Teach Responsibility to Your Kids with this One Simple Routine
Parents enter the Biblical Parenting Coaching Program for many reasons. Some have children who are angry. Others have children with ADHD. Some kids are self-focused, and others are mean, disrespectful, or have perpetual bad attitudes. We work with parents of children of all ages and one common challenge parents face is that their children aren’t responsible.
Practical Responsibility Training
One way to teach responsibility to children in the everyday work of family life it to have them report back after they complete a task. Many parents give assignments expecting that their kids complete the job, but then later get frustrated when they find out that the job wasn’t done or wasn’t done completely.
Children who are responsible think and act differently than children who aren’t responsible. The same is true for adults. The character quality of responsibility creates an inner feeling of discomfort about tasks that are due or incomplete. Many children don’t feel uncomfortable at all.
In fact, some children don’t need to feel uncomfortable because they rely on Mom or Dad to prod them and keep them going. It’s the parental discomfort that helps children get things done. The key here is to transfer the discomfort back to the child so it can be managed in the child’s heart effectively.
What’s Happening in the Heart
Many parents make the mistake of simply trying to get tasks done. They focus on behavior. Responsibility however grows in the heart. The internal discomfort is what we call obligation. When you practice it with children, responsibility grows in their hearts. Requiring that a child report back is a great tool to help develop obligation in children.
One mom, Heather, said, “When I tell my five-year-old son, James, to go get his shoes on because we’ve got to leave, he doesn’t come back. When I look for him, I find him sitting on the floor playing with his cars. And it’s not just his shoes. Whenever I tell him to do anything he gets sidetracked. I have to yell at him continually to get things done.”
Heather needs to use her frustration to identify the cause of the problem. (We say “Anger is good for identifying problems, not good for solving them.” See our Good and Angry book for more about that.) James is easily distracted, but the deeper issue has to do with irresponsibility. Yes he’s only five years old, but James needs to learn to follow through with a job his mom gives him. This is the beginning of responsibility training.
Most children don’t naturally feel an internal weight of responsibility. You can help develop it by requiring your child to report back. Heather may say, “James, you need to get your shoes and bring them back to me now. I’m going to wait right here in the doorway for you to report back.” The waiting, in this case, creates the discomfort and ultimately the feeling of obligation.
Waiting Expectantly Increases Healthy Discomfort
As you wait, watch for distraction. At first James may need very close monitoring but as he realizes that he needs to report back and that Mom hasn’t forgotten about the job, he’ll feel the pressure to accomplish the task. Children who do a job part way, easily get distracted, or don’t complete jobs, need closer supervision, smaller tasks, and more frequent times of checking in.
Even older children sometimes have a problem with irresponsibility. Some parents try to make their children uncomfortable by raising their voice. Yelling isn’t necessary-more accountability is. It takes work to require kids to report back, but your investment now will give your children a valuable gift.
Reporting back after completing an assignment is an adult skill. Employers appreciate it when employees report back. Whether children are 3, 8, 12, or 15, they need to learn this valuable skill.
What Actually is Responsibility?
Responsibility can be defined in different ways for different children based on their needs. For the child who is easily distracted, you might define responsibility as “sticking to a task until it’s completed and you report back.” For a child who tends to do a half-hearted job, you might define responsibility as “doing a job thoroughly without being reminded.” For the child who tends to do what you said and not what you meant, you might say, “Responsibility is completing the job up to the expectations of the person giving the task.” In each case you’re teaching children what it means to do a job with a sense of obligation to complete it well.
Children who develop responsibility when they’re young can carry that life-skill into their future. Just imagine your own to-do list. If the time is ticking away and your to-do list isn’t getting smaller, you feel a bit uncomfortable and put in more effort.
Completing the Task Well
Requiring kids to report back puts a definite end to a task, freeing children because the task is complete. They should feel uncomfortable, knowing that their work will be evaluated and that someone is waiting for them to report back. Then the release parents give replaces the discomfort of obligation with the positive sense of accomplishment.
Many parents start instructions well but don’t end them well. When the child reports back, the wise parent checks the work and then releases the child – allowing the child to experience the sense of satisfaction of a job well done. Without the release the child may feel guilty wondering when Mom is going to find out that he pushed the clothes under the bed or didn’t sweep the walk.
Parents give their children a gift by requiring that the child report back. If the job wasn’t done up to expectation then the child isn’t released until the task is completed. When the parent checks the work and then releases the child, the parent is giving the gift of a clear conscience. The child has completed the task and is now free to go. Unfortunately, many children don’t ever receive that gift and instead live with continual guilt of jobs done incompletely or inadequately.
It’s One of the Signs of a Hero
The Bible story of David is a fun one for kids because he was a hero. But being a hero for David didn’t start when he killed Goliath. It started much earlier in the small things of life. David, like many children today, took care of the animals. He had sheep duty. He also practiced his musical instrument and that got him a job in the palace. David’s father could trust him to do an errand like taking the cheeses to the commander in the army. In short, David was responsible early in life and then God chose this young man to do bigger things for him. (Our children’s curriculum Hero Training Camp uses the Bible story of David and activities to teach children about the conscience and how to become a hero in everyday life.)
Interestingly enough, David took the place of a king who wasn’t responsible. His name was Saul. He didn’t obey God’s instructions. 1 Samuel 15:11 says, “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.”
So the question for your child is, “Would you rather be like David or Saul?” One was faithful in the small things and eventually became a hero. The other had a great job and lost it because he didn’t have the ability to do what was asked of him.
The roots of responsibility are taught to children as you give them instructions to follow and then have them report back. It may seem trivial to some but it provides the foundation for more significant tasks of responsibility in the future.
Maybe it’s time for you to learn all of the benefits that come with the Biblical Parenting Coaching Program. Whether you are considering becoming a coach or you would like to become a client, you can learn more here.
You can become a client at any time, but if you’d like to be trained in this much needed and very fulfilling program, the next training starts January 24, 2021. We train three times a year. Check it out!
Dr Scott Turansky mentors each of the coaches in this online 8-week training. You learn biblical, practical tools and help parents develop individual and personalized action plans for their unique situation. Here’s what one dad said recently.
Our 8-year-old son was totally out of control with his anger. We were at our wits end and even afraid as his parents. After just one week I was shocked at the changes we were seeing. I couldn’t have imagined we would see so much change so quickly. I’m a glass-half-empty kind of guy and I’m just waiting for the next shoe to drop. We are now entering Week 2 with more excitement and anticipation than ever. Having a coach “figure us out” and work with us is exciting and hopeful.” —Bill, from Boise