Developing responsibility in children is important in most families. As I work with parents, grandparents, teachers and other caring adults who work with kids who are in school, I hear the following questions about responsibility;

  • How do I get my child to do homework
  • How do I get my child to clean his room
  • How do I get my child to do his chores
  • How do I get my child to feed the pet
  • How do I get my child to practice the piano
  • How do I get my child to speak to the family with respect

The problem is that responsible and acceptable behavior is different for every person and every child.  When children are in school there are lots of new and exciting adventures that take their thoughts and energy away from the task at hand.

Difference between obedience and responsibility

One of the hardest lessons I ever had to learn is that you can’t make anyone do anything long term. You can force your child to do their homework tonight by yelling, screaming and threatening, but I promise you he will dislike school and you.

The difference between obedience and responsibility often comes down to this simple distinction, Who owns the problem. If you realize that the dog is hungry and you fix it by filling the food dish, but punish or yell at the child, you still own the problem.  You will be telling the child to feed the pet every day and he will expect you to tell him  and then lecture or else feed the dog.

Obedience needs no agreement or buy-in from the child. The motivation comes from an outside force, in this case, you making the child feel guilty.

Responsibility, however, involves the acceptance and understanding of the natural (the dog has no way to feed himself) and logical (the child feeds the dog before he eats breakfast and dinner) consequences.

Chore Charts Tell Child What Is Expected

When the parent is in the telling position and the child is in the doing position, which means the child won’t do if the parent doesn’t tell.  The chore chart is a wonderful tool for pulling adults away from always telling the child what to do and when to do it.  Chore charts shift the responsibility to the child and makes the chart the regulator and judge, not the adult.

Chore Charts or job lists or behavior calendars get the emotion out of the situation and strengthens both independence and responsibility.  The best advantage of a chore chart that has been agreed on at a family council is the “buy-in” from all parties.  Everyone knows what is expected to be done and the time frame for accomplishing said task and have decided and agreed on the consequences if it is not done.

Schools are not the teachers of responsibility. Their job is to enhance what has already been learned and modeled in the home and care giving situations. Those of us who love the child need to find methods and techniques to help the child to assume personal responsibility for their decisions and actions.  We increase the odds of teaching the child to work independently by being consistent and realistic in our expectations.

Be sure to check out for a free report on “30 Ways To Get Your Kids To Help At Home.”  You will be glad you did.

With gratitude for the important work you do with children,

Judy H. Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, family relationship author and keynote speaker

PS:  Do you know an organization that is looking for a dynamic keynote speaker on responsibility?

I give a very generous finder’s fee.

Chore Charts For Children In Elementary School