(4th in a series on Building Godly Character in Our Kids)
Recently I was visiting a friend, and was pleased to see her children helping her with emptying the dishwasher, cleaning up lunch and generally helping her with the chores around the house. These children were between the ages of 2-8! And they did it with a good attitude and little prompting! My friend was doing a great job of teaching them to be responsible starting at an early age!
Being responsible is basically being reliable and diligent to follow through on the things you are expected to do or need to do, for yourself and for others.
To be a healthy, functioning adult in our society, we need to be responsible and do the things required of us. It’s a character quality that’s highly valued in our society. And God values it too! Although the word “responsible” isn’t really in scripture, there are plenty of verses that talk about things related to being responsible. (I’ll share some of them later in this post!)
As parents, we want to see our children grow up to be responsible adults. Teaching responsibility is really teaching your child life skills and expecting them to do them!
Are there things we can do to encourage responsibility in our children so they’ll be able to work and live on their own someday? Yes!!
I’m not saying I have all the answers, or that we did it all right, but as I’ve been considering this character quality, here are some thoughts that the Lord has given me:
- I believe firmly that the biggest and most important thing you can do is to pray for your children regularly and often! Pray for God to build in them the godly character that they need to be responsible adults, to help them be people of integrity who are reliable and do what is needed or expected of them.
- Begin teaching responsibility when they’re young! As early as they are able to help, enlist their help around the house. Here’s a chart with suggested ages that are appropriate for the various chores you might ask a child to do. (Suggestions taken from “Smoothing the Way” by Mary James, Focus on the Family’s website, and my own experience!) Keep in mind, anything a younger child can do can be expected of an older child:
|Ages 2-3||Ages 4-5||Ages 6-7||Ages 8-9||Ages 10-12|
|(with supervision)||(with supervision)||empty dishwasher||keep bedroom clean||do own laundry|
|dress themselves||set & clear the table||bring laundry down||personal hygiene||cook simple meals|
|dirty laundry in basket||water plants||separate laundry||put away clothes||iron clothes|
|clear dirty dishes||brush the dog||wash dishes alone||walk pets||wash the dog|
|put away toys||pick up “doggie poo”||fold laundry||simple sewing||wash the car|
|feed & water pets||take out garbage||pour cereal/drinks||peel veggies||clean windows|
|help wash dishes||sweep floors||make sandwiches||take own shower||change sheets on bed|
|wipe up messes||fold towels, wash clothes||rake yard||vacuum||mow lawn (supervised)|
|hold dust pan||sort socks||answer the phone||wash floors||babysit (age 12+)|
|dust||make bed||clean bathroom|
|help carry in groceries||brush teeth||prepare easy meals|
|make own bed||comb hair||get up with alarm|
|be responsible for pet|
|Ages 13-15||Ages 16-18|
|any household chore||maintain a car|
|babysit outside home||hold a job/earn money|
|help with deep cleaning||purchase their own clothes|
|earn spending money||any outside chores|
|make meal plans||Follow a Budget|
|buy groceries (with help)||make meals for family once or twice a week|
|make meals occasionally|
- Use a chore chart to help your kids remember what’s expected of them. Here’s a great chore chart idea for a younger child who can’t read well yet:
For older children, you can make a spreadsheet for each child with what’s expected each day and a place to check off completed work each day of the week. We had a “housecleaning day” once a week where the children helped with the deeper cleaning such as vacuuming, dusting and cleaning the bathroom. The other days we just maintained those areas with spot cleaning and each child had their part to do.
- Show your kids how to do the chores. Demonstrate each task as you teach them, and walk them through it the first few times they do it themselves. Remind them that helping around the house is a responsibility that everyone in the family has and let them know you believe they can do these things on their own!
- Be a good role model and talk about what’s expected of them. Let them know what’s expected by modeling and talking about it. “We always wipe our feet when we come in from outside, and if we make a mess, we clean it up.” Be careful not to do for them what they can do for themselves! (Sometimes as moms we may “over-mother” and we need to challenge our children to do what they’re capable of doing!)
- Encourage them to do their best! God wants us to do our best in all we do and this is an important concept to teach our children. Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” is a great verse to memorize together.
- Praise them often! Kids really do like to help and will be more motivated if they feel like you’re noticing and pleased with what they’re doing. If your child didn’t do something as well as expected, you can show them how they can do it better, but be sure to compliment what they did right so they still feel good about it. Be realistic on what you expect based on their age and extend grace as needed.
- Having a routine helps. If your child knows what’s expected of him each morning before he can play or before school, then he’ll be more likely to get those things done. Have a routine that he has to follow each day. I knew a mom who wouldn’t let her kids eat till they got their chores done each morning! We didn’t go that far, but we did insist on them getting done by a certain time of the morning so we could get school started. Try to make chore time more fun with music and singing and even making a game out of it on those days when feet are dragging. (Who can finish all their chores first and do them well too? Here’s a link to www.babble.com for more ideas to make chores fun!)
- Have consequences if they don’t do what’s expected. If they don’t clean up a mess they make, or don’t get their chores done when they were required to, then inform them that they lose a privilege or have extra work they’ll need to do. The more you enforce your rules, the more likely they’ll be to follow through and do what’s expected next time.
- Memorize scripture together that refers to being responsible (here are a few):
Galatians 6:5: For each will have to bear his own load.
I Timothy 5:8: But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Luke 16:10: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
Proverbs 6:6: Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
- Consider participating in 4-H, Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts or AWANAS. These types of children’s clubs help build responsibility and good character in those who participate. Sports programs can be great for this as well. Encourage your older children to do volunteer work too, that’s a wonderful way to build responsibility!
- With older children, talk about the responsibilities of adulthood and train them for them. Prepare your teenagers for adulthood by teaching them to cook, wash clothes, budget, keep up a house and yard, etc. ; explaining that you want them prepared for life after they leave home. You can even give them a monthly allowance that they have to use to buy their own clothes and use for their activities so they can learn to budget. When they’re old enough to work outside the home, be sure to teach a good work ethic so they know to give it their best in all they do.
Responsibility is a crucial thing to teach your children and to model for them in your own life. You need God’s help to do it well! I encourage you to seek Him and His wisdom as you raise responsible children who live for Him!
I’d love to hear your ideas and what’s worked for you in teaching your children responsibility too! Please leave a comment with your thoughts!