How to Raise a Responsible Child Who Becomes a Responsible Adult

A picture of a responsible child loading the dishes
Raise a responsible child who's happy to help out. Photo © Cultura RM Exclusive / Matelly

Raise a responsible child who's happy to help out, not reluctant to pitch in. With some patience and a few parenting tricks up your sleeve, you'll be well on your way to raising a responsible child who becomes a responsible adult.

Assign Age-Appropriate Tasks

Everyone in your house can be given specific tasks to teach them responsibility. Even your toddlers can help out and starting them young makes it easier to hand them even more responsibility as they grow older.

Assign age-appropriate tasks around the house. Preschoolers can dust with socks over their hands. Older kids can help empty the dishwasher, vacuum or set the table for dinner.

Lay Out Each Family Member's Responsibilities

You can give your newborn a pass on taking responsibility right now. But your two year old can still get involved and be one of your tiny helpers. 

Lay out each family member's responsibilities ahead of time to get everyone on the same page. Even Mom and Dad can be listed on chore charts and weekly calendars so the whole family knows everything that each other does to make your household run smoothly.

Praise Them for Taking Responsibility

A job well done deserves praise. And that praise is an invaluable lesson when trying to raise a responsible child.

We often forget to add in the praise for each task kids complete because we don't get that same praise every time we wipe down a kitchen counter or empty out the dryer's lint trap.

But as our children are learning what responsibility is, we need to be sure we're there to praise them for a job well done when they pick their clothes up off the floor and dust their furniture.

Avoid Constant Rewards

Do you get free ice cream every time you mop? Keep this in mind as you try to raise a responsible child.

Instead of promising your child a candy bar if she takes out the trash, let her feel the reward of taking responsibility without having to be bribed. You can surprise your kids with rewards or reward them one day a week but don't carry around a pocket full of candy so you can dole a piece out every time one of your kids does something they've been told to do.

Use Reward Tools Wisely

There are so many tools you can use to outline responsibilities, mark those achievements and work toward a goal or reward without having to take the route above of bribing and giving your child something every single time she does something that you've defined as her role in your household. 

Look for household responsibility charts. Many have space for all of the kids in your house in one spot so you don't have to buy separate charts for each child. One favorite is the Magnetic Reward Responsibility / Behavior Chart that accommodates up to three children. This great chart comes with pre-printed responsibilities you use, such as "brush my teeth" and "finish my homework." But it also comes with blanks you can write on with the included dry erase pen so you can customize the responsibilities.

Each child gets a color star to place in the box when they've completed that responsibility and at the bottom they get to define the goal they're working toward once they complete all responsibilities, like "go out for an ice cream" or "get a new book" when they reach a certain level of stars.

Let Your Children Feel the Consequences of Not Taking Responsibility 

What would happen if you stopped cleaning the house, taking the kids everywhere they needed to be or didn't brush your teeth anymore? Of course you're going to fulfill your responsibilities and you can make sure your kids do too.

We tend to ride our kids to get this and that done -- those chores and other responsibilities that we've laid out so many times, yet they seem to keep forgetting. Of course, you don't want your child to fail science by not reminding her to study for her test but there are other responsibilities you can simply let her ignore and feel the consequences of not taking the responsibility to do them. Before you get started on laying out your child's responsibilities, let her know what those consequences will be. You can do this as one continuing consequence, like not completing those five responsibilities each week results in a loss of TV or you can set those consequences week by week based on the activities you have going on at the time.

Take a Step Back

We know what would happen if we shirked our responsibilities and we don't want our kids to neglect their responsibilities either. It can be incredibly frustrating when your child seems to not hear you or to flat out ignore you, though.

But it's important to take a step back. Don't lose your cool and bark about how important their responsibilities are. You want them to enjoy being responsible, not resentful of it.

Be Patient

It will take time for your children to master their responsibilities. They're still kids and it will take time for them to remember their responsibilities and fully understand their importance.

Your guidance is crucial when you want to raise a responsible child who becomes a responsible adult. But it needs to be done in a nurturing way that encourages them to participate and actually gets them excited about contributing. Otherwise, your child starts to see responsibilities as something they're getting in trouble for instead of something that's actually rewarding. Pick your parenting battles and remember raising a responsible child is a long-term goal that won't be completed overnight.