Did you ever observe a neighbour’s child helping his dad in cleaning car without being asked? Or, your cousin’s one year old putting her finished cup/bottle in the sink without reminders? Did you ever feel where these wonder children came from?

Did you ever feel that your child never puts away toys when he is done playing? Is it a struggle to get your child ready in the morning? Is your child forgetting his/her belongings frequently?

Being in the teaching field gave me opportunity to observe quite a number of children at both extremes. Even older children depend on their parents to pack their school bag. They watch cartoon/TV till late night and skip school the next day. On the other hand, a six-year-old who goes to a nearby shop to fetch things for her mother. Or a 2 year old who will put all the things back in place after using. Or a 4th grade child who follows play and study schedule without any reminders.

When we observe children who are quite responsible, we wonder if they got that quality by birth or if it’s an acquired quality. Being responsible is not an innate quality for everyone. It is developed by consistent practice and observation.

“Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.”
–By Vince Lombardi

As parents, we always want to take best care of our children. We try to provide everything they wish for. We help them by all means and even assist them in doing the simplest tasks. Often, we don’t realize that our over protective, caring and perfectionist attitude can result in our children being dependent on others and they might grow with an irresponsible attitude.Children who do not have responsibilities at home grow up to be adults who rely on others to do things for them.

You might be wondering if this is applicable for children at Sproutz, as they are very young. But, it is very important to develop the habit of being responsible from quite young age in order to turn them into responsible individuals. In fact, young children actually take a lot of pride in developing the skills needed to be independent. Children gain a sense of accomplishment, competence and self-esteem when appreciated for being independent and responsible. Furthermore, when a child is allowed to make contributions in daily activities, we are helping them to become an independent adult.

But the big question is how to start?

We can try to inculcate the habit of being responsible by taking baby steps. Both school and home should take equal responsibility in shaping a child’s character. At school we help children develop a routine. They place their shoes, bag and bottle in their respective places. After each activity children take up the responsibility for cleanup. They help teacher in distributing the stationery to the class. In the dining hall, children take the responsibility of placing plates and spoons for their friends. They are constantly reinforced with the habit of not wasting food. These small chores give a sense of pride to the little ones as they feel accomplished of helping self and others.

Parents also have an equal share –some times more than teachers– of making their children develop responsibility.

At home, children as young as 2 year old can be involved in doing some reasonable jobs and routines. The key is to make the practice consistent. You can make them responsible for :

  • Getting ready to school willingly
  • Putting away toys and books after use
  • Putting dirty clothes in the basket
  • Dressing independently
  • Helping to bring and sort groceries
  • Putting plates, cups and spoons on the dinner table

How to keep up the child’s interest in the chores?

Keep it Simple – keep the task manageable and age appropriate. Don’t assign tasks with too many steps. Also, don’t assign too many chores at the same time. Increase gradually.

Offer choices – come up with a list of jobs and let the child choose the task. Involving them in the process helps them in owning the task.

Make a routine – set up a routine for the tasks that need to become a habit. For example- Cleaning up after each play, going to bed on time, limited screen time.

Be a role model – Children learn by observing adults. So, dear parents, please be aware of your routine and habits when you try to instill responsibility and positive behaviour in kids. We can’t expect the child to leave the dirty clothes in the laundry basket if we don’t follow it ourselves. More importantly model the desired behaviour and talk about it. Use the same inclusive “we” phrases over and over to show how you can easily solve problems. Ask other family members and your helper to follow suit. You’ll be surprised how quickly these actions become a habit for kids.

Give positive reminders – Remind the child of his routine/task in a positive tone. Say “ Please put your socks in the basket!” Instead of saying “don’t leave your socks on floor!”

Appreciate positive behavior – Notice positive behavoiur and give positive attention to it. Let the child see how thrilled you are with their positive behavior. Anything you see that you want to happen more often- let the child know that you like it by giving a high five, hug or praise. Do it right away and be specific. “Great job! you kept all the toys back in place!” Taking pictures of the child doing the task and displaying them with pride will motivate him/her and make the child feel great about it.

Start a reward system -Make a game of it. Award a point after each positive behavoiur. Pool up the points and reward them of their choice. Reward can be anything a child really wants and doesn’t have to be monetary. May be going out for shopping with mom, extra story at bed time.

Don’t be a perfectionist – Kids need a lot of practice before their skill matches your expected outcome. If you are perfectionist, please refrain from fixing what they have done. For example, if they folded a napkin, don’t praise them and immediately undo what they have done in front them. Kids are keen in observing and they pick-up your true intent.

Set clear consequences for undesirable behavior – Not only should we appreciate positive behavior, but also, set rules about undesirable behavior as well. Set clear expectations about the negative behavior and the consequences the child needs to face. When the child breaks the rules, remind them of the consequences. Keep it brief and don’t delay. Make the consequences consistent like time out or loss of toy privilege. Remember to appreciate generously for positive behavior (90% of the time) and keep the consequences for negative behavior brief and crisp (should not be more than 10% of the time).

Children feel capable when they are assigned certain tasks that they can accomplish. They believe that they can handle challenges and that they are able to make a contribution to their parent’s work. When children feel capable, they willingly meet their responsibilities. Do not hesitate to offer help; try new tasks and feel good about what they do. All of these things will increase a child’s responsibility.

Praising children by giving rewards and messages can increase child’s sense of responsibility and also help them to feel that they are capable. So, do not undermine to appreciate children when they showcase the sense of responsibility.

Remember, “wonder child” is a result of wonderful parents’ diligent efforts. They don’t happen automatically or accidentally or luckily.

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are 
the roots of responsibility & the wings of independence.”


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