Unsure how to teach a teenager responsibility? It can be hard to encourage this in teens, so here are 22 ways to teach and instill responsibility even in the most reluctant of teens.
- Set expectations
- Give them chores
- Encourage your teen to help out
- Let your teenager show how much responsibility they can handle
- Allow choice
- Trust your teenager
- Let there be consequences
- Reward your teen
- Get your teen to volunteer
- Join a youth group
- Explain needs vs wants
- Help your teen set goals
- Instill accountability
- Teach various responsibilities
- Respect your teen's individuality
- Time management skills matter
- Lead by example
- Discuss responsibility regularly
- Talk about your responsibilities
- Be consistent
- Realize your teenager will never be perfect
- Observe, help, and advise – but only to a point
Why should you teach your teenager responsibility?
There are many benefits to teaching your teenager how to be a responsible person. Becoming responsible is not only good for society but also for their own life. When teens are required to take on responsibility, they learn self-discipline, time management, empathy, and accountability.
When should you start teaching your teenager responsibility?
Teaching responsibility should start early because the sooner you start, the easier it is to build on. Young children seek responsibility and want to help you with the shopping or cleaning up because it makes them feel grown up. Take these opportunities so that helping out is already the norm when they become teens.
How to teach responsibility to a teenager
1. Set expectations
The reality is that most responsibilities are not fun, so teens naturally don't want to know. Why clean their room when they can chat on WhatsApp and why do their homework when they can watch TikTok? This is why teens need clear expectations around tasks and behavior to help them to practice responsibility and accountability.
2. Give them chores
Studies show household chores help kids build responsibility. A Harvard University study found that "chores were the best predictor of which kids were more likely to become happy, healthy, independent adults."
In her book ‘How to Raise an Adult’, Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of Stanford University, agrees.
"When young people have been expected to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, it leads to a mindset of pitching in in other settings, such as the workplace. Not giving kids chores deprives them of the satisfaction of applying their effort to a task and accomplishing it."
3. Encourage your teen to help out
As part of taking responsibility for doing things, make it clear that it's also their responsibility to remember to do it and show initiative.
For example, if their job is to empty the dishwasher and they see dirty plates on the side, they could show initiative by reloading the machine.
4. Let your teenager show how much responsibility they can handle
To become capable adults, teenagers need to become responsible and make decisions on their own.
Gradually increase how much responsibility you give your teens, but explain that they should talk to you if they start to feel overwhelmed.
5. Allow choice
One of the best ways to instill responsibility is to allow your teens to be responsible for some of their own choices.
Decision-making is an important skill that teens must learn to master therefore if they choose not to take a coat when it’s cold or not to come home in time for dinner, they have to face the consequences.
6. Trust your teenager
As your child gets older, it can be challenging to step back and trust them when they are out in the world.
Fear can get the better of most parents, but you need to give them the space to be responsible because it signals to your teen that you believe they are capable of making good decisions.
7. Let there be consequences
Consequences aren't a punishment but a direct effect of an action.
For example, if you spend all your money, you can’t go out. Or if you stay out later than agreed, you can’t go out next time.
The goal is to show your teen the benefit of positive choices.
8. Reward your teen
Be sure to reward your teen for taking responsibility.
This makes your teen feel good and helps them trust in their decisions and the benefits of taking responsibility.
A reward could be anything from praise to money, to an extension on staying out/going to bed, to other privileges.
9. Get your teen to volunteer
A great way to teach your child responsibility is to encourage them to get a job or volunteer.
With more than seven in ten young people in the US saying that earning their own money is important to them, volunteering can help ready your teen to find work and learn how to be responsible in the real world.
10. Join a youth group
Youth groups can be great for teaching responsibility as they help your teen pitch in for group projects, special trips or tasks, and other things.
Plus, working in a group with other young people can help them approach responsibility more on their own terms.
11. Explain needs vs wants
Part of being responsible is knowing how to differentiate between needs and wants.
This is essential because, at some stage, your teen will need to pay bills, so they have to be able to put their wants to one side and prioritize their needs.
12. Help your teen set goals
An ideal time to talk about goal setting is when your teen says they want to do something. Working towards a goal will teach them a lot about responsibility and help keep them motivated.
For example, they want a car, so encourage them to earn extra money and save it saying you'll pay half if they do.
13. Instill accountability
Show your teen how to be accountable as an example with your own behavior. If you make a mistake, admit it, and make it right.
For example, if you blame your teen for something they didn't do, step up and apologize.
The same goes for not doing something you said you'd be responsible for, such as paying a bill. Admit it and make it right so they can see you are accountable.
14. Teach various responsibilities
Teens need to realize that responsibilities are about more than school work and chores. Talk to them about financial and career responsibilities and even social ones.
15. Respect your teen's individuality
Individuality plays into responsibility, which is why you may be at odds with your teen. Moral stances, ideology, and social outlook can all affect what your teen thinks is responsible behavior.
If this is the case, draw a line between being disagreeable and being disrespectful but be open to discussion.
16. Time management skills matter
Having to do chores they are responsible for, even when busy, helps teens to learn how to manage their time.
Real life will require them to be responsible for many things, even when overwhelmed and busy, so they need to know that time management matters.
17. Lead by example
As with all parenting, model what you say about responsibility—they aren't going to listen to you about acting responsibly if you park illegally or jump the line.
At the same time, talk about all your adult responsibilities, from being dependable so people can count on you to meeting your work and family commitments, paying your bills, and being accountable for mistakes.
18. Discuss responsibility regularly
There are plenty of opportunities to talk about responsibility in everyday life. Whenever you think you have come across a responsibility that your teen might not have thought about, let them know what it is, and tell them why you do it.
This can be anything from tipping a waitress to mopping up something you spill on a table at a diner.
19. Talk about your responsibilities
You probably do a lot that your kids don't really think about.
It's a great idea to talk to your kids about your own responsibilities, as this will help them see all the responsibilities they might have to do in the future. It can also help them realize all the things you do around the house, and they might want to step up and help more.
20. Be consistent
As a parent, we never want to see our kids struggling, yet, stepping in and letting things slide around their responsibilities is common when you hear teens complaining.
Observe and advise, but don't do something for them. All this teaches teens is that they can get out of their responsibilities if they complain enough.
21. Realize your teenager will never be perfect
We all make mistakes, and no one makes mistakes like a teen.
However, mistakes are how they learn, and it's only by being irresponsible that they will learn to become more responsible.
22. Observe, help, and advise—but only to a point
It's a great idea to help out your kids when they are new at handling a responsibility or when they are unsure what to do.
However, don't always give them a solution for every problem they have. Getting them to solve their own problems and figure out how to meet their own responsibilities can be really beneficial.
Teaching financial responsibility with GoHenry
A cornerstone of adult responsibility is knowing how to manage all areas of your financial life, from budgeting and saving, to investing and tracking your expenditure.
With GoHenry's prepaid debit card for kids, help your kids and teens to learn these financial responsibilities by giving them a place to handle their money.
The GoHenry app also comes with Money Missions, where teens can learn more significant financial lessons from understanding credit and debt, stocks, shares, and investing.