10 Challenges To Teach Responsibility To Your Kid
While there is no perfect way to teach responsibility, you can use everyday situations to gradually mould your child into a responsible and accountable individual.
By Mina Dilip
Every waking minute, parents encounter new, varied challenges, and this can get frustrating. However, the same challenges can be transformed into teachable moments to instill a sense of responsibility and ownership in children if handled creatively with prudence. Below are 10 situations that nearly every parent faces, listed to spell the word “CHALLENGES”. Along with each challenging situation is a suggestion to put a positive spin on it, so it can be used to teach the child responsible behaviour and encourage accountability.
1. Constant complaining and whining
Having a complainer can be grating on the nerves. It is a big challenge to deal with. Constant complaining may be a way of deflecting responsibility by focusing on the negative and falling into the ‘poor me’ trap, thereby playing the victim to avoid personal responsibility.
What you can do: When a child complains, it is important to validate her feelings first, and then gently nudge her in a different direction, by encouraging her to list three things she is grateful for. A child can be taught to count her blessings and complain less over time. As parents, the critical requirement for this to work is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude ourselves.
2. Household problems and chores
Leaky faucets, burnt light bulbs and faulty ovens are common household difficulties that can stress out the best of us. Sometimes, children can pass the buck by blaming everything on a leaky tap! And when it comes to chores, children can find creative ways to avoid doing them.
What you can do: The last time we had a damaged flush tank, I deputed my son to use YouTube to figure out ways to fix it. Then, together, we pulled on some work gloves and got down and dirty. Of course, we had our family plumber intervene eventually, but the point here is that involving a child in managing domestic chores, repairs and maintenance can be a wonderful way to not only teach responsibility towards the home, but also to turn it into a fond memory.
3. A messy home
Almost every parent can relate to this one! Nagging a child to put things away can only lead to arguments and power struggles.
What you can do: The first thing is to set some ground rules. Maybe you can agree that all toys, kids’ stationery and children’s clothes should be confined to the child’s room. You will achieve a modicum of sanity knowing that the mess will be contained within a single room and not spread to the entire house. The next step in the process is to designate a ‘decluttering day’, when all the unused and unwanted stuff in the children’s room may be identified, rounded up and placed in a carton box to be sold off in a garage sale or be given for charity. This will certainly teach him to be much more organised, neat and responsible about his belongings over time.
4. Lazing around and feeling bored
Taking the odd day off is absolutely fine – essential, even. However, no one likes a shirker.
What you can do: When I caught my child indulging in too much of lazing and ‘I’m feeling bored’ refrains, I suggested family game time. I handed the responsibility of coming up with game ideas to my little fellow. Soon, we were enjoying a different game every evening, ranging from card games and carom board to checkers and treasure hunts, all planned and executed by him! This not only helped boost his creativity, but also taught him responsibility at several levels. Planning the game, arranging for the required materials, coordinating everyone’s schedules and eventually packing up and putting away the materials safely were all a part of the deal.
Creating home videos is another idea to dispel boredom and teach some skills.
5. Loving junk food
Junk food has found its way into our lives and is probably here to stay. How do we deal with it?
What you can do: Some children are so fussy, mothers are grateful if they eat anything. But too much junk is unhealthy. So perhaps you can think of designating a family cheat night, which could be every Friday night when you order junk food and indulge. The rest of the week, everyone eats healthy. When children see us adults making the effort, they will follow suit. Leading by example is the best way to teach responsibility.
6. Exam time
Exam time is stressful for the entire family and especially for the child.
What you can do: Right from the start, place a great deal of emphasis on preparing a little every day so that the material does not pile up and become unmanageable at exam time. Breaking it down into small, manageable parts helps, too.
7. Notes, homework, projects and forgetting them
Sometimes, the best laid plans can go awry, and the most-worked-on projects can get left behind in the morning rush.
What you can do: There were two choices – I could make a quick trip to the school and drop it off. Or, I could let it be and allow my child to face the natural, logical consequences of having been careless. I chose the latter. Some people might judge me for letting him take the fall after working so hard on a project. Believe me, since then, he has never forgotten his work again. Ever.
8. Getting along with peers
Social skills are sometimes not innate; they need to be cultivated.
What you can do: Sometimes, children with natural leadership abilities like to boss their friends around. If your child does this, you have two choices. One is to intervene and advise her. The other is to take a step back and let her figure it out. With my son, I chose the latter. I validated his need to be in charge at all times, and gently suggested that he might want to try negotiating. We did some role-plays together. Over time, he learnt the necessary conflict-resolution skills and started to get along with his friends effortlessly.
9. Excessive energy and restlessness
Some children thrive on movement and have tremendous amounts of energy. It is up to us as parents to channelize this energy productively.
What you can do: One way to channel excess energy is to provide ample opportunities to work it off. Besides free play, I have found that household chores and domestic responsibilities can be a very effective and fun way of expelling that extra energy besides developing a sense of accomplishment and responsibility in the child. Allowing a child to mop the house can be a fun and innovative way of letting him burn off energy while getting some solid work done at the same time, too.
10. Spilling or breaking something
A common challenge we face as parents of young children is dealing with spillages and breakages. While some parents take extreme care to clean up after the child, others end up scolding or reprimanding the child. Both these extremes may not be helpful. A safe middle-ground can be more effective.
What you can do: In the event of a spillage or breakage, it is important to stay calm. The child will learn to be more careful if she is given the opportunity to clean up the mess herself, with the assurance that whatever was spilt or broken can be replaced.
There are countless teachable moments in life, if only we look at them from the right perspective. These are but a few challenges that can be used to teach our children responsible living.
Mina Dilip, Child Psychologist, Trainee Practitioner in Therapeutic Play Skills (PTUK)
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