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help children develop responsibility

How to Help Children Develop Responsibility with Jobs

help children develop responsibilityI hate ironing. So much so that my husband and I joke that it was part of our wedding vows: "I will love, honour and never ask you to do my ironing." I was telling a friend recently that my 13 year old son loved the new iron (bought by my husband), and she couldn't believe that he ironed his own shirts. Well of course he does, I replied. He's 13. It turned out that her kids did next to nothing around the house. When I asked why, she said that they all had lots of activities and homework, and really, kids should be kids, shouldn't they? I have to disagree on this. My kids have lots of after school activities, too, but there's no reason why they can't do jobs before school, after dinner and at weekends. The jobs don't take up much time, and I believe that it teaches them responsibility, and respect for their environment - in this case, our house and their bedrooms. Research by Dr Marty Rossmann, emeritus associate professor of family education, shows that:

"involving children in household tasks at an early age can have a positive impact later in life. By involving children in tasks, parents teach their children a sense of responsibility, competence, self-reliance, and self-worth that stays with them throughout their lives."

This research also showed that:

"The best predictor of young adults' success in their mid-20s was that they participated in household tasks when they were three or four."

At our house, we have a job roster on the fridge so that the kids are doing different jobs everyday. They take turns doing the tasks that no one really likes, and they all learn the same skills.

Give age appropriate tasks to help children develop responsibility

It is important that children are given tasks that are age appropriate, and that they're shown how to do the tasks safely. It does require careful attention from the parent, and it does take time and patience to teach them. But it's definitely worth the struggle, and you may be surprised at just how capable your children are. Here's a great list of age appropriate jobs for children that I came across a few years ago: help children develop responsibility with age appropriate jobsImage source: Maria Montessori Facebook Page My eldest is 13, and I'm happy to say that he can do all the tasks on this page. Although there hasn't been a lot of dusting of baseboards and disinfecting of doorknobs thus far in his life, I have no doubt that he's capable of doing these tasks. When he started high school, he had to wear a white cotton shirt regularly. Now, as you know, I'm no fan of ironing, so one of the things that I did to prepare him for high school was to teach him to iron his shirts. I can't say that it happens often, but he does know how to do it, and on the days that I insist (school photo days, assemblies, etc) he goes off and does it. He moaned at me the other day that he had no clean tracksuit pants for school. When he saw the look on my face, he went off and put a load of washing on. It's the same with cooking. He's not brilliant at it yet, and definitely needs some work on timing everything correctly, but last week he served up a perfectly adequate steak, salad and fried potato dinner. My youngest announced at age 7 that he was ready to leave home, because he could make cupcakes, biscuits and scrambled eggs! He doesn't walk the dog on his own, but that's because our dog outweighs him by a good 15kgs. (We have a big dog, and pretty skinny youngest child!) But he does feed the dog and cats regularly, empties the dishwasher, hangs and folds washing, cleans the toilet and bathroom and keeps his room (mostly) tidy. This year, we've got an international exchange student. He's 16, and he's a good kid. But I was amazed to find that that he has almost no practical skills at all. I had to show him how to make a sandwich - a 16 year old! He'd never had to do anything for himself, not even, judging by the state of his room, had to keep his bedroom tidy. Of course, that's changed in the three months that he's been with us. He's a dab hand at sandwich making now, and loves helping to make biscuits, cakes and stews; he clears the table and stacks the dishwasher, walks and feeds the dog, empties the cat litter trays, puts the bins out and has even made progress on the tidy bedroom.

Learning with Your Kids

Christine Field, author of Life Skills for Kids, talks about learning lessons with your kids as a way to teach them life skills. She talks about getting the kids to help you with home maintenance when it's not your strong point, but I think that these points apply to just about everything you're teaching your kids:
  • Have a sense of humor. Something always breaks. Cleaning three inches of water out of the basement might not be your choice for the day, but it can be an opportunity to teach teamwork.
  • Be willing to learn. When your children see you try something new, like how to apply caulk, they learn that it's possible to acquire new skills, even if those abilities aren't in their area of strength.
  • Be willing to ask for help. If a home project is over your head, you can teach your children a valuable lesson by simply asking for help and then working together to accomplish the task.
Do you ask your children to do jobs around the house? Or do you find it easier just to do them yourself? Share your thoughts! Get the latest posts straight to your inbox every week!
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