Make It Easy For Your Kids To Be Responsible
By Michael Grose
Recently I worked with a mother who became really frustrated by her
attempts to shift responsibility onto her two school-aged children
for some of their basic self-care activities such as packing school
lunches, even taking schoolbags to school.
She was caught in two extreme modes – either she
told her children what they should be doing or she left her children
to their own devices to figure out what they should doing. She swung
from authoritarian ("Do this!") to laissez-faire ("Whatever?")
modes. Both strategies were problematic. Telling them what to do
just meant she assumed responsibility for packing bags, lunches and
the like, which often became a nagfest. It also encouraged parent
Alternatively, letting them figure out what they
should do themselves meant that sometimes they remembered and
sometimes they didn't. Some children need some help along the way
rather than being left to their own devices. The point is that you
need to make it easy for some children to be responsible for their
own well-being. This requires us to move into teacher mode, which
can be a challenge at those busiest times of the day.
Here are three ways you can make it easy for
children and teenagers to take responsibility for their basic tasks
of life without assuming responsibility yourself as a parent:
1. Remind them
"Have you got your bag/lunch/homework/wallet?" said in a non-whining, non-accusatory
way as a busy or distracted child or teen heads off to school is
sometimes all it takes to get their head thinking right. If they
choose not to take action or need further reminders then you are
taking responsibility for their self-care.
2. Use a 'to do list'
One particular gender needs
more help with personal organization than the other. Yes, boys can
find ‘to do list' helpful but don't put too many things on the list.
No more than five items and make sure they are the essentials. Use
photos for non-readers and make sure they touch each photo once they
have done the task. This makes a great anchor for young learners.
3. Rehearse in low stress situations
My motto with some kids is NEVER ASSUME! That is, just because you have told what
to do doesn't mean they know how to do it. If getting off to school
fully armed with books, homework, food, clothing and the rest is
important then have a bit of fun rehearsing it at night – a number
of times. Okay, it maybe going overboard but some children really
need this type of help in low stress, low pressure situations.
Combine this rehearsal with a ‘to do list' and you are really making
it easy for kids to be responsible.
If you find that you are making it too easy for
children to be responsible then make yourself scarce at times and
see how they do without you being around.
While redundancy may be the aim for parents we need
to be mindful that some children need more assistance than others.
There is a middle ground (of making it easy to be responsible) we
can adopt between nagging and leaving kids to struggle when we want
children to take responsibility for their basic self-care
Michael Grose is a popular parenting educator and parent coach. He is the director of Parentingideas, the author of seven books for parents and a popular presenter who speaks to audiences in Australia, Singapore and the UK. For free courses and resources to help you raise happy kids and resilient teenagers visit