our everyday life

How to Teach Kids Self Sufficiency and Responsibility

by Karen Hollowell, studioD

Parents typically want their children to become self-sufficient and responsible. Since these are traits you have to develop, you should start emphasizing them from the time your kids are toddlers. In addition to taking the appropriate steps to teach your children these qualities, you should also demonstrate them in your life at home and on the job. Keep in mind that your kids are watching -- and they will emulate your example.

Give your child jobs to do at home. You can expect children as young as age 2 to learn responsibility by having them pick up their toys, notes "Today" show parenting contributor, Dr. Ruth Peters. Even 3- and 4-year-olds can make their beds and begin helping with general chores around the house. By the time your child is a teen, there are several areas in which he can be self-sufficient. He should be able to wash clothes, shop for groceries and prepare a simple meal.

Establish an accountability system. Discuss consequences with your children for not completing assigned chores and for not behaving responsibly when it comes to schoolwork or house rules. Children must learn that there are consequences if they choose not to behave responsibly. For example, if your child doesn't complete her assigned chores or doesn't turn in an assignment in class, you might take away a privilege. You should ensure that you set consequences before the irresponsible behavior occurs -- and make the consequence appropriate for the action, according to James Lehman, M.S.W. of the Empowering Parents website.

Teach your child financial management. This can also begin when your child is young. Whether you give your child money as an allowance for performing household chores, or just an allowance for his expenses, it's important that you teach her how to budget her money so she has enough for what she needs to buy, such as school lunches or after-school pizza with friends. You should also teach your child how to save for something more costly. For example, you might allow her to do special chores for extra money if she wants to buy new boots or another item. If your child is a teen, consider allowing her to open a checking or savings account. Assist her with balancing the checkbook until she can manage it independently.

Allow your child to fail and experience natural consequences. Parents understandably want to shield their children from disappointment, but there are times when experience makes the best teacher. For example, if your teen has a part-time job but gets fired because she was late several times, help her understand that promptness is a requirement in the workplace. If she only has herself to blame for showing up at work late, don't intercede with her boss. Assist her with finding another position and encourage her to learn from her mistake.

Emphasize charity. Encourage your child to participate in community service projects, notes Psych Central, a mental health social network. Whether it's cleaning up the park or helping deliver meals to the needy, your child will learn that responsibility doesn't just involve herself. If these options are not available, ask her to help a neighbor with an errand without expecting anything in return. This will help her learn that caring for others is part of becoming a responsible adult.

About the Author

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.

Photo Credits

  • Kraig Scarbinsky/Digital Vision/Getty Images