Raising responsible children is one of the hardest jobs of parenting. Think about it. Is it easier to let children get by without doing chores or to deal with the complaining about the chores? Is it easier to give children extra money when their allowance was spent unwisely or to watch children live with the sorrow caused by their poor spending choices? Is it easier to rescue children from their mistakes or to let them live with the consequences? Sometimes the best thing to do is also the hardest thing to do.
Children who contribute to the family through chores gain positive self-esteem. But responsibility is more than just doing chores. Being responsible includes helping and supporting other family members. Being responsible includes trying hard, then failing, then trying hard again. To develop responsibility in children, parents need to keep a balance. Children should have tasks that are challenging, but not beyond their reach. All family members need to be recognized for their contributions and successes.
Try these ideas to encourage shared responsibility in your family:
• Make a list of all chores that are necessary to keep the family going. Include grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, earning the money, driving the car, etc. Let children list their ideas, too. Once the list is complete, divide up the chores. Children may be more willing to share the chores when they see how their jobs contribute to the family.
• Apply household rules to everyone. For example, put a crate in the corner of the family room for stray belongings (including things that belong to mom or dad). Anyone who is picking up puts stray belongings into the crate. The items are available to their owners on Saturday morning. Children are much better at keeping the house neat if the rules apply to everyone.
Source: Traits of a Healthy Family, by Dolores Curran, 1983, pp. 186-208.