want to help but are least able to help you really make a difference.

As my children age, it seems that “helping” is a hit or miss occupation. Sometimes my older kids eagerly approach the task and other times it’s like pulling teeth. My kids are all pretty compliant. I rarely have someone say he won’t do his chores. But sometimes we hit a season where it feels like nothing will get done unless I nag. And then I feel like a big parenting fail.

Yes, yes, I do.

I don’t like to nag. I don’t like to do all the work myself, especially if I didn’t make the mess. So, I’m currently in a state of hmmmmmm. What can we do to teach kids responsibility?

I don’t really have a lot of answers right now. I’m currently in a state of hmmmmmm. But, there are things that I do know:

Having regular chores is good for kids and adults alike.

Regular responsibilities tie us to the family and to the home. They give us a sense of accomplishment — when we do them. And they help us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Teaching kids responsibility when they’re young helps them in the future.

If our children know how to see a task to completion at ten years of age it’s likely that they’ll carry that practice onto college and a career. Getting the job done is essential for life, so let’s practice on small things when our kids are young.

Accountability and encouragement matter.

Ah, here’s the rub. It’s fine and good to assign our kids chores around the house, but it’s another thing to actually follow up on said chores. I think that is part of my problem right now. Delegation comes easy, but follow-through is hard. It means that I might need to hunt someone down, that I might need to ask him to do it again, that I might have to address a negative response or feel like a nag.

But, I have to ask myself: what’s more important? Being a nag or my kid growing up into a bum?

Yes, I know it will take a lot more than unfinished chores to make him into a bum. But, I think it’s important that I remember that doing hard things is good for me and my kid. I gave birth to that baby drug-free so he could get a great entrance into the world and I’m gonna balk at telling him to take the trash out? Time for me to get some perspective!

But, accountability shouldn’t be limited to just telling them to do something. I confess, I’m can focus too much on what needs to be done, rather than what has been done. I’m guessing we could all do with a little more encouragement.

How do YOU find that balance between encouragement and correction?

Sponsor, MyJobChart.com offers a free, online job chart that can encourage kids to keep track of their chores, earn rewards, and automatically notifies the parents when tasks have been completed. The chore charts are completely customizable, though this online work control system for kids offers suggestions if you’re not sure where to start. As the parent, you get to decide on the point system and what rewards your kids can earn. An innovative way to combine kids’ interests in technology with moms’ interests in getting the job done, MyJobChart.com is completely free to users.

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  1. I remind myself of this quote VERY often “Kids don’t do what we expect, they do what we inspect!” I try to make the inspection process super fun and exciting, like “I am coming down there to check out your clean up in 5 minutes, I can’t wait, I am so excited to see all that you have done!”
    I subscribe to a biblical parenting email service too that talks a lot about honor and teaching kids that honor is doing what you need to do with a good attitude and going above and beyond. I like that a lot and hope to incorporate that more as my kids get older.

  2. This is a great post. We are in the middle of a big hairy “how do we fix this” stage. We’ve just moved in to a new home, none of my kids have regular chores, and I want to start. Will have to go check out the online chart.

  3. I didn’t spend my time on charts or all the accountability stuff. I guess I felt like I had enough to do and it was better for me to focus on other things I thought were more important. I think having routine things that they need to do is great, like cleaning up their rooms every Saturday. Instead of saying to go clean up your room, working together can be fun and rewarding. Instead of saying get rid of your junk, I told them that for every three things you keep, get rid of something. Or, you can also say, find 10 things you don’t want in your room any more. Making things manageable as well as giving them some flexibility and freedom is important.

  4. We use myjobchart.com and it is excellent for helping me keep my 6 year old accountable. He has some basic chores each day, and my 3 year old has one chore. We follow the Biblical model- if a man will not work, he shall not eat. I give the boys freedom to do their chores at any time in the morning, but they may not have any TV time until all chores (and schoolwork) are complete (which is supposed to encourage them to encourage each other to complete them), and each must have his complete before he can eat lunch. This is an individual requirement- the other kid not completing his chores doesn’t prevent you from eating lunch. If we get to 1pm and chores are not done, you go to rest time with no lunch.

    I give reminders as time is passing, and having to skip lunch is a good motivator for growing boys. This plan keeps me from nagging them, keeps the TV time naturally minimal and hopefully will encourage teamwork between the boys. It doesn’t always work perfectly of course, but it keeps me from nagging and getting frustrated!

  5. I really, really appreciate your “hmmmmm”… like, our family hasn’t failed, we’re just still working it out. 🙂 Our kids are 14, 17 and 20 so I feel like there’s not much time left! I feel very satisfied with their character development and compassion, but work-ethic is variable. Still, our best luck has been in the clear sharing of tasks–we have a schedule for who feeds the dogs, and who empties the dishwasher, including kids and mom. (Dad gets other tasks, don’t worry.) Not only are they pretty good about doing their job, but also filling in if someone is sick or away. In other areas, sometimes they work beyond my wildest expectations, and other times are uncooperative. Still working on it…

  6. We have 3 little people, 6, 4 and 9 months. Obviously, the baby isn’t doing chores…yet! 🙂 But for the older two we have chore cards. We tried several chore charts, only to fail miserably…me that is. But the cards I can handle, and the kids love them!

    I just ran around the house and took a bunch of pictures of things/chores that the kids do, emptying the trash, filing the snack bin, cleaning the bathroom sink, feeding the dog etc. Then I printed the pictures out on our computer, laminated them and threw them in a canning jar on the counter.

    Everyday before Daddy comes home we do our chores. I pick out 3 cards for each of the kids. Sometimes at random, other times I pick chores that I know need attending to. The kids love the suspense of what chore they are going to get.

    We do give our children a very small allowance each week if they do the chores. However, there are plenty of daily chores that they must do that are just expected of them and they do not get paid to do them.

    Not only is it a HUGE help to me, but the kids really have a sense of accomplishment and ownership in our home. Working together as a team to take care of our home has provided some very special bonding moments.

  7. My kids are all teen agers now and boy do I wish I would have done chore charts and used tips when they were younger. (LOL)

  8. My struggle is not so much getting them to help out (like you mentioned your kids are pretty good about doing them when asked). My problem is keeping a chore chart. I constantly forget to mark it. It feels like another thing on top of 100 others to keep track of. Is a chore chart really neccessary? And should tasks be tied to allowance/spending money? Would love to hear some thoughts on that.

    1. @Amy,

      My 6 year old has a number of chores that are just expected to be done (feeding the cats, putting away clean silverware, making bed, helping round up trash cans, and sweeping under the table after meals) and those are on a laminated card in his room with the rest of his daily stuff on it. Then he has a few things that are his jobs for $ (picking up sticks, cleaning the dining chairs, dusting, etc) that are on the chore chart but it is also his responsibility to tell me they are done and then he marks them. The only one I mark on the chore chart is the “good attitude” which I assess at the end of the day as part of our good-night time.