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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 deafness.

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 activities.



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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 www.parentingideas.com.au



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