Teaching your child to become responsible is one of the best things you can do for them. It helps them become confident decision-makers and motivated individuals who can accomplish tasks for themselves and others with minimal parental input. Teaching responsibility to a child can be done at any age with the right strategies.
Related: Life skills for kids
Top ways to teach responsibility to a child
- Teach your kids to tidy up their rooms and toys
- Give them something to look after
- Introduce fundraising and charity work
- Introduce age-appropriate chores
- Show them how to do a task but let them do it
- Introduce pocket money
- Introduce chore charts
- Teach budgeting and money management
- Give them responsibility for fun things too
- Routine teaches responsibility
- Tips to help guide responsibility
- Use GoHenry to help teach responsibility
When will my child be ready to take on responsibility?
It may sound surprising, but children can take on responsibilities from an early age simply because from 3 to 4, they yearn to do things independently and make their own decisions. You can use this desire to teach them how to be responsible. For example,
- They want to play with all their toys, so it’s their responsibility to tidy up at the end of the day.
- They want to pour a glass of water themselves, so it’s their responsibility to help clear up any spillages.
- Their boots are muddy because they wanted to jump in a muddy puddle, so they are responsible for helping you to clean them.
The same idea goes for teens who are keen to be independent.
- They want to stay up late, so it’s their responsibility to get up in time for school.
- They want an expensive mobile phone, so it’s their responsibility to look after it and replace it if they lose or break it.
- They want to keep their bedroom private, so it’s their responsibility to clean it.
How can I teach my child to be responsible?
Teaching responsibility is a parenting technique that takes patience, encouragement, and clear expectations. Moreover, the process doesn’t have to become negative if you focus on what you are trying to achieve. To help yourselves:
- Manage your expectations. Just because you have told your child once that it’s their job to clean their teeth or empty the bins doesn’t mean they will remember every time it needs doing. Getting frustrated about this is pointless; what matters is that it becomes a routine with gentle reminders from you.
- Allow kids room to make mistakes. No one learns responsibility overnight. Responsibility is something that they will take on board slowly.
- Be honest with yourself - most responsibilities are time-consuming and tedious for a child. As a result, kids naturally seek to avoid them and often need encouragement.
What helps is to:
1. Teach your kids to tidy up their rooms and toys
Show children the benefit of having a tidy room by pointing out that once everything is in the right place, they can find things without difficulty and that living without mess is more manageable. Help them by giving them easy access to storage baskets and boxes to put their toys and a routine for when everything has to be cleared away.
2. Give them something to look after
Nothing teaches responsibility faster than giving kids the option to be responsible for something. It can be something as simple as a plant or a fish with younger kids. Tasking your child to look after something else’s needs is an ideal way to teach them accountability. With plants, ask them to do regular watering, with pets, feeding and cleaning up.
With teens, it’s less about asking them to look after other things (a task unlikely to work with most teens) but teaching them to be responsible for their own items. Set clear expectations around being responsible for their devices and money when they are out and being accountable for getting themselves home on time and doing what you have asked them to do.
If you attach consequences to the expectations, kids will grasp what responsibility means. For example, ‘You’ll have to save for a new phone if you don’t look after the one you have and ‘If you’re late or don’t do X when I ask, I won’t trust you next time.’
3. Introduce fundraising, volunteering and charity work
There are many ways of encouraging kids to giving and help others. Children also develop a greater understanding of the value of money when they get a sense of how it can benefit others.
Donating their time, money, clothes and toys to good causes, they feel passionate about is the way to start. If your child loves animals, get them involved in a local animal shelter or adopt an animal with WWF. If they watch the news and are passionate about climate change or families affected by the war in Ukraine, show them ways they can fundraise or do their bit to help.
Related: Teaching gratitude to kids
4. Introduce age-appropriate chores
Age-appropriate chores are tasks that teach kids that they have a responsibility to do their bit for the household. The following are chores children of every age can help with. To encourage them to act responsibly, make sure you model the same behaviour, so they start to see that these aren’t just ‘chores’ but a responsible way to live with others:
- Turning off lights when they leave their room
- Hanging up towels in the bathroom
- Putting toys away when finished
- Carrying dishes to the sink/dishwasher after eating
- Tidying up their room
- Helping with dinner
- Putting their clothes away
- Helping empty the dishwasher
- Helping to put the shopping away
- Making their beds
5. Show how to do a chore but let them do it
So much of parenting is learning to allow children to do things without you watching or critiquing their effort. Remember, if you set your kids household chores, they are unlikely to do it to your standards. This means accepting that they will do it their way. By all means, if they do a half-hearted task, pull them up on it, but be realistic with your expectations.
6. Introduce chore charts
Helping kids develop good habits and responsibility is the primary purpose of assigning chores. The earlier you can encourage this mindset, the more likely it is to stick with them into adulthood. One way to motivate them (and remind them) is to clearly define the tasks that your child must complete on a chore chart.
7. Introduce pocket money
Giving pocket money can be a helpful way to help kids learn about managing money and being responsible. When kids get regular pocket money, you can help them learn how to budget, spend smartly and save all crucial aspects of becoming financially responsible and literate.
8. Teach budgeting and money management
When you give them pocket money, encourage your child to budget their money, so they set aside a small amount to spend that week and a small amount to save towards something they want or need. This way, they understand that they need to be responsible for making their money last (budgeting) and using their money to get the things they want (money management).
9. Give them responsibility for fun things too
Responsibility is not just about the dull stuff. It can be about anything in your life. Why not agree that one night a week, one child is responsible for deciding what to eat or what game to play? Or, older kids are responsible for coming up with ideas for days out and finding the best family deal.
10. Routine teaches responsibility
Responsibility starts to become second nature when you make it a routine. So being clear about your expectations is a necessity for kids. For example, being clear that beds need to be made before breakfast and school bags have to be ready the night before school helps bring the message of responsibility home.
“GoHenry is great for teaching kids the basics surrounding the concepts of what money is, how to use it safely and money responsibility in a way that’s interactive and easy to understand. The app also gives them the opportunity to manage their own little savings account!”
Holly, Mum (TrustPilot)
11. Tips to help teach responsibility
- Be realistic in what you ask kids to be responsible about
- Focus on effort, not results, especially with chores
- Avoid threats - this turns kids off the idea of embracing responsibility
- Pour on the praise - this motivates kids to carry on
- Set a good example - by ensuring whatever you ask them to do, you already do yourself
12. Use GoHenry to help teach responsibility
"GoHenry is a great way to help young people become financially smart, be responsible for their own duties and budget themselves. It teaches work ethic and discipline for when they’re old enough to join the working world."
Using GoHenry is an ideal way to bring the above lessons to life. Getting regular pocket money onto their prepaid debit card helps kids to have something to look after and money to manage. Start by introducing budgeting (making their pocket money last all week), then saving and donating. Activities like these will help them to create responsible habits around money that they will take into adulthood. To help with this, we have also created Money Missions on the GoHenry app, which allows kids of all ages to earn points while watching videos and taking interactive quizzes on topics including saving money, spending wisely, and investing.