Pets, household chores and homework all provide opportunities to teach your young children to be responsible, both for themselves and others. Start with simple tasks they can easily accomplish at home, praise their efforts and encourage them to take on more responsibility as they get older. Set a good example for your 7-year-old by letting her see you do your chores so she understands the importance of everyone contributing their share.
Identify age-appropriate chores your 7-year-old can do at home. Explain that everyone in a family is responsible for helping with activities around the house so no one gets stuck doing all the chores all the time. Teach your child to put food in the dog's dish, set the table correctly and straighten the covers on her bed, for example. Develop a chore chart or list so each child knows which chores are hers and when she is supposed to do them. You might want to use stickers or other small incentives to encourage and reward your youngster for accomplishing her chores.
Explain what happens when people don't take care of their responsibilities, using examples your 7-year-old can understand. If mommy didn't do the laundry, her favorite pink shirt would get really dirty and smelly. If daddy didn't get gasoline in the car, they couldn't get to school or soccer practice. If her older siblings never washed the dishes, the family wouldn't have clean dishes to eat from. And if she forgets to feed the dog, the dog would be hungry and sad. Particularly in cases of pets, stress that we need to take care of them because they can't take care of themselves.
Work with your child's teacher to help young children learn responsibility. While few teachers have kids clap the erasers anymore, kids might be responsible for feeding the class fish or handing out papers. Explain to your child that it's important to help out at school and at home, so the kids can have a nice classroom and the things they need to learn well. Give her an assignment notebook to help her remember important responsibilities, such as homework, and remind her of the consequences of forgetting her responsibilities: if she forgets to bring home her permission slip to be signed, she might not get to go to the zoo with her classmates.
Teach your young child that being responsible also means telling the truth about what went wrong, rather than blaming someone else. Just as she is responsible for her own homework and her own chores, she is responsible for her own behavior. Children this age might often try to cover up misbehavior by blaming someone else or using the "it wasn't me" excuse. Explain that, even though she might not like the consequences, it's important to own her actions so problems can be solved and so another child does not get blamed for something he didn't do. Model this behavior by being willing to acknowledge your own mistakes, and reassure her you still love her when she messes up.
Items you will need
- Chore chart
- School assignment notebook
- Beliefnet: Family Values: How to Teach Responsibility
- Empowering Parents: Stop the Blame Game: How to Teach Your Child to Stop Making Excuses and Start Taking Responsibility
- Parents: How to Teach Kids to Accept Responsibility for Their Actions
- Scholastic: Teacher Made Activities for Teaching Responsibility
- Education.com: Teaching Young Children Responsibility
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images