A friend asked me if I had any ideas for teaching kids about responsibility. I think she asked me because we have fairly high expectations for our children, and I'm always trying out a new chore chart idea. :) I think she was looking for a list of things that kids are capable of at different ages. But my mind has gone somewhere else with these thoughts of responsibility. But if that's what you're looking for, I'll have a few resources at the end!
To preface all of this, I have five kids. Zachary (8), Quinlan (7), Veronica (5), Eleanor (3), Roselyn (2). We homeschool. That means that they are home all day, making messes. This family only functions when we are all working together. Otherwise I would go insane being responsible for everything. I need to delegate some areas of responsibility to my children. For kids in an away from home school setting, there may be things you would adjust so that you could spend fun family time with them rather than an afternoon full of chores. The principles are the same, the amount of time you spend on something like household tasks would be different than they are for my kids.
Your kids know more than you think they do.
They really do. Even before my kids can talk, they're speaking volumes with their eyes. There little minds are already working out ways that they can throw the blocks across the room instead of putting them in their bucket. Age appropriate tasks and responsibilities may be more and bigger things than you are currently thinking.
Real work challenges kids. It makes them feel valued, important, and part of the family. For example, when our toddlers can walk and carry things at the same time they become responsible for putting their dishes in the dishwasher. Along with this goes a phrase I heard when my oldest was still an infant. This has been the guiding principle for teaching our kids household jobs "The youngest person capable of performing a tasks should be responsible for doing it." From something as simple as putting dishes in the dishwasher for a tot to my seven and eight year old boys having complete responsibility for their own laundry- if they are capable, it's theirs.
And this doesn't just go for household jobs, this also applies to behaviors. My two year old knows she shouldn't throw her toys. That means she needs to accept responsibility for the consequences of her behavior. Whether that's discipline for disobedience, or apologizing when someone gets hit in the head.
Expect great things from them.
This is a continuation of the previous point. Give your kids REAL responsibility. Allow them to feel the consequences (positive and negative) of things you've placed into their realm of responsibility. Allow your four year old to make the mashed potatoes and thank her for it while you're eating dinner. When my boys first took on the full responsibility for their own laundry, I allowed them to run out of underwear (on a day we were staying home).
If you give them a job to do, let them do it their way. And don't follow behind redoing it (In the spirit of full disclosure, I do rearrange the dishes to make sure they are facing the right directions. I do not tidy anyone's clothes that they put away.) which leads us to...
It won't be perfect.
When they are first learning how to do something, it's not going to be done as well as if you were doing it yourself. Accept it. Let it be. Some jobs may need to be done more frequently. For example, cleaning the bathrooms is a daily job in our home, simply because it's not really done very well. I could do the job, do it well, and do it once a week. But I choose to accept the job at the quality that my children are capable of and allow them to clean their bathroom their way. I figure that over the course of a week, every spot will be cleaned at least once or twice :)
Start with the end in mind.
As they learn and grow, expect more. A two year can say "I'm sorry" A three year old can say "I'm sorry for___." And a five year old can say "I'm sorry for ____, will you forgive me?" There's a progression for just about anything you want to grow into your children. How do you want your teenagers and adult children to respond and behave? Start now.
Own your stuff.
"Who was supposed to____?" Is a common question in our house. There's no hiding, the kids need to own up to a job poorly done. Try not to blow up when you see that your kids aren't doing/behaving the way you want them to. Whether it's how well the table was wiped off, or an angry response when wronged...let them feel the weight of it, then help them grow into it.
We also have a "no paybacks" rule in effect. It's important to understand what's not your responsibility. It's not my child's responsibility to make sure his sister receives punishment for a wrong she has committed. He needs to bring that to me and trust that I will take care of it. Later on in life, he'll have plenty of things that He'll need to place in God's hands. Practicing that now, will help my kids out a lot.
I also think that allowing your children time for free play allows them to grow into this. Learning how to take care of conflict is a huge lesson that will be with them forever.
Montessori- I don't know much about this school of learning, what I do know is that they encourage putting things on kids levels and making things easier for kids all around. For our family it looks like plastic dishes, short coat hooks, baskets and bins (instead of shelves), and vinegar water (instead of chemical sprays)-things that make it easier for them to perform the tasks you're asking of them.
Chore Charts/Reward Systems- There are as many of these as there are families in the world. I would like to caution you that a chore chart isn't going to teach your children responsibility. It will provide accountability as you go, though. You can purchase one, you can make. I recommend Pinterest as a great resource for some inspiration.
Age appropriate-ness- This also is as individual as each family. I would challenge to pray and consider where each child is at. Here's a chart that was pinned on pinterest. And here's a book that I reference yearly to see how we're doing.
Circles or Responsibility- I had all of these things in mind, then this weekend I learned about these circles. Understanding responsibility- those I've taken myself compared to those actually assigned to me by God, is already a huge benefit to my life. I haven't yet read this book, but it comes highly recommended by some folks I really trust and respect.
This is a pretty long post. If you've made it this far, I hope that there's something in here that you can apply to your own family life. And is there anything I've missed? What other components of responsibility should we be building into our children? What are some practical helps that you've found useful?